NEW YORK — Taking great lengths to avoid losing another series in the wake of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the WB has sealed multiple-year deals with four of its top-rated skeins.
Meanwhile, the Frog has also locked in an ambitious “Buffy”-free fall schedule that includes eight new series, with major changes on every night of the week except Wednesday.
The Frog negotiated a one-year extension with Columbia TriStar TV that keeps “Dawson’s Creek” on the weblet through the 2002-2003 season.
Also finalized are deals that mean Spelling’s “7th Heaven” and Viacom’s “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” will remain on the WB for at least two more years.
In addition, the Frog net is close to pacting with Spelling to hold on to “Charmed” (sans Shannen Doherty, who announced her intention to depart the show Friday) through the 2003-2004 season.
“We’re picking up our three highest rated shows and our most important sitcom, and we were able to do it in a way that wasn’t public and wasn’t acrimonious,” the WB’s co-entertainment president Jordan Levin said.
Levin and co-prexy Susanne Daniels said the network had determined an economic model that they said made sense in picking up the series.
“It’s our understanding that in every case, the studio will be making a significant profit from the show overall,” Daniels said. “In terms of their strength on the network, we addressed every show accordingly.”
The execs said the weblet had been in talks to renew the quartet of series even before 20th Century Fox moved “Buffy” to UPN late last month.
As for the fall sked, which will be unveiled to advertisers Tuesday morning, Levin defended the decision to make a number of major moves.
“It’s a fair amount of change but it’s not that much different from last year,” Levin said. “Every 8 p.m. show is a returning show.”
The WB’s new lineup also includes former “Buffy” companion series “Angel,” but not fellow 20th Century Fox TV stablemate “Roswell.”
In a surprise switch, “Angel” will shift to Mondays at 9 p.m. following “7th Heaven”; UPN is now seriously considering picking up “Roswell,” though a deal is not yet in place.
The execs said they ultimately opted to hold on to “Angel” in the hopes that it will recruit its own audience in the tough post-“7th Heaven” timeslot (opposite “Ally McBeal”). WB execs were also reluctant to give up “Angel,” which would have then been paired with “Buffy” on UPN, giving the rival web a strong night.
“(But) we suspected that (UPN) would put ‘Roswell’ behind ‘Buffy,’ so either way we’re handing them a night,” Daniels said. “It’s also important for us to keep and grow our male audience, and ‘Angel’ ranks high with men.”
Also, apparently there are no hard feelings between the WB and 20th Century Fox TV, despite the “Buffy” situation. Not only is the WB picking up the 20th laffer “Deep in the Heart,” starring Reba McEntire, but the Frog also gave up its option on “Roswell” early enough for UPN to seriously consider the show.
“Picking up the Reba show is doing what’s best for ourselves,” Levin said.
“Deep in the Heart” will be part of the WB’s strong play for family auds on Fridays, launching what could be called “TGIFrog”: four half-hour laffers geared at the same teen and young adults viewers who once watched ABC’s “TGIF” grid.
“This represents an idea of what we want family shows on the WB to be,” Levin said. “Smart and funny with an emotional core.”
The WB will also resurrect its Wednesday 9 p.m. “wheel,” this time alternating “Felicity” with the Miramax drama “Glory Days.” Weblet has ordered a full 22 segs of “Felicity” but will air eight editions of “Glory” half-way through the year.
Frog will also launch a “reality wheel” Sundays at 7 p.m., airing the skeins “Lost in the USA” and “No Boundaries.”
Overall, the WB will add just one new drama in the fall: The Warner Bros. TV/Tollin-Robbins “Smallville,” a retelling of the young Superman mythology. By contrast, the Frog is skedding five new comedies and two new non-fiction skeins.
Besides “Roswell,” other skeins not expected to return include the dramas “Popular” and “Jack & Jill,” as well as the laffers “Grosse Point,” “The Pjs,” and “Jamie Foxx,” which already aired its final episode. Net may still opt to pick up other series, such as “The Oblongs,” while “For Your Love” has already been picked up.
The WB has also given a midseason order to the WBTV laffer “Young Person’s Guide to Becoming a Rock Star.” Other midseason announcements are forthcoming; drama “Dead Last” will bow in this summer, while net will also air a Turner movie on Wednesdays.
Here’s the WB’s new lineup (time period changes with an asterisk):
- MONDAY — 8 p.m.: “7th Heaven” (Spelling); 9 p.m.: “Angel” (20th)*
- TUESDAY — 8 p.m.: “Gilmore Girls” (WBTV); 9 p.m. “Smallville” (WBTV)– New take on how Clark Kent became Superman.
- WEDNESDAY — 8 p.m.: “Dawson’s Creek” (CTTV); 9 p.m.: “Felicity” (Touchstone). In the winter, the WB will run eight episodes of “Glory Days” (Miramax/WBTV)– a coming-of-age drama from Kevin Williamson.
- THURSDAY — 8 p.m. “Popstars” (Stone Stanley)*; 8:30 p.m. “Elimidate Deluxe” (Telepictures)–A relationship gameshow; 9 p.m. “Charmed” (Spelling)
- FRIDAY — 8 p.m. “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (Paramount); 8:30 p.m. “Maybe I’m Adopted” (WBTV)–Family laffer about a teen girl and her wacky parents and sibling; 9 p.m. “Deep in the Heart” (20th)– Reba McEntire heads up a dysfunctional family; 9:30 p.m. “Raising Dad” (Paramount)– Bob Saget’s back in a new family comedy.
- SUNDAY — 7 p.m. “Lost in the USA” (ATG)/”No Boundaries”–Reality-based adventure skeins that will share the same slot; 8 p.m. “The Steve Harvey Show” (U); 8:30 p.m. “Men, Women and Dogs” (Paramount)–Bill Bellamy stars in a relationship comedy; 9 p.m. “Nikki” (WBTV); 9:30 p.m. “Off Centre” (DreamWorks/WBTV)–The folks behind “American Pie” created this half-hour, about an American student with a Brit roommate.