Variety: WB Locks In Top Shows – Roswell Bye Bye

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Sunday May 13 11:28 PM ET
WB locks in top series to avoid “Buffy” replay

By Michael Schneider and Josef Adalian

NEW YORK (Variety) – Taking great lengths to avoid losing another series, in the wake of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” defection to UPN, the WB has sealed multiple-year deals with four of its top-rated series.

Meanwhile, the network 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 WB negotiated a one-year extension with Columbia TriStar TV that keeps “Dawson’s Creek” on the network 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 WB 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-president Susanne Daniels said the network 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 schedule, 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 executives 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 latter 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 it 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 audiences on Fridays, launching 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.” The WB has ordered a full 22 episodes of “Felicity” but will air eight editions of “Glory” half-way through the year.

The WB 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: “Smallville,” a retelling of the young Superman mythology. By contrast, the WB is scheduling five new comedies and two new non-fiction series.

Besides “Roswell,” other series 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. The network 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 “Young Person’s Guide to Becoming a Rock Star.” Other midseason announcements are forthcoming; the drama “Dead Last” will bow in this summer, while the WB will also air a Turner movie on Wednesdays.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS