Dramas help new network flex muscles

TV: Sitcoms are in short supply in fall lineup announced by NBC and WB.

May 18, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

WB, the most successful network in audience growth this year, has a spinoff of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and an additional night of programming coming next fall, the network will announce today.

Meanwhile, NBC, the least successful network in terms of growth (it lost one-sixth of its audience this season), added five new dramas and two sitcoms to its schedule yesterday.

Other programming moves for WB's fall schedule will include switching two sophomore dramas to new nights. "Felicity" will move to Sundays at 8, with "Charmed" shifting to Thursdays at 9.

"Angel," starring David Boreanaz as Buffy's boyfriend, is expected to air Tuesday nights at 9 following "Buffy," sources at the network said yesterday.

The network will also expand into Fridays with a night of programming featuring a new animated comedy series about teens and twentysomethings, "The Downtowners." The rest of the night will feature returning sitcoms, "The Jamie Foxx Show," "The Steve Harvey Show" and "For Your Love."

Overall, WB is expected to add five new dramas and only one comedy, following a pattern started by NBC, which announced a fall schedule yesterday with only two sitcoms on it.

Besides "Angel," the new WB dramas are: "Roswell," about three friends in high school; "Popular," about the least and most popular kids in high school; "Jack and Jill," about a young bride-to-be who decides to re-start her life; and "Safe Harbor," about a widower raising his four sons in a coastal Florida city. "Safe Harbor" is from Aaron Spelling.

Cancellations are expected for: "Sister, Sister," "Smart Guy," "The Wayans Brothers," and "UNhappily Ever After."

NBC plans a new show on each night of the week, starting with "Third Watch," a new drama from John Well, of "ER," on Sundays. "Third Watch" focuses on the lives of night shift cops and paramedics in New York.

The other new dramas are: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," a "Law & Order" spinoff from Dick Wolf; "The West Wing," with Martin Sheen starring as president and Rob Lowe as a White House staffer and Aaron Sorkin ("Sports Night") producing; "Freaks and Geeks," a comic-drama about high school; and "Cold Feet," a comic-drama about thirtysomething relationships.

"Cold Feet" will get the 10 p.m. Friday time slot held by "Homicide: Life on the Street" since 1995.

It's noteworthy that NBC renewed both "Profiler" and "The Pretender," which had weaker ratings than "Homicide." A major reason for that decision is that neither of those dramas had yet accumulated enough episodes to make syndication viable, while "Homicide" had. That's what "Homicide" producer Barry Levinson meant when he told The Sun last week that, "In the end, it all comes down to numbers."

The two new NBC sitcoms are: "Stark Raving Mad," featuring Tony Shalhoub ("Wings") as a horror writer and Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser, M.D.") as his agent, and "The Michael O'Malley Show," featuring the comedian as a 30-year-old who won't grow up.

NBC will continue its over-reliance on "Dateline," with the newsmagazine appearing five nights, including a new 7 p.m. Sunday faceoff with "60 Minutes" on CBS.

Coming this fall (new shows bold-faced)

NBC's fall prime-time lineup:

SUNDAY

Dateline 7

Third Watch 8

Movie 9

MONDAY

Suddenly Susan 8

Veronica's Closet 8: 30

Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit 9

Dateline 10

TUESDAY

3rd Rock From the Sun 8

The Michael O'Malley Show 8: 30

Just Shoot Me 9

Will & Grace 9: 30

Dateline 10

WEDNESDAY

Dateline 8

The West Wing 9

Law & Order 10

THURSDAY

Friends 8

Jesse 8: 30

Frasier 9

Stark Raving Mad 9: 30

ER 10

FRIDAY

Providence 9

Dateline 10

Cold Feet

SATURDAY

Freaks and Geeks 8

The Pretender 9

Profiler 10

* WB's prime-time lineup for fall:

SUNDAY

7th Heaven 7

Felicity 8

Jack and Jill 9

MONDAY

7th Heaven, 8

Safe Harbor

TUESDAY

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 8

Angel 9

WEDNESDAY

Dawson's Creek 8

Roswell 9

THURSDAY

Popular 8

Charmed 9

FRIDAY

The Downtowners 8

The Jamie Foxx Show 8: 30

The Steve Harvey Show 9

For Your Love 9: 30

Pub Date: 5/18/99

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