WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin was in high spirits at his network's fall presentation Tuesday in New York and it wasn't only the Frog's huge ratings leap this season that made him grin. There was Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum and his raunchy, apparently impromptu stand-up act; a moving clip reel and farewell appearance by the Dawson's Creek cast; and, a nervous (and awkwardly lisping) Rose McGowan trying to seduce the mostly-male audience by playing the ditzy card all amidst endless talk about the importance of targeting teen viewers.
But the star of the show was, of course, the WB's new fall schedule, which features a relocated Smallville, dramatic changes on Thursday and Friday, and the return of an iconic jungle stud named Tarzan. "WB has stayed true to its spirit for the last several years," says Steve Sternberg, senior V.P./director of audience analysis at MAGNA Global USA, a major media buying firm. "They know who their audience is and what they want." Here's a night-by-night analysis of the new schedule:
The WB isn't fixing what ain't broken. The family-friendly combo of 7th Heaven (which was picked up for another two seasons) and Everwood are staying put. More heavenly news: Barry Watson will continue to make sporadic appearances next season, and Jessica Biel is in talks to do the same. Amusingly, both Stephen Collins and Treat Williams fiftysomething actors who play dads on the respective series took to the stage in sleek, black leather jackets. Was this WB's attempt to make the old guys look hipper?
With the WB moving Smallville to Wednesdays, Gilmore Girls is being paired with the new Alias-esque drama Fearless, starring Rachael Leigh Cook as an FBI agent who was born without the gene for fear. Madison Avenue applauded breaking up Gilmore and Smallville. Insists Sternberg: "They are stand-alone hits." Still, some were surprised the network didn't team Lorelai and Rory with the Gilmore spinoff centered around Milo Ventimiglia's Jess character. The still unnamed series which Lauren Graham suggested be titled Hot Angry Guy is being held until midseason. On the bright side, this means Rory can hang onto Jess for a little while longer!
With dried-up soap Dawson's Creek no longer weighing down the night, the WB is poised to generate some serious Hump Day heat with the one-two punch of Smallville at 8 pm and Angel at 9 pm. Frog execs are hoping the acclaimed Buffy spinoff will benefit from the stronger lead-in and the fact that given the Slayer's sign off from UPN it now will be the only vampire show in primetime. It also doesn't hurt that Buffy regular James Marsters, who plays British vamp Spike, is crossing over to Angel full time.
A major housecleaning is in store on the WB's weakest night. Original King of Comedy Steve Harvey kicks off the evening with Steve Harvey's Big Time, a talk/variety-show hybrid that showcases regular folks doing silly things. Clips of the show generated hearty guffaws from the crowd. The Jamie Kennedy Experiment moves to 8:30. What I Like About You, which was having a rough go of it on Fridays, moves to anchor position on Thursdays at 9. "The first season, we spent more time trying to cover Jennie Garth's pregnant tummy than creating a relationship between two TV sisters," star Amanda Bynes confessed to the crowd. "Next season will be better." What I Like will be followed by Run of the House, a comedy about twentysomething siblings forced to raise their 15-year-old sister. And... Whoa! Despite the inclusion of Blossom boy Joey Lawrence in the cast, folks were actually laughing during the highlight reel.
The WB's only hit comedy, like, ever, Reba, moves up an hour to launch the night at 8 pm. New comedy Like Family arrives at 8:30, followed by Grounded for Life and All About the Andersons, a semi-autobiographical sitcom starring Barbershop cut-up Anthony Anderson as an unemployed single dad who moves back in with his 'rents. The all-comedy lineup will go head-to-head with ABC's revived TGIF-themed night.
Charmed's move to Sundays this season proved magical for the WB, and the network is keeping it there even if the sibilant Ms. McGowan can't say "suspenseful Sunday" three times fast. The Charmed Ones will be followed by the network's most anticipated new series Tarzan and Jane. In the reel, Calvin Klein model-turned-actor Travis Fimmell was shirtless in every scene, with his luxurious blonde mane also featured prominently. Lordy, this is the most "hair acting" we've seen on a WB show since Felicity! The consensus on T&J: As long as Fimmell keeps his mouth shut and abs visible at all times, the WB may well make greater inroads in the Sunday TV jungle. Additional reporting by Daniel R. Coleridge
For the complete WB schedule, click here. And for analysis of ABC's schedule, click here. And you can read what Matt Roush thinks of the lineup here.