The Futon Critic Predicts Roswell’s Renewal

From The Futon Critic:

Looking Ahead to Next Season, Part 1: The WB
By Brian Ford Sullivan
Monday March 13 11:40 AM ET

This is the first in a seven part series looking at the networks’ fall season plans. While no official statements from the networks will be made until the second week in May when they announce their fall schedules (just in time for the major ad buying season), I think it’s time to seriously take at look at each network’s highs, lows and areas that can be improved. This week we start with the WB.

What we know for sure:
“7th Heaven,” “Charmed,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Felicity,” “The Steve Harvey Show” and “The Jamie Foxx Show” will all be back in the fall. This is all official. Check the newswire archives and back issues of Variety or The Hollywood Reporter if you don’t believe me. :)

Also, we know that “Mission Hill,” “Brutally Normal” and “Safe Harbor” are gone. Make no mistake they won’t be back. Plus, the WB has no plans on adding a seventh night of programming (no Saturday night WB for now).

What we can guess:
“Roswell,” “Popular” and “For Your Love” will return; “Jack & Jill,” “Zoe…” and the upcoming “D.C.” and “Movie Stars” will not. FOX’s “The PJs” will be picked up by the WB if possible.

Now these are all contingent on something huge – the WB (like most nets) has a lot of pilots in the pipe so there could be a new series that dazzles the WB execs enough to exclude or (on the flip side if they’re all bad enough) include any of the listed series. But my years of TV journalism experience tells me these are pretty solid calls.

Why they’ll be back:
“Roswell” only loses 11.51% of “Dawson’s Creek”‘s audience. That’s pretty solid. While not as good as “Angel” (4.64% of “Buffy”) it is above “Jack & Jill” (17.16% of “Felicity”) and “Popular” fairs 29.40% worse than “Charmed” on Thursday nights. The only thing that works against it is the April move to Monday nights where the WB’s highest rated show “7th Heaven” hasn’t had a hit partner in three years (“Buffy” was the last show to air after it that went on to sucess). If it can hold onto enough of “7th Heaven”‘s audience (I’d say a 20-30% loss should be enough) it’s a lock to return. It’s important to remember that “7th Heaven”‘s viewership is almost 40% greater than “Roswell”‘s current viewership (but also note that “Safe Harbor” lost 50% of “Heaven”‘s audience).

“Popular” is beating “Felicity” in the ratings. That’s a big deal. It airs on Thursday nights and is rated higher than its Sunday night (and more highly promoted) competition. Also the WB seems to have enough faith to air repeats of the series on Monday nights throughout March.

“For Your Love” while not on everybody’s radar is a solid Friday performer. This show is pretty contingent on what comedy pilots the WB has in the pipe. While not a solid as a call as “Popular” or “Roswell” it should be back.

Why they won’t be back:
“Jack & Jill” (which is growing on me creatively) got the biggest death sentence a show at this point can get – an early season finale. After just 19 episodes (most series air 22) the show’s season finale airs this Sunday. This is never a good sign. Shows that don’t air during May sweeps are considered highly improbable of returning. And with the WB’s tight schedule this will be the first drama to go.

“Movie Stars,” “Zoe..” and “D.C.” are pegged for failure from the start. “Zoe..” despite two relaunches hasn’t found an audience. “Movie Stars” was a solid summer performer but to anchor the 9/8c slot on Sunday night during the regular season? Guess again. And as for “D.C.” this show has more baggage than any I’ve seen in recent memory. Originally given a 13 episode order, the WB and exec producer Dick Wolf butted heads enough to cut production at eight episodes and to push it back to summer. Now it seems with a dwindling schedule, the WB needed something to fill up Sunday night due to “Felicity”‘s abandonment of the night. I’d be really shocked if all three are still airing in May.

Some other things to consider:
Let’s assume that “Popular” and “Roswell” return (let’s leave out “For Your Love” for the moment). This is what their fall schedule will look like:

Mondays: “7th Heaven” and “Roswell”
Tuesdays: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”
Wednesdays: “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity”
Thursdays: “Popular” and “Charmed”
Fridays: “Steve Harvey” and “Jamie Foxx” plus two open comedy slots
Saturdays: No programming.
Sundays: “7th Heaven Beginnings” and two hours of open slots.

See any real open space for new series? Neither do I. This brings up a lot of questions. The WB had 4 new dramas and 1 new comedy when the season started. Right now they have room for 2 new dramas and 2 new comedies at best. Rarely does a network go in a new season with only 2 new dramas. But then again stranger things have happened.

Wrapping it up:
While the WB, has had a decline in viewership it still has a strong branding in America’s TV culture. “Buffy,” “Dawon’s,” “7th Heaven,” “Felicity” and “Charmed” are its cornerstones. Right now they only need new companions. Solid money says “Roswell” and “Popular” are two of them. Let’s hope I’m right. :)