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A Second Coming for 'Heaven'

May 15, 2006 12:00 AM

The Camdens, religious folk that they are, believe in resurrection. Apparently, so does The CW, which is bringing back The WB stalwart "7th Heaven," the longest-running family drama in TV history, to launch its inaugural fall schedule. The CW has been telling advertisers for months that its new schedule would be a merger of the strongest programming from UPN and The WB, but "Heaven" had not been openly touted as a possible returning series. During the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January, WB executives said they wanted "Heaven" for an 11th season but couldn't make the finances work. But with the creation of The CW, those financial constraints are no longer such a concern. Soon after The CW was announced, speculation about the possibility of "Heaven's" return started to build within the TV industry. The network is still working out deals with creator Brenda Hampton and the show's ensemble cast, led by Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks, but the show is expected to be a go for the fall, even though The WB promoted its May 8 episode as the "series finale." Despite being derided as overly sappy by critics, "Heaven" has long been one of The WB's highest-rated shows and is another of über producer Aaron Spelling's numerous hits. The return of "Heaven" may not be only a testament to its enduring strength, however. It may also reflect The CW's disappointment with its pilots, which have not come in as strongly as CW executives would have liked, sources close to the network said last week. The CW and CBS Paramount Network Television had no comment on "Heaven's" return.-CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA

Travel Folds Its 'PPT' Hand

Though the premiere season of "World Poker Tour" spinoff "Professional Poker Tour" has yet to air, Travel Channel is declining to pick up a second season, sources said. World Poker Tour Enterprises and Travel were embroiled in a bitter lawsuit last year over the fate of the series, which was initially offered a three-year commitment by ESPN. The sports network was chased off by Travel parent Discovery Networks, which claimed ownership of the program. Though cable poker ratings have been waning recently, Travel Channel noted it has dropped "PPT" in an effort to get back on brand with more exotic travel programming. "We are solidifying our position as the leader in real-world travel media across all platforms," a Travel Channel spokesman said. "Our partnership with WPT remains solid. … Moving beyond 2006, we will focus on the WPT franchise solely." A spokesperson for WPTE said the company is now shopping the series to other networks.-JAMES HIBBERD

Partners and Rivals

For most people in the advertising business it might be upfront season, but for David Levy, president of sales for Turner Entertainment, and Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of ad sales for Fox Cable Entertainment Networks, it's baseball season. After years as rival managers, the two, who are also business rivals, are sharing the load by co-managing the Harrison Braves, their 10-year-old sons' Little League team in New York's suburban Westchester County. The team is the result of the marriage of Jake Levy's team and the team featuring two of Mr. Lefkowitz's quadruplets, Trent and Coby. "It was the biggest sports merger in Westchester," said Mr. Levy, who is also president of Turner Sports, owner of the Atlanta Braves. The Harrison Braves have started the season 0-2. "The first game, it was the coaching, because I wasn't there," Mr. Levy explained. In the second game the Braves made a comeback, but the game was called because of a time limit for the field. "We were robbed," Mr. Levy said. "We had our two big hitters coming up." With both executives committed to the team, "The upfront will have to work its way around our baseball schedule," Mr. Lefkowitz said. "This way, I know Turner won't be writing business before us." But if things get very busy, Mr. Levy said, "That's where the wives come in."-JON LAFAYETTE