WB mapping 2002-03 lineup

May 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

After its first season without “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and beset by sporadic ratings reversals, WB programmers think they have the pieces in place to put the network back into an “aggressive growth mode” next season.
At the center of that effort will be a pilot called “Everwood.”
WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin gave the series an accelerated 13-episode pickup for the fall based on viewing the rough cut of the pilot-making it official more than a week before the network’s May 14 upfront presentation in New York.
“`Everwood’ will be a signature multigenerational show in appeal, like `Gilmore Girls,’ `7th Heaven’ and `Smallville,”’ he said. “`Everwood,’ like those shows, will offer multiple entry points where the family will watch the show together and generate a real, honest family dialogue.
Mr. Levin called `Everwood’ the best script and pilot he has seen in 14 years as a network and studio executive. He said he rushed a copy of the rough-cut pilot “tied up in a bow” to Turner Broadcasting System Chairman Jamie Kellner’s April 26 birthday party in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“We [WB executives] sat down and screened it with Jamie, who was as immediately moved by the pilot as we were,” Mr. Levin said.
While in the midst of screening pilots and deciding which ones get a shot on the fall schedule, The WB has also been firming up plans for its Sunday block of “multiplexed” series from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Electronic Media, Jan. 28). Mr. Levin said the strategy is to reach an “underserved segment of young female adult viewers” not interested in football and other sports dominating the weekend landscape.
Jed Petrick, president and chief operating officer of The WB, said he already has affixed preliminary “multiplay” contractual terms to every new pilot series being considered at the network. Talent agency and studio sources believe The WB could team replays of an established, returning series, such as “Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville” or “7th Heaven,” with a new series like “Everwood” on Sunday.
“We have worked out a deal with the studios that grants us the right to multiplay our first-year series in the [Sunday] time periods,” Mr. Petrick said. “We are still working with our studio suppliers on the returning series, but we’re also sure-from what we have talked about together-that they’re receptive to the idea.”
In his first solo development season as president of The WB’s entertainment division, Mr. Levin is concentrating on broadening the network’s base of female viewers 12 to 34-and reaching out to young male viewers as well.
Which brings the spotlight back to “Everwood,” which is being billed outside the network as the “male flip side” of The WB’s acclaimed sophomore “Gilmore Girls” series.
“Everwood,” produced by Warner Bros. Television and coming from longtime “Dawson’s Creek” show runner and writer Greg Berlanti, centers on a father (Treat Williams) trying to rebuild a relationship with his estranged 15-year-old son (Gregory Smith) after his wife dies.
“I think it has the potential to be the first show to really examine and explore modern-day boyhood and the challenges boys face in a way this network has given voice to issues facing teen girls,” Mr. Levin said. “When we started out The WB [in 1995], we were taken by a book called `Reviving Ophelia’ from Mary Pipher. It really was a flash point for national discussion on how we are raising our girls and the girl movement, which was a big part of this network and eclipsed boys.
“Boys were ignored until a couple of books came out like `Real Boys’ [“Real Boys: Rescuing our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood”], and that’s an area where we felt there was an emotional need that needs to be addressed. Boys, behind all of the bravado, are masking boys’ insecurities and emotional being, which is not be reflected on TV.”
With “Everwood’s” potential to reach males, Mr. Levin is considering pairing it with an established, compatible “all-family” show. “The fact is that we could schedule it anywhere-behind `7th Heaven’ or `Gilmore Girls,’ either in front of or behind `Dawson’s Creek,’ maybe even Sunday or Thursday nights,” he said.
Talent agency sources last week were betting on “Everwood” being scheduled at 9 p.m. Monday, coming out of “7th Heaven’s” broad-based demo lead-in.
With the hints Mr. Levin dropped on “Everwood’s” potential scheduling, he also gave away the scenario of “Smallville” leaving Tuesday to springboard another night. In its freshman campaign, “Smallville” proved to be a self-starter, and coupled with “Gilmore Girls,” it helped give The WB a 71 percent ratings advantage over UPN’s “Buffy” and “Roswell” tandem this season among females 12 to 34 (3.6 rating/10 share vs. 2.1/6).
“`Smallville’ is definitely strong enough to start its own night, but whether we will need to do that remains to be seen,” he said. “We’ll be hashing that out in the scheduling room [this week].”
Also to be hashed out is plugging holes in the Sunday, Friday and Thursday lineups.
One talent agency source said The WB has been seriously floating the idea of returning the 7 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Sunday rotation to female-skewing dramas to take advantage of compatible flow coming from its 5 p.m.-to-7 p.m. repeat block.
Mr. Levin has been rumored to be considering the highly anticipated fantasy series “Lost in Oz” (an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz”), the Bat Girl-dominated “Birds of Prey,” the family military drama “Home of the Brave” or “Everwood” to start Sunday prime. However, Mr. Levin hinted he might keep “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” in place with another comedy, possibly “Off Centre,” for the closing 9 p.m. Sunday hour.
Risk taking on comedies on Friday night has begun to reap dividends, as “Reba” became a proven 9 p.m. tentpole among the adults 18 to 34 and 18 to 49 demos this season. In fact, with the 8 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. run of “Sabrina” still drawing young female viewers, Mr. Levin said the “protected” positions will be used to introduce two new comedies.
Although he said he has about eight comedies that he likes, Mr. Levin spoke most effusively about the Amanda Bynes-led pilot “What I Like About You” (co-starring Jennie Garth and Simon Rex) and “Family Affair” for the potential Friday evening vacancies. The modestly rated 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. incumbent Friday sitcoms “Raising Dad” and “Maybe It’s Me” are said by sources to be on the bubble but could still be moved to a new night.
“One of the biggest teen actors out there right now is Amanda Bynes, who really has become one of the icons for Nickelodeon in recent years,” Mr. Levin said.
With Thursday representing the only night of significant erosion for The WB (down 52 percent in persons 12 to 54), Mr. Levin said it’s a priority to find a companion to the 9 p.m. run of “Charmed.” But he declined to confirm whether “Birds of Prey” or “Lost in Oz” is in consideration for that night. Thursday is the only night The WB is losing this season out of the five weekdays it goes head-to-head against UPN in its core persons 12 to 34 and adults 18 to 34 demographics.