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TV STUFF: Cutting Loose 'Buffy'?

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Will Sarah Michelle Gellar and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" be headed for greener (as in money) pastures at the end of the 2000-2001 TV season?

According to a report in Seventeen magazine, WB network executives are already grousing about the cult-fave show's price tag, which currently runs about $1 million per episode. The worry is that it'll climb (a lot) higher by the time "Buffy's" five-year contract with the network expires in 2001.

"I love the show, but from an economic standpoint, it doesn't have the same place in our lineup that a show like 'ER' has for NBC," an unnamed WB honcho told the magazine.

A WB spokesperson could not be reached for comment today on the report.

The "ER" reference is key. In 1998, an angst-ridden NBC, looking at a "Seinfeld"-free future, agreed to fork over $13 million to Warner Bros. Television for each and every episode of the top-rated medical drama -- all in the name of preventing the series from bolting to another network. Of course, until the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" onslaught, "ER" was TV's -- as well as NBC's - top-rated show. "Buffy," on the other hand, is TV's 115th most-watched show for the season to date. (It is the WB's No. 2 show, behind the family drama "7th Heaven.")

This isn't the first time, meanwhile, that the possibility's of "Buffy's" flight from the teen-obsessed WB has been raised. The show is produced by 20th Century-Fox Television, which is run by Sandy Grushow, who has indicated in none-too-subtle fashion that if the WB won't pay his asking price for "Buffy," he'll take the show to the Fox network -- or some other deep-pocketed buyer.

THEY'LL KILL FOR RATINGS: So, how do doctors in popular prime-time hospital dramas leave their shows these days?

Catch a fatal disease? Been there, done that more than a decade ago (See: Mark Harmon on "St. Elsewhere.")

Simply walk away, leaving the door open for a possible return? Been there, done that just last season. (See: George Clooney on "ER.")

Well, how about getting stabbed? That might do the trick.

According to reports, unconfirmed (but not denied) by NBC, departing "ER" star Kellie Martin will see her Lucy Knight character die in the Feb. 17 episode from, yes, stab wounds. The knife attack, which goes down in the Feb. 10 installment, also will scratch up co-star Noah Wyle. (But don't worry -- he survives.)

BACK TO SCHOOL: Prolific producer/writer David E. Kelley ("Ally McBeal," "The Practice") will get even more prolific, developing a new school-based ensemble drama series for Fox.

Trade paper reports say the new Kelley project is called "The Faculty" -- not to be confused with the 1998 sci-fi/horror flick of the same name. Kelley will executive produce.

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