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Fox Shows Buyers It's Ready To Go Year-Round

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Of all the broadcast networks to hold development meetings with media buyers last week, Fox came away as the hardest-working, as it gets set to launch year-round original programming.

Fox unveiled seven pilots—five dramas and two sitcoms—that could premiere by June and July, the start of its 2004-05 season. Last August, when few other new shows were on the air, the network launched The O.C., which produced some of Fox's best adults 18-34 and 18-49 ratings this season.

"While every network is talking about airing fresh programming 52 weeks a year, Fox is really doing it," said Stacy Lynn Koerner, director of global research integration at Initiative. "Almost everything they showed us has already been taped and ordered."

Gail Berman, Fox entertainment president, broke down drama development into three categories. One is serialized dramas that could air with The O.C., which include The North Shore, featuring twentysomethings working at a hotel in Hawaii, and The Deerings, about two families linked by second marriages. Another is closed-ended dramas, which include Hollywood Division, about a detective unit, and The Jury, which follows a new trial each week. The third category is dramas "that push the form," such as Ricochet, a police procedural show in which the story plays out backward.

Berman said she wants to develop a second comedy night and will add more animated shows. Sitcoms ready for summer include Method & Red, with hip-hop's Method Man and Redman, and Related by Family, about two families blended into one by divorce.

At The WB, entertainment president Jordan Levin said he may break up the Monday-Wednesday drama lineup by opening some nights with sitcoms. That means Reba, The WB's only "hit" comedy, would move from Fridays. Sitcom pilots include Commando Nanny, based on the life of reality TV producer Mark Burnett, and Blue Collar TV, based on material from Jeff Foxworthy (eight episodes of which will launch in July, Levin said).

Dramas in the pipeline at The WB: Jack & Bobby, loosely based on the Kennedys as kids, and remakes of Dark Shadows from John Wells and The Robinsons: Lost in Space from John Woo.

ABC, which now airs 10 sitcoms, may add two more, entertainment president Susan Lyne told buyers. On the drama side, Lyne will target thirtysomething females. "Women drive network TV viewing, yet this is an underserved audience," she said. Dramas in the works include Desperate Housewives, about a group of women living in a cul-de-sac; Gramercy Park, about New York families and their childcare workers; and a David E. Kelley drama about sisters running a wedding-planning business.

Along with a low-budget, six-episode scripted drama, ABC has several reality shows lined up to air this summer. They include The Benefactor, in which multimillionaire Mark Cuban bestows $1 million to one winner from a group of 12.

NBC spent most of its presentation selling the power of broadcast TV and its own demo strength. CBS did not present.