The Camdens are making it to a cool decade on The WB.
The network has made an early pickup for the 2005-06 season. The WB announced last Friday its Monday night drama “7th Heaven,” which follows the lives of the Camden family, will run for a 10th season. The pickup gives the Spelling Television-produced show the distinction of being the longest-running family drama in television. “Heaven’s” 10th season breaks the record shared by the 1970s classics “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie,” each of which ran for nine consecutive seasons.
Debuting in 1996, just a year after The WB launched, “Heaven” has been the network’s most-watched series since the 1998-99 broadcast season. “Heaven” is the network’s top-rated show for the current season among adults 18 to 49 and the second-highest among adults 18 to 34, according to Nielsen Media Research.
“Heaven,” which stars Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks as the parents of seven children, made a star of Jessica Biel, who left the show in 2001 to pursue feature roles. The show also has been able to bring series regulars back after they’ve left-Barry Watson, who left in 2002, and David Gallagher, who left in 2003, both returned to the show for a full season last fall.
Brenda Hampton, the show’s creator, said “Heaven’s” ratings success didn’t make a 10th season pickup a foregone conclusion for the network.
“A show becomes more expensive to produce each year, so the network had to weigh the costs against whatever benefits they would get from a 10th season,” she said. “I’m happy they gave us the pickup, which at the end of season 10, will put us at 221 episodes, the same as `The Waltons.”‘
Ms. Hampton said she does not yet have a contract to stay with the show for 2005-06, but the network said it expects to secure most, if not all, the series regular cast members for a 10th season. The WB has deals with Mr. Collins and Beverley Mitchell, who portrays daughter Lucy, for 2005-06.
Ms. Hampton said she was not sure whether 2005-06 will be “Heaven’s” last.
“This could be the final season for the show, but we’ve been saying that season after season for years now,” she said. “There’s at least some possibility that the show could run longer than 10 seasons, but who knows?”
This season, long-running shows such as CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” and ABC’s “NYPD Blue” took time in their production and writing schedules to tie up loose ends and build toward their planned, highly publicized series finales. Whether “Heaven” will take that approach next season if indeed it concludes in 2005-06 remains to be seen. Ms. Hampton said tangible constraints could dictate how big of a sendoff the show gets.
“Television is an art controlled by time and money, so what we do creatively will more than likely be determined [by] how much notice we have that we’re doing the last episode and how much money is left in the budget,” she said. “We may want to leave stories open-ended enough to pull in audience for a reunion special.”
Ms. Hampton said she never expected the show to last this long, but is “very grateful that it has.”
She defined “Heaven” as a “journey show.”
“That’s why it’s still relatively easy to come up with stories from year to year as the children grow up,” she said. “I just never thought we”d get this far along in each of the character’s journeys.”