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Mar 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Friday, March 22, at 10:15 a.m. (PT); last updated at 2:45 p.m.

NBC shelving ‘Watching Ellie’

Despite a huge promotional push during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics telecast and strong debut numbers, NBC’s fast-fading “Watching Ellie” is now being scheduled for a double-run finale on Tuesday, April 2 — to be bookended by original episodes of “Frasier.” After that, repeats of “Will & Grace” will fill the 8:30 p.m. Tuesday time slot, with new episodes of “Three Sisters” later taking the slot.

An NBC spokesman said NBC is not formally committed to picking up the show and will evaluate its performance later to determine whether “Ellie” should be picked for next season.

Sources close to NBC said the network had to carefully tiptoe around some production issues with Ms. Louis-Dreyfus and her husband and show runner/creator, Brad Hall, both of whom wanted to restrict their workload to no more than 15 episodes per year. Execs said that led NBC to consider offering the show in separate flights for spring 2002 and into the 2002-03 season.

Still, some Hollywood insiders suggest that NBC is simply shelving the struggling sitcom indefinitely without being forced to formally cancel it.

Whatever the case, the evaluation of “Watching Ellie’s” current spring run indeed offers mixed perspectives. The somewhat critically received “real-time” sitcom broke out with a 7.1 rating/17 share average among adults 18 to 49 in its Feb. 26 premiere — two days after the Winter Olympics. Over its subsequent three airings, “Ellie” slid 49 percent weekly to a 3.6/10 for March 19’s airing.

On the plus side for “Ellie,” its 5.1 rating average in adults 18 to 49 over its four airings has marked 21 percent ratings increase over its repeat “Frasier” lead-in and has improved the 8:30 Tuesday time slot by 38 percent from its prior season-to-date average.

If NBC does bring “Ellie” back, some industry watchers think it may fare better as an 8:30 p.m. Thursday lead-out from TV’s top-ranked sitcom “Friends,” which currently is serving as lead-in springboard to “Leap of Faith.”

Rukeyser leaving ‘Wall Street Week’: Louis Rukeyser, the soft-spoken, witty moderator of the PBS series “Wall Street Week,” a Friday night institution for 32 years, will leave after the June 28 episode, reportedly because he’s upset that producer Maryland Public Television is revamping the show. MPT said last week it would co-produce the program with Fortune magazine, part of media giant AOL Time Warner, and install Fortune Editorial Director Geoffrey Colvin as co-host. A second co-host has yet to be named. Fortune will not be an underwriter.

The show will feature more information and look more like a news program, said Jeff Hankin, VP of marketing and brand management at MPT. Mr. Rukeyser was given an offer to stay on as senior commentator, but he declined. “We are disappointed. We would very much have liked for him to be part of the new show,” Mr. Hankin said.

Fox swaps stations, gains duopoly: Fox Television Stations last week announced it had swapped its UPN affiliate KPTV in Portland, Ore., for Meredith Corp.’s Fox affiliates, WOFL-TV in Orlando and WOGX-TV in Ocala, Fla. The deal gives Fox a duopoly in Orlando.

Paratore promoted at WBDTD: Warner Brothers Domestic Television Distribution has named Telepictures President Jim Paratore executive VP of WBDTD. The move will add oversight of station sales to Mr. Paratore’s responsibilities. He will maintain his current role at Telepictures, where he will continue to report to Bruce Rosenblum, executive VP of Warner Bros. Television Group.

“Jim and I have worked together for 15 years and have a great deal of personal and professional respect for one another,” said WBDTD President Dick Robertson. “This new structure formalizes our long-standing practice of having Jim highly involved in the sales process — from producing sales tapes to assisting in making station pitches and presentations to having frequent contact with our station and advertising clients.”

Villanueva joins WNYW-TV: Steve Villanueva returns to his hometown of New York as weekend evening meteorologist at Fox-owned WNYW-TV. He will also be the primary fill-in for chief meteorologist Nick Gregory. Mr. Villanueva comes to WNYW from Fox affiliate KCPQ-TV, Seattle, where he was weekend evening meteorologist. His brother Sergio was a firefighter who died in the line of duty on Sept. 11.

Former “Survivor” star and personal trainer Alicia Calaway has also landed a job at WNYW. She will be the health and fitness reporter beginning April 2.

UPN yanks ‘Random Years,’ ‘As If’: UPN is canceling two, low-rated short-order sitcoms, “As If” and “Random Years,” by installing a repeat run of new reality series “Under One Roof” next Tuesday (March 26) in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) time slot.

A representative for UPN said the freshman sitcoms had been canceled and that repeats of “The Parkers” and “Girlfriends” will fill the post-“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” lead-out time periods on April 2 and April 9. On April 16, a double-run of “Buffy” will fill the night.

Since debuting on March 5, “As If” and “Random Years” had both been averaging 0.7 rating/2 share averages in adults 18 to 49, dropping the 9 p.m. Tuesday hour by 50 percent from the 1.4 rating “Roswell” had previously averaged in the slot for the season to date. “As If” also dropped 72 percent as 9 p.m. lead-out from “Buffy” (2.5 rating). UPN still has fresh episodes of “Roswell” set to return (starting April 23) to run through the May sweeps, but the UPN spokesman said a decision to whether to renew that hour-long drama for next season is still pending.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications