What will September bring?
Plenty, say the major TV networks as they begin their weekly series of meetings in New York known as the TV "upfront," hyping their 2001-02 TV schedules to advertisers. As much as 80 percent of next season's ad inventory is bought during this time.
NBC and the WB have announced their lineups, with ABC scheduled to make its presentation Tuesday.
NBC will shake things up a little. It has lessened its sitcom load by scheduling only eight comedy series, including three new sitcoms, the lowest the network has aired in two decades. Gone is the Sunday night movie, an NBC staple since the mid-1970s. It also is banking on its new primetime game show, The Weakest Link, to prosper. The Anne Robinson-hosted quizzer will remain at 8 p.m. Mondays while a second serving will now air at 8 p.m. Sundays.
A new sitcom with much to prove is Inside Schwartz, about a sports fan (Road Trip's Breckin Meyer) whose thoughts are revealed through conversations with sports figures. NBC will air it at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays following Friends, a time slot notorious for such failures as Jesse and The Single Guy. The series comes from the creators of Just Shoot Me and Mad About You. NBC is looking to combat the dent CBS' Survivor put in the famed NBC Thursday Must-See TV schedule, which was once virtually unbeatable with Friends kicking off the night. The rest of Thursday will remain the same with Will & Grace, Just Shoot Me and ER.
NBC also will add three new dramas, changing the schedules on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays while keeping Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays intact.
Mondays will lead off with The Weakest Link, with Third Watch moving to 9 p.m., followed by a new drama series, Crossing Jordan, with Jill Hennessy as a female coroner.
The new sitcom Emeril, to air 8 p.m. Tuesdays, stars the TV chef Emeril Lagasse in a "show-within-a-show" scenario. And in the 9:30 p.m. spot will be the last new sitcom, Scrubs, about hospital interns, from the makers of Spin City.
On Sundays, another extension of the Law & Order franchise, called Law & Order: Criminal Intent, will air at 9 p.m. UC: Undercover, about an elite unit at the U.S. Justice Department, will follow at 10 p.m.
Midseason candidates include a new comedy with Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus; another new sitcom, What Are You Thinking, starring Hank Azaria; and Leap of Faith; from the creators of HBO's Sex in the City.
Losing Buffy the Vampire Slayer to UPN was a major defection for the fledging WB. Now one of its other popular shows, Charmed, also may go through some unexpected changes.
The WB picked up Charmed for a new season, but Shannen Doherty, one of the three witches/sisters who call themselves "the power of three," is leaving the show after three seasons.
"We have had a long and prosperous relationship with Shannen and we didn't want to hold her back from what she wanted to do," Spelling Television, Charmed's producer, released in a statement. "We wish her all the best and much continued success."
"We hope to see her back on the network in the future," the WB added in its statement.
This is not the first time that Doherty has walked away from an Aaron Spelling-produced show. In 1994, Doherty fled Beverly Hills, 90210. Spelling welcomed Doherty back with open arms in 1998 when he cast her in Charmed.
Nan Sumsky, Spelling Television's director of series publicity, said Monday that it was unclear whether Doherty will be replaced. The show's two other costars, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs, will return.
"It would be hard to have a 'power of three' without a third," Sumsky added.
Still, the WB has negotiated multiple-year deals with four of its top-rated series: Dawson's Creek, 7th Heaven, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Felicity. The network also is keeping the Buffy spin-off Angel, but did not renew its option with the sci-fi show Roswell. UPN is now in serious negotiations to pick up Roswell.
New shows to be added to the WB's fall schedule include: Deep in the Heart, a sitcom starring Reba McEntire, and Smallville, a drama about the young Superman mythology. The WB also will launch a "reality wheel" on Sundays, with two new shows, Lost in the USA and No Boundaries.
Popular, Jack and Jill, Grosse Pointe and The Jamie Foxx Show, which recently aired its final episode, will not return.
Possible ABC fall schedule
Looks like ABC is weaning itself off of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire juggernaut, now that the writers strike has been averted. The Regis Philbin-hosted game show will now just air twice weekly come the fall.
The Alphabet Network is adding a variety of new and returning shows, with reality, sitcom and dramas among them. A few new sitcoms are planned, including Bob Patterson, about a motivational speaker, starring Jason Alexander, and a Jim Belushi-led family vehicle. There also will be a new Steven Bochco drama, Philly, starring Kim Delaney, to compliment the return of NYPD Blue. ABC also is relying on its reality programming, bringing back another installment of The Mole and a new show, The Runner. ABC will make its announcement Tuesday.