Hungry to grow its ratings this fall, the WB is cutting down on repeats and bulking up on reality fare.
Frog’s fall 2004-05 schedule, which net toppers Jordan Levin and Garth Ancier will announce Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, includes two new dramas, a pair of sketch laffers, a new game/reality hybrid and just one frosh scripted sitcom.
Mandate to improve its numbers came after the Frog stumbled this past year. Part of the blame was assigned to Nielsen, which rejiggered its ratings sample somewhat — but the net also was hurt by hitting the big-budget franchise well one too many times (“Tarzan”) and failing to schedule a boffo reality skein.
The WB was also socked by poorly performing repeats on dramas like “Everwood.” And while the Sunday night “Beginnings” franchise has saved the Frog some serious cash by airing old episodes of WB staples like “7th Heaven,” it’s also begun to hurt the web’s weekly averages.
As a result, “Beginnings” is gone. The WB will likely rest shows like “Everwood” in midseason by either launching new dramas or reality shows in those slots, and franchise mania is over.
This time around, WB execs hope to put the net back on course with skeins like “Jack & Bobby” and “The Mountain,” Frog-style relationship dramas in the mold of signature WB skeins like “Dawson’s Creek.” Both shows snagged early greenlights (Daily Variety, May 4).
Net will also take a chance with the reality/game hybrid “Studio 7,” as well as back-to-back sketch comedy shows “Blue Collar TV” and “The Green Screen.”
As for sitcoms — which have also been a tough nut for the Frog to crack — the WB will rely on reality guru Mark Burnett and his first foray into the scripted world, “Commando Nanny.”
WB will stick with stability on Mondays, where “7th Heaven” and “Everwood” reside; and Tuesdays, the home of “Gilmore Girls” and the Frog’s current growth story, “One Tree Hill.”
Then things get risky. On Wednesdays, “Smallville” remains at 8 p.m. (execs had mulled moving it to 9), followed by “Blue Collar TV” and “The Green Screen.”
According to WB execs, “Smallville” pulls the net’s best young male ratings — hence the decision to put the very male-skewing sketch laffers behind it. Frog has mostly avoided putting comedies on Mondays through Wednesdays; move reps a massive change in that strategy.
Frog will also shift its tactic on Thursday nights, home to comedy in recent years. Instead, web will counterprogram this fall with “The Mountain” at 8 p.m. followed by “Studio 7.”
Webheads point out that the WB has performed decently on the night with dramas including “Gilmore Girls” and “Popular” in the past.
As for Fridays, WB execs admit that they shouldn’t have moved “Reba” to 8 p.m. this season. The Reba McEntire-led laffer shifts back to 9 p.m. next fall, followed by “Grounded for Life” at 9:30. Amanda Bynes will take a more central role in “What I Like About You,” which moves to 8 p.m., followed by frosh “Commando Nanny.”
Then there’s Sunday, where the “Beginnings” 7 p.m. slot has been filled by a new, revamped, hourlong “Steve Harvey’s Big Time.”
Show will now broaden out beyond its original incarnation as a showcase for novelty acts. WB plans to push Harvey as the new Ed Sullivan, bringing on a wide variety of musical, comedy and celebrity guests.
“Charmed” returns at 8 p.m., followed by newcomer “Jack and Bobby” at 9.
As for its “EZ View” Sunday afternoon sked, WB will air repeats of “One Tree Hill” at 5 p.m., followed by second runs of “The Mountain” at 6 p.m.
Frog had already ordered 13 segs of “Blue Collar TV,” which comes from Viacom Prods. Foxworthy, Fax Bahr, Adam Small and J.P. Williams exec produce the show, which also features comedians Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy and Heath Hyche.
“Green Screen,” meanwhile, features Carey’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway” brigade, this time performing in front of a, you guessed it, green screen. Producer Acme Filmworks adds in animation during post-production on the show, which is exec produced by Carey and Ron Diamond.
Action sudser “The Mountain” stars Oliver Hudson as a twentysomething who returns home to run his late grandfather’s mountain resort. Barbara Hershey also stars.
Skein comes from WBTV and McG’s Wonderland Sound and Vision. Shaun Cassidy, McG, Stephanie Savage and David Barrett are all part of the production team, with Barrett helming. Original pilot script was written by Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo, who are expected to remain as consultants.
Christine Lahti starrer “Jack & Bobby” revolves around two brothers, one of whom is set to be elected president of the United States in 2040. WBTV is producing along with former “West Wing” helmer Thomas Schlamme’s Shoe Money Prods. and “Everwood” creator Greg Berlanti’s Berlanti-Liddell shingle. Berlanti, Vanessa Taylor, Brad Meltzer and Steve “Scoop” Cohen created the skein.
“Commando Nanny,” from exec producers Mark Burnett and Dave Flebotte, stars Philip Winchester (“Thunderbirds”) as a British military man who ends up a suburban nanny.
Then there’s “Studio 7,” from reality producer Michael Davies. Show follows a group of twentysomethings who live together for a week and then moved inside a studio, where they compete for a $100,000 prize.
Shows on deck for midseason include summer entry “Summerland,” if it performs well; and “Shacking Up,” the Regency/Wannabe Prods. laffer starring Fran Drescher.
Also in the works are the third incarnation of “High School Reunion”; the Mike Fleiss entry “Big Man on Campus”; and the Jamie Kennedy experiment “Wannabes.”
Gone are “All About the Andersons,” “The Help,” “JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” “Like Family” and “Run of the House.”