The WB Playing For Laughter

The WB will add five new comedies and just one drama to its prime-time lineup this fall, and the network will shift the critically acclaimed Gilmore Girls, whose ratings are improving, to Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in an attempt to fill the void left by Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, the WB smash that will move over to UPN next season.

“There were two major priorities that were addressed in putting our schedule together,” said Susanne Daniels, co-president of entertainment for the WB. “The first was to build up our comedy block, and the second was to give a new launch to Gilmore Girls.”

The network’s lone new drama, Smallville, about Superman’s early years, will air on Monday nights at 9 p.m., following 7th Heaven. On-air promos during both those shows will try to pump up viewer interest in the following night’s new anchor. “We want to give Gilmore Girls a chance to shine,” Daniels said.

The new WB fall comedies that will be presented to media buyers at the network’s upfront presentation in New York on Tuesday, barring any last-minute changes, are: Maybe I’m Adopted, starring Julia Sweeney; Deep in the Heart, starring Reba McIntyre; Raising Dad, with Bob Saget; Men, Women & Dogs, an esemble comedy headlined by Bill Bellamy; and Off Centre, about a pair of odd-couple roommates. Two other comedies, The (Mis)Adventures of Fiona Plum and Young Person’s Guide to Being a Rockstar, could end up as midseason shows. The network has been searching for a hit comedy.

Like Gilmore Girls last season, Raising Dad is a show that was developed from a script submitted to the WB through the Family Friendly Programming Forum. Fiona Plum would be the network’s third show from the Forum.

On Tuesdays, Gilmore Girls will precede the returning Joss Whedon drama, Angel, which will remain on the WB schedule even though the network declined to pay the asking price to renew the Whedon?produced Buffy. This season, Gilmore Girls has run in the toughest slot in prime time?8 p.m. Thursdays, against NBC’s Friends and CBS’ Survivor.

The WB’s Wednesday will return intact, with Dawson’s Creek leading off the night at 8 p.m., followed by Felicity. Like last season, Felicity will air 11 original episodes, take a hiatus and be replaced by a still-undetermined drama, and then return in the spring for 11 more episodes.

Charmed will return on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. Gilmore Girls’ old 8-9 p.m. Thursday slot will be filled by two half hours?Popstars, which moves from Fridays, and Elimidate Deluxe, a companion to the new Elimidate in syndication. Both Elimidate shows are from Warner Bros.’ Telepictures unit, with the WB network version being filmed in more exotic locales, like Cancun, Hawaii and the Bahamas.

Sabrina will return to lead off the WB’s Friday nights, followed by Maybe I’m Adopted, Deep in the Heart and Raising Dad.

Shifting Popstars to Thursdays could cause the WB’s Friday night to skew a bit less teen, but Jordan Levin, WB entertainment co-president, noted that the new comedies, along with Sabrina, should draw more family viewers.

A reality hour, undecided at press time, will lead off Sundays at 7 p.m., followed by Steve Harvey; Men, Women & Dogs; the returning second-year show Nikki; and Off Centre.

Gilmore Girls could compete head-to-head with the departed Buffy, which UPN is considering for the same slot the show had on the WB. UPN is also expected to pick up the sci-fi drama Roswell, one of three dramas not renewed by the WB, and air it following Buffy at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. UPN executives were not available for comment. Other dramas not renewed by WB were Popular and Jack & Jill.

Daniels noted that the new shows on the schedule are from an array of studios, including Paramount, Dreamworks, Touchstone and Twentieth Television, in addition to Warner Bros. Regarding diversity, Daniels said that Men, Women & Dogs features a multi-ethnic ensemble cast, and the network has the Steve Harvey spinoff Cedric, the Entertainer on the shelf for a possible midseason slot. “We asked all of the producers of our pilots to cast shows with diverse casts,” Daniels said.