It may not be the most elegant way to describe the mission of The WB, but, at its upfront last week, President and COO Jed Petrick put it in a simple framework. "There are 80 million viewers under 20 years old. That's a lot of belly rings and tattoos."
The network that has broadcast prime time's youngest-median-age viewer (30) will introduce six series this fall (seven if you count Gilmore Girls: Beginnings,
which will reprise the first season of that family-friendly hit on Sunday nights while the third season plays Tuesday nights).
The WB's oddest wrinkle might not be in prime time. This fall, it will take the 5-7 p.m. ET slot from affiliates on Sundays (about 90% have agreed) and repurpose second-season Smallville
and new fall heart-tug drama Everwood.
"We offered this as an option to affiliates," Petrick explained. "If we could have those hours, we wouldn't program Saturdays."
As a strategy, he thinks it can work because, largely, The WB will be competing against NFL football on Fox and CBS and news and other programming on NBC and ABC; besides, many WB affiliates fare poorly on Sunday afternoons, so their risk is minimal.
The WB President of Entertainment Jordan Levin is creating groundwork for building a stronger Thursday, mindful that, after next season, NBC's Friends
is a goner and with it, perhaps, that network's vise grip on the evening.
New for the fall
That old Brian Keith-Sebastian Cabot sitcom (1966-70 on some old network called CBS) gets an update on The WB, starring Gary Cole as nice Uncle Bill and Rocky Horror Picture Show
standout Tim Curry as grumpy Mr. French. He told the upfront crowd he was perfect for the role because "I'm British, I have exquisite manners, and small children annoy me immensely." It's up against Friends.
Executive producers are Bob Young, Gavin Polone, Sid & Marty Krofft, and Randy Pope. From Pariah, in association with The WB partner Turner Television.
One of at least two shows (ABC's drama That Was Then
is the other) this fall about a young adult who is magically sent back in time to relive (and rework) his high-school years. Penn Badgley stars as a 34-year-old knocked back to 1981, when he was 14. It plays on Thursday nights against Scrubs.
From Paramount and Littlefield Co., the company run by ex-NBC Entertainment chief Warren Littlefield, who is executive producer along with Kenny Schwartz and Rick Wiener.
What I Like About You—
Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes is teamed with ex-Beverly Hills 90210
star Jennie Garth. Bynes is the young trouble-causing Holly, who comes to live with her twentysomething sister, Valerie. Lots of pratfalls. Dan Schneider, Brian Robbins, Mike Tollin and Joe Davola are executive producers. From Tollin/Robbins Productions and Warner Bros.
Greetings From Tucson—
Starring Pablo Santos, Greetings
is about a Mexican-Irish family whose members don't always know who they are or what they should be doing, wearing or thinking. Executive producers are Peter Murrieta, Howard Klein, David Miner and Rob LeZebnik. From Turner Television.
—Treat Williams plays a New York neurosurgeon who saves lives but neglects his two kids and wife, until she's killed in an accident and he and his children move to little Everwood, Colo., where he tries to rebuild his life. The WB is showcasing its season around the drama. Executive producers are Greg Berlanti (Dawson's Creek) and Mickey Liddell. From Warner Bros. Television.
Birds of Prey—
Let's see, Catwoman was mom, and Batman was dad, and the offspring is Huntress (Ashley Scott), who hangs with Batgirl (Dina Meyer), who is a paraplegic after being shot by some of the Joker's bad guys in very bad New Gotham. They team with Dinah (Rachel Skarsten), who can see the future, and there you have it: crime-fightin'Birds of Prey. Executive producers are Laeta Kalgridis, Mike Tollin, Brian Rollins and Joe Davola. From Tollin/Robbins and Warner Bros. Television based on the DC Comic.
Ready for midseason
Judge Reinhold and Kirsten Nelson star as eccentric parents. They home-school their brilliant kids, who rebel and insist on public school. Executive-produced by Becky Hartman Edwards and Mark O'Keefe, on whose life the series is based. From Turner Television.