Fox scales back order for “Undeclared”

Come springtime, it looks as though DreamWorks TV’s single-camera college comedy Undeclared may be pulled off for a midseason replacement.

In a move that raises questions about the future of the show’s future, Fox Broadcasting Co. has cut back its pickup order for the show from nine episodes to five, bringing the show’s total order from the standard 22 to 17.

A spokesperson for Fox told The Hollywood Reporter that orders were revised in part because the network’s entire fall schedule got off to a late start due to post-Sept. 11 disruptions. Fox has already cut back orders for Titus and Grounded for Life from 22 to 20 episodes this season.

The network said they had to cut back the orders to make room for its midseason comedies Greg the Bunny, That ’80s Show and Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

Undeclared found itself in an unusual position for a freshman series after Fox put in an early order for the show, hoping to avoid the disruption of the looming writers and actors guilds’ strike.

Judd Apatow, the show’s creator, sent an e-mail out to fans of the series, urging them to write letters in support of the show to Fox and the media. Apatow compared the move to what happened to the critically acclaimed NBC dramedy Freaks and Geeks in the 1999-2000 season.

“I hate to say it, but Undeclared may soon go the way of Freaks and Geeks. Airing sporadically, a short order and then pulled in springtime–sure sounds like a Freaks and Geeks flashback to me.”

Although Undeclared drew strong reviews when it premiered this fall, its numbers have slipped since winning its Tuesday 8:30 p.m. slot with adults 19-49 in its first three airings. The show averaged 7.5 million viewers this week, a 26 percent decline from its lead-in That ’70s Show.