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May 19, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Dylan McDermott Out of ‘The Practice’ in Major Reshuffle

Dylan McDermott will not return to The Practice this season as attorney Bobby Donnell as part of a major reshuffling of the cast on the long-running one-hour legal drama that airs on ABC, a spokesman for David E. Kelley Productions has confirmed for TelevisionWeek. Other cast members who will not return, effective immediately, are Kelli Williams, who played Bobby Donnell’s wife; Lisa Gay Hamilton, who played an attorney; Lara Flynn Boyle, who portrayed Assistant District Attorney Helen Gamble; Marla Sokoloff, who portrayed receptionist Lucy Hatcher; and Chyler Leigh, who joined the cast as attorney Claire Wyatt last season after the quick failure of Kelley’s legal drama girl’s club.

Producer David E. Kelley, who issued a statement about the cast changes, was said to be distraught over what had been done. It was apparently necessitated by a major cut in the license fee that ABC will pay for the show’s 22 episodes this season. Sources told TelevisionWeek the license fee had been roughly cut in half to about $3.5 million per episode.

The show, which has been on for seven seasons, is produced by Mr. Kelley and Twentieth Century Fox Television. “Due to economic and creative realities,” Mr. Kelley said in a statement, “many key people will not be returning, including Dylan. It hurts, professionally and personally. This is perhaps the finest group of actors and people one could ever hope to work with. I hope for all of them to recur if possible, and if I’m lucky I’ll get to work with them on future projects as well. I’m indebted to each and every one of them.”

Sources said that Mr. McDermott probably would return on several episodes as a guest. His contract was said to be up, according to sources, and if he returned, he was in line for a major increase in his compensation.

Mr. McDermott and Miss Williams both appeared just last week in New York as part of the ABC network’s presentation to advertisers for the new season. At the time ABC knew changes were ahead but did not know the specifics, according to another sources.

ABC issued the following statement: “For the past seven seasons we’ve successfully relied on David E. Kelley’s creative vision for The Practice, and we’ll continue to rely on his vision for the future of this series. While we’re sorry to see these talented cast members leave the show, we’re excited to discover what David has in store for The Practice this Fall.”

Cast members who will return include Michael Badalucco, Steve Harris, Camryn Manheim and Jessica Capshaw, who joined the show only last season. Mr. Kelley is expected to add additional new cast members.

The Practice was caught up in controversy this past season after ABC moved the show from Sunday evening, where it had enjoyed strong ratings, to Monday night, where ratings fell sharply. Mr. Kelley had gone on record blasting ABC for moving the show. There were reports at the time that ABC did it, at least in part, because the contract was up and the network wanted to pay less for a renewal. ABC has vigorously denied those allegations. This fall The Practice will return to its old time slot on Sunday evening at 10 p.m.

Going into the upfront period, when schedules were set, it was unclear if any of Kelley Productions shows would return or be picked up. But everything in consideration did make a network schedule. In addition to The Practice on ABC, Mr. Kelley will have Boston Public back on Fox and a new show, The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H., on CBS.

Oprah Extends Contract Through 2007-08: Oprah Winfrey, King World’s Queen of Talk who begins her 18th season this September, has extended her contract through the 2007-08 season.

Under the terms of the new contract, Ms. Winfrey, who produces as well as stars in The Oprah Winfrey Show, will produce and star in 145 original episodes for 2003-04 season, the same number of originals as were produced for this season, and 130 original episodes for each of the four seasons thereafter.

The latest two-year extension is Ms. Winfrey’s second in approximately a year. Until today’s announcement, most industry insiders had expected Ms. Winfrey to call it quits after the 2005-06 season.

The new extension also adds a total of 85 additional original episodes to the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Under her previous contract Ms. Winfrey had planned to do 100 original episodes in the 2004-05 and just 75 in 2005-06 seasons. Under the new deal, she’ll deliver 130 originals for each of those two seasons as well 130 for each of the two seasons in the 2006-08 period.

The additional 85 original episodes in the 2004-06 period are “at no extra charge,” said Roger King, CEO, CBS Enterprises and King World Prods. “It’s not about money,” he said of the new deal. “It’s about how important she is to television. She loves her audience and she loves to do the show.” “It’s fulfilling being able to do this kind of television,” Ms. Winfrey said in a statement, “and I believe continuing to have a voice and a platform to speak to the world is still the right thing to do.”

This additional two-year extension comes against a backdrop of resurgent ratings and popularity for Ms. Winfrey. The show’s February sweeps numbers were her best in six years. Earlier this year, a Harris survey named her America’s favorite TV personality, a title she had not held since 2000. Recently, she also became the first African American woman to make the Forbes magazine annual list of the world’s richest people, with a fortune estimated at about $1 billion.

The new deal was announced jointly by Ms. Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and Mr. King. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sunday Viewers Like Double ‘L&O’, ‘Bachelor’: More Sunday night viewers were interested in NBC’s double helping of Law & Order: Criminal Intent (an average of 15.222 million viewers across two hours) and ABC’s The Bachelor (15.020 million viewers) than in CBS’s Hitler: Origins of Evil (13.572 million, according to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research.

Fox finished fourth in total viewers (9.658 million) but in the 18 to 49 demo ranked second for the night (a 4.2 rating/12 share) to ABC (4.7/13), which saw The Bachelor do all the demo work across its two hours (building from a 5.6/14 in the first half-hour to 8.5/21 in the last half-hour). NBC (4.1/11) finished just behind Fox in the demo for the night, while young Hitler (3.1/8) skewed oldest for the night.

For the sweeps through Sunday, the total viewer race stacks up as a win for CBS (12.802 million), followed by NBC (11.521 million), Fox (9.493 million), ABC (8.668 million), The WB (4.175 million) and UPN (3.362 million).

The demo race through Sunday is led by NBC (4.5/13), Fox (4.1/12), CBS (3.7/10), ABC (3.3/9), The WB (1.9/5), and UPN (1.5/4).

Philly PPM Trial IDs TV/Radio Preferences: Radio listeners who tune to the news/talk/sports radio format are more likely than listeners of other radio formats to watch PBS, independent stations and the Big 3 networks, while urban-format radio listeners are more likely to watch The WB, UPN and Fox.

Those are the latest results from the on-going trial of Arbitron’s Portable People Meter in the Philadelphia market. The PPM, a pager-size device that measures out-of-home TV viewing and radio station preferences, is now being used to provide cross-media information as well.

On the Philly cable side, PPM data show a higher percentage of urban radio listeners viewing Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, MTV, BET and Lifetime, while CNN viewers tend to be country and news/talk/sports radio listeners.

SoapNet to Run ‘Another World’: SoapNet has acquired its first NBC daytime soap, Another World, from Procter & Gamble Products, which will debut July 1 on the ABC cable soap-opera network.

Another World, which garnered 22 Daytime Emmys during the course of its long run, premiered in 1964 and ran for 35 years on NBC. At the time of its cancellation in 1999, it was the network’s longest running daytime drama.

Crystal Signs HBO Deal: Comic actor Billy Crystal has signed an exclusive three-year television deal with HBO that includes
comedy and dramatic projects. In addition, Mr. Crystal appointed Cheryl Bloch, formerly VP of drama development at Fox Broadcasting, as senior VP of TV development at his production company for HBO.