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ABC shakes up fall lineup; WB retooling sitcoms

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

NEW YORK -- ABC canceled "Sports Night," but all of The WB's marginal shows will return, including "Felicity," "Roswell" and "Jack & Jill."

But ABC may make more millionaires. The network will add an additional "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to kick off its Wednesday night lineup, while finally wresting control of 10 p.m. Wednesday from the news division. For the first time in many years, a drama will air in that time slot instead of a newsmagazine. Thursday's "20/20 Downtown" becomes "Primetime Thursday" and the host will be Diane Sawyer.

"Once and Again" again gets the 10 p.m. Tuesday slot this fall, moving to 10 p.m. Monday in January after "Monday Night Football" ends. "NYPD Blue" will return to Tuesdays in January.

The Friday night TGIF lineup has been bulldozed to make room for sitcoms aimed at young male viewers.

Additional canceled series include "The Hughleys," "Then Came You" and "Talk to Me."

The cancellation of "Sports Night" comes as a bit of a surprise. Although it looked like a goner when ABC yanked the acclaimed dramedy from its schedule in April, the return of "Sports Night" for its last two episodes during May sweeps indicated the network was having second thoughts.

Even series creator Aaron Sorkin was surprised, although he prepared for the cancellation in advance by giving last night's season finale a sense of closure and a slap at ABC. The mysterious buyer of the fictional CSC network told the producer of the ESPN-like sports program, "It's a good show, Dana. Anybody who can't make money off 'Sports Night' should get out of the money-making business."

At Monday's NBC presentation on behalf of his more successful series, "The West Wing," Sorkin said he wanted to give "Sports Night" closure in the event it got canceled.

"I wanted to make sure, should it be the season finale, that we'd walk away satisfied," Sorkin said, "and give ourselves the freedom to go anywhere we wanted."

Sorkin said he had a few conversations with NBC about picking up "Sports Night," but ultimately it may live again with original episodes on cable.

"We've been talking for a little while now with HBO," Sorkin said. "We'll take a couple days to digest this and then see. If we come back it will certainly be the same 'Sports Night' the 'Sports Night' audience has grown fond of."

Here's ABC's fall schedule and descriptions of new programs (in bold):


7 p.m. "The Wonderful World of Disney"

9 p.m. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"

10 p.m. "The Practice"


8 p.m. "20/20"

9 p.m. "Monday Night Football"/"Once and Again"


8 p.m. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"

9 p.m. "Dharma & Greg"

9:30 p.m. "Geena" -- Geena Davis stars in this New York-set sitcom as a woman who falls in love with a widower (Peter Horton) and finds herself the instant mom to two kids.

10 p.m. "Once and Again"/"NYPD Blue"


8 p.m. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"

9 p.m. "The Drew Carey Show"

9:30 p.m. "Spin City"

10 p.m. "Gideon's Crossing" -- Andre Braugher ("Homicide: Life on the Street") stars as a compassionate doctor with an inspirational bedside manner. The series was created by Paul Attanasio, who also worked on "Homicide" and wrote the film "Quiz Show."


8 p.m. "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

8:30 p.m. "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

9 p.m. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"

10 p.m. "Primetime Thursday"


8 p.m. "Two Guys and a Girl"

8:30 p.m. "People Who Fear People" -- Bob (David Krumholtz) thinks the world is out to get him, including a neighbor (Jon Cryer) he accuses of spying on him. His therapist friend Claire (Paget Brewster) tries to convince him he has nothing to fear, but it turns out, he does.

9 p.m. "Norm"

9:30 p.m. "Madigan Men" -- Film star Gabriel Byrne takes a stab at television with this male version of "Sex and the City" from one of the "Sex and the City" writers. Byrne plays a recently-divorced man with a teen-age son (John Hensley) and a widowed dad (Roy Dotrice) who attempt to clue him in on the world of dating.

10 p.m. "20/20"


8 p.m. Saturday Night Movie

ABC's midseason sitcoms include "The Joan Cusack Show," about a single woman who finds love but doesn't know what to do with it (from executive producer James L. Brooks); "Leary," starring actor-comedian Denis Leary as a jaded New York cop; and "My Wife and Kids," starring Damon Wayans ("In Living Color") as a dad who wants a traditional family in the not-so-traditional modern world.

The WB

After getting in a rut of too many lookalike serialized dramas last season, The WB promises series with more close-ended stories and more sitcoms.

"Felicity," which never does well in the ratings in reruns, will air with original episodes all fall. Then "Jack & Jill" will come in to take its place for 13 weeks in early 2001 before "Felicity" returns with another run of all-new episodes at the end of the season (providing it doesn't get canceled before then).

WB president of entertainment Susanne Daniels said the network ordered fewer back-up series so it could finance the production of essentially two separate series for the same time slot.

"You look at what HBO does with 'The Sopranos,' airing originals every week, and you see the ratings grow," Daniels said.

Likewise, "The Jamie Foxx" show will only exist in its current form for 13 new episodes. After episode No. 100 (the magic number for syndication), it will be replaced by "The Jamie Foxx Variety Show." Foxx got his start in television on Fox's "In Living Color."

In addition to the previously-announced pick-up of ABC's "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch," The WB also acquired "The PJs" from Fox, which will kick off a revamped Sunday night lineup.

"We did better with a comedy block on Sunday than a drama block," Daniels said for the strategy reversal Sunday nights.

On Fridays The WB will target young viewers and teens who previously watched ABC's TGIF lineup.

WB cancellations include "D.C.," "Zoe...," "Movie Stars" and Sunday night reruns of "7th Heaven: Beginnings."

Here's The WB's fall schedule and descriptions of new programs (in bold):


7 p.m. "The PJs"

7:30 p.m. "The Jamie Foxx Show"

8 p.m. "The Steve Harvey Show"

8:30 p.m. "For Your Love"

9 p.m. "Hype" -- "In Living Color" for the media savvy generation. Sketches seek to deflate anything hyped, including "American Beauty," Britney Spears, Bryant Gumbel, Regis Philbin and the film "Being John Malkovich," spoofed as "Being John Madden." On first glance: May be the funniest new show of the season.

9:30 p.m. "Nikki" -- Nikki Cox ("Unhappily Ever After," "Norm") gets her own sitcom, starring as a Las Vegas dancer who marries a guy (newcomer Nick von Esmarch) who wants to be a pro wrestler. On first glance: Should appeal to fans who miss "Married... With Children," although it doesn't look quite as tacky.


8 p.m. "7th Heaven"

9 p.m. "Roswell"


8 p.m. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

9 p.m. "Angel"


8 p.m. "Dawson's Creek"

9 p.m. "Felicity"/"Jack & Jill"


8 p.m. "Gilmore Girls" -- Multi-ethnic drama about a mom (Lauren Graham) and daughter (Alexis Bledel) who are best friends in a town reminiscent of Cicely, Alaska ("Northern Exposure"). On first glance: A promising comedy-drama.

9 p.m. "Charmed"


8 p.m. "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch"

8:30 p.m. "Grosse Point" -- A single-camera comedy behind-the-scenes on the set of a teen drama, this series comes from Darren Star, creator of "Sex and the City" and "Beverly Hills, 90210." On first glance: Some scenes from the pilot are hilarious, but will it be too inside?

9 p.m. "Popular"

Midseason replacements on The WB include "Dead Last," about teen-age rock stars who see dead people, and the animated comedy "The Oblongs," about misfits, including conjoined twins (based on the work of underground cartoonist Angus Oblong).

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