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A trail of modest moves

The WB

WHAT WORKED: Moving “Angel” to Wednesday night has turned out to be one of the best scheduling moves of the season by any net. Skein is one of the few shows on network TV actually to gain young male viewers in fall, and it’s given the Frog a nice midweek anchor.

WB execs are also optimistic about frosh sudser “One Tree Hill.” Its ratings haven’t been stellar, but it’s been showing gains and is tracking strongly among young femme demos — often a leading indicator of long-term success for a Frog skein.

And on Fridays, “Reba” is doing just fine in its new 8 p.m. slot.

WHAT DIDN’T: No amount of hype for its underwear model star could persuade viewers to check out “Tarzan.” The net’s latest attempt to initiate a franchise was DOA. What’s more, another show slated for fall — Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Fearless” — fell out at the last second, leaving the net with an empty bench.

Comedywise, net’s new bunch of laffers failed to generate much buzz. More disturbingly, many of the net’s veteran skeins were off as much as 20% in the November sweep.

“WB has some problems,” says Steve Sternberg, Magna Global exec VP, noting the departure of “Dawson’s Creek” in May caused the net to split up the successful block of “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville.” “The network’s (usual) string of new series success hasn’t materialized this season.”

WB execs think Nielsen problems account for much of the drop, a complaint echoed by other nets. And since the Frog is the youngest of the big six nets in terms of the median age of its targeted aud, it stands to reason that it might be hit hardest by any alleged Nielsen snafus.

Still, the WB’s woe-filled fall also can be explained by a frosh slate that featured too many clones of previous successes.

WHAT’S NEXT: Net is revamping its Thursday and Friday comedy skeds, hopefully resulting in some better audience flow. As for additions, critical fave “The Surreal Life” is back this month to spice up Sunday nights. It should give the Frog something it’s sorely lacked so far this season: buzz.

Also potentially buzzworthy: The second season of “High School Reunion,” from “Bachelor” guru Mike Fleiss.

Later in the spring, look for the over-the-top sitcom “The Help” from “Married … With Children” creator Ron Leavitt. Among other things, skein boasts the return of “Facts of Life” fave Mindy Cohn to primetime.

Frog isn’t giving up on its signature scripted dramas; it’s planning a midseason bow for the Aaron Spelling-produced “Summerland.”

Sternberg notes that just a few problem hours can dramatically depress the Frog’s ratings. “With only 13 hours of programming (vs. 22 for the big three), one or two successful hours will have a much stronger impact on its average than it would on the other nets. And WB has shown a tendency to develop a new hit when it needs it.”

Top 3 Shows:
Smallville – 2.5
7th Heaven – 2.2
Charmed – 2.1

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