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Frog looks for big leap with shakeup

WB mixes up sked in hunt for future hits

Unveiling its most ambitious schedule in several years, the WB will shake things up in the fall by making moves on all six nights it programs — and taking advantage of existing hits to launch a new generation of skeins.

Frog will rely on staples “7th Heaven,” “Gilmore Girls” and “One Tree Hill” to introduce three dramas and will add one new half-hour to its Friday night laffer block.

In one of its riskier moves, the WB is taking a shot on Thursday by relocating vets “Smallville” and “Everwood” to the night.

Kicking off his first upfront presentation as entertainment president, the WB’s David Janollari told the audience gathered Tuesday morning at Madison Square Garden that he hoped to see year-to-year growth every night of the week.

‘Shore up the schedule’

“We have no reason not to be aggressive,” Janollari said after the event. “My philosophy is let’s first and foremost shore up the schedule. Let’s put new shows that could represent a huge upside for the future of the network into protected timeslots, so they can launch with our core audience.”

New to the net will be the Jerry Bruckheimer procedural “Just Legal,” which lands on Mondays at 9 after “7th Heaven”; the creepy thriller “Supernatural,” which will air Tuesdays after “Gilmore Girls”; and femme-centric drama “Related,” which will bow Wednesdays at 9 after “One Tree Hill.”

On the comedy front, mismatched-siblings sitcom “Twins” winds up Fridays at 8:30, sandwiched between “What I Like About You” and “Reba.” “Living With Fran” completes the night.

As for Sunday night, net is sticking with “Charmed” at 8 and counterprogramming ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” at 9 with an hour of the sketch comedy skein “Blue Collar TV.”

New Beginnings

Net also will be airing older episodes of “Reba,” under its Beginnings franchise, Sundays at 7 under terms of its renewal with 20th Century Fox TV over the show (Daily Variety, May 16). Also, repeats of “What I Like About You” and “One Tree Hill” will run Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m. as part of the net’s Easy View block.

For midseason, Frog has ordered Rebecca Romijn vehicle “Pepper Dennis” and Tom Fontana-produced “The Bedford Diaries” on the drama side as well as the comedies “Misconceptions” (starring Jane Leeves) and Bruckheimer-produced “Modern Men.”

According to Janollari, Frog may pick up at least two more sitcoms for midseason as the net aims to build a second comedy night.

Missing from the net’s primetime sked is any reality skein, making the WB the only net heading into fall without a nonscripted franchise on the sked. Frog had briefly considered holding “Beauty and the Geek” back for September but ultimately decided to launch it in June.

Still, Janollari said he’ll be ordering more reality entries for midseason consideration.

Meanwhile, he admitted that the net was taking a risk by moving “Smallville” and “Everwood” to Thursday night but smells blood now that NBC has “abdicated its stronghold.” The exec also expects the loyal “Smallville” fan base to travel with the show.

“The other thing behind the strategy is it’s one of the most important nights for the advertisers, led by the movie industry wanting to seek young adults to promote to on Thursday,” Janollari said.

On the vertical integration front, while nets like NBC and ABC went the opposite direction this year — scheduling fewer new shows from their studio siblings — all of the WB’s frosh fall skeins come from sister Warner Bros. TV.

Insiders believe that’s a further sign of internal consolidation between the net and studio under parents Barry Meyer and Bruce Rosenblum, but Janollari said the production house simply “delivered the best shows for our schedule.”

“Believe me, we would much rather be spread out from a financial basis, and a welcoming-the-whole-town-in-the-door basis,” Janollari said. “We’re committed to broadening the tent. But these were our best-put-together pilots.”

Net was bullish this year in attracting big names like Bruckheimer, as well as McG, whose Wonderland Sound and Vision is behind “Supernatural”; “Friends” alum Marta Kauffman, an exec producer on “Related”; and “Will & Grace” creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, who delivered “Twins.”

Gone from the net are “Jack & Bobby,” “Summerland,” “Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” “Drew Carey’s Green Screen,” “Grounded for Life,” “The Mountain,” “Big Man on Campus” and “The Starlet.”

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