The WB wants laughs - Broadcasting & Cable

The WB wants laughs

Five new sitcoms will join the fall lineup
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The strategy

The WB extended not just one but a bouquet of olive branches to advertisers for last season's 20% ratings fall-off. Now it believes "comedy is critical to our long-term success, and it was a primary development goal for the year," explained The WB Entertainment President Susanne Daniels. One big strategy is to change urban comedies from Fridays to Sundays. The Jamie Foxx Show, The Steve Harvey Show and For Your Love all make the Sunday trip.

Also The WB has said sayonara to audience-repellent Felicity repeats. The series, which took a nosedive in the numbers this season, will air 11 back-to-back original episodes in the fall. Jack & Jill will then air 13 consecutive originals, and then Felicity will return with 11 more.

Chairman Jamie Kellner acknowledged "misjudgments" over the impact of losing superstation wgn, which cost The WB 10 million homes at the outset of the season.

The WB sees something in its favor in that Felicity star Keri Russell's hair has begun to grow back. The show suffered when she cut it. It's true.

Also, advertisers are anticipating Young Americans, which has Coca-Cola money behind it, and Baby Blues, an animated series based on a comic strip. Both are summer series.

What they're saying

Advertisers are grateful for any network looking to hook young viewers. "The teen and young-adult audience is a hard one to attract, and The WB has done a great job of putting a schedule together that delivers," said Procter & Gamble Global Marketing Officer Robert Wehling. And of course, he thinks The Gilmore Girls is going to be a big hit.

R.I.P.

Mission Hill, Safe Harbor, 7th Heaven: Beginnings

Season to date

Total households: 2.6 rating/4 share (-19% from last year).

Adults 18-49: 1.4/4 (-22%).

What's new

Six new series: four comedies and two dramas

Comedies: Nikki. WB resurrects Nikki Cox, from Unhappily Ever After to star as a Las Vegas dancer married to a professional wrestler, played by Nick von Esmarch, whose character has unfortunately picked up wrestler nickname "Crybaby.' The comedy is produced by Bruce Helford, the man behind The Drew Carey Show.

The PJs. The Claymation-style series (produced by Eddie Murphy) was taken from FOX and will anchor The WB's revamped (and urban) Sunday.

Hype. A sketch comedy from former Mad TV and Saturday Night Live writers, as The WB goes looking for the next In Living Color.

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Cut from ABC's TGIF lineup, the Melissa Joan Hart show moves here, airing in the same time period.

Grosse Pointe. Beverly Hills, 90210 creator Darren Star spoofs teen soaps much like the kind The WB usually puts on.

Dramas: Gilmore Girls. The first from the Family Friendly Programming Forum, which is pushing less sexy and violent fare. Show investors include Procter & Gamble. Mother (Lauren Graham) and daughter (Alexis Bledel) are best friends and look about the same age.

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