WB Doctors Afternoon Block

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There will be a whole lot more ER starting in January.

That's when the the 12-year-old medical drama hit will make its debut as a Monday-Friday broadcast strip on The WB. It will be paired with 8 Simple Rules in the first nine-month installment of The WB’s new afternoon programming block.

In addition to appearing five times a week at 3 p.m. from January to September 2006 on The WB, ER will continue to air twice a day at 10 and 11 a.m. on TNT, the network’s corporate cable sibling; in weekend broadcast syndication; and, of course, at 10 p.m. Thursdays on NBC.

If no one blinks, that would mean 17 runs of ER per week for nine months. A rep for The WB says there are currently no plans to renew ER, from Warner Bros. Television Domestic Distribution, beyond September 2006.

With only the 3-4 p.m. hour in September 2006 left to fill (the network is dropping its weekday kids block), The WB spokesman emphasizes the network will see how the market shakes out before making a decision. There “are some real interesting titles out there,” he says.

Warner’s Everwood on The WBand Sony’s The Shield on FX will be available in fall 2006, with NBC Universal’s Vegas entering the off-net fray the following year.

At 4-5 p.m., The WB will double run Rules, which ABC canceled in May after three seasons. The sitcom was never able to fully recover from the death of series star John Ritter.

Rules would either be renewed with The WB or taken into syndication, according to Buena Vista Television Distribution President Janice Marinelli.

The WB has already acquired off-net episodes of Reba from Twentieth TVto air from 4-5 p.m. starting in September 2006. If WB Chairman Garth Ancier sticks to his plan of mixing compatible 18-49 off-net sitcoms and dramas, that would leave no room for Rules.

But if Rules in early fringe performs decently airing in pattern on WB affiliates, Marinelli could have some interesting options: Either put it on the shelf for awhile at The WB or seek better time periods than it would have gotten otherwise in syndication.

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