CW, Fox lineups target young audiences

May 19, 2006|By MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ AND SCOTT MARTELLE | MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ AND SCOTT MARTELLE,LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK -- The last of the new fall TV seasons were unveiled yesterday, with both Fox and CW, the fledgling network formed from the flagging WB and UPN operations, aiming squarely at 18-to-34-year-olds.

For fans of programs on the soon-to-die WB and UPN, yesterday's presentation may have seemed like a reality-show knockoff: Survivor: The CW Version.

The new network is going with themed nights and combining former competitors Top Model and One Tree Hill into what the network hopes will be a strong one-two punch on Wednesdays.

Tuesday will be a Girls' Night, with the WB's Gilmore Girls, about a single mother and her daughter, followed by UPN's Veronica Mars, about a single father and his daughter. Thursday's focus on science fiction and the occult would seem to make it Boys' Night, with Smallville, about Superman's early days on Earth, followed by Supernatural, about two brothers seeking the demon that killed their mother. Both shows are now on the WB.

Fan favorite 7th Heaven found new life for an 11th season, airing Mondays, and Reba returns as a midseason replacement.

But the WB's Everwood, which drew older viewers, didn't live up to its name - the show is gone as the CW targets the coveted youth demographic, which has been flocking to Fox shows seven of the last eight seasons. About one-third of those viewers are minorities, according to the CW's audience research.

"Picking our schedule was a scheduler's dream," said Dawn Ostroff, CW's president of entertainment. "It was like playing fantasy football but with TV shows."

Only two new shows made the fall cut: The Game, a comedy about pro football players' wives and girlfriends, and Runaway, a new Darren Starr drama following a family on the run as the father tries to clear himself of false murder charges.

Another new show, Hidden Palms, about dark secrets in placid Palm Springs, made the cut for midseason.

One notable shift in the fall lineup: Everybody Hates Chris goes from Thursdays on UPN to Sundays (not Mondays as was previously suggested), against the NFL and 60 Minutes. CW executives hope the show, followed by UPN's All of Us, will draw families leading into the network's only night of comedies.

While the CW promoted the diversity of its programming, most of the shows on the new lineup feature white casts - a development not lost on Chris Rock, who was part of CW's presentation to media and advertisers at Madison Square Garden. "Buy more ads because Chris next year is going to be played by a white girl," Rock said, referring to his childhood self on Everybody Hates Chris.

But Ostroff dismissed suggestions that the network was moving away from the minority-heavy programming on UPN in particular.

Fox doesn't get serious until January, when American Idol and 24 return. Nevertheless, it will introduce five new series in August.

Among Fox's cancellations are Bernie Mac and the spring tryout Free Ride. But after its success with 24, Fox will offer Vanished, a serialized drama that will focus for the entire season on the search for an abducted senatorial wife.

The new lineup also will feature the traditional dramas, Standoff and Justice. Standoff features crack crisis negotiators for the FBI who also are partners after hours; Justice chronicles the exploits of a legal dream team.

Brad Garrett returns in 'Til Death, one of two new Fox comedies. The Everybody Loves Raymond star and Joely Fisher play old-marrieds who become mentors to newlywed neighbors.

The other new sitcom, Happy Hour, casts John Sloan as a loser who follows his girlfriend from his small hometown to Chicago, only to get dumped.

A Fox midseason comedy is called The Winner. Rob Corddry of The Daily Show plays a 43-year-old flashing back to how he found the love of his life and achieved prosperity. Fox also announced a midseason drama, The Wedding Album, starring Bruno Campos as a playboy photographer.

The Loop, a mindless comedy that premiered this spring, is also scheduled to come back in the second half of the year in the platinum time period after the American Idol results show.

Until the return of American Idol, Simon Cowell will bide his time with Duets, a singing competition scheduled for a limited run in the fall. Established musical stars will team with celebrities from other fields to win a grand prize for their designated charity.

Maria Elena Fernandez and Scott Martelle write for the Los Angeles Times.

Tom Jicha from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributed to this article.

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