Networks Cautious On New Shows, ABC Picks Up \'Wife Swap\', The WB Greenlights Pilot


Normally by the beginning of November sweeps, networks have a pretty good idea of which new shows are succeeding and which are falling through the cracks and back-nine orders are in place. This fall, though, uncertainty seems to be fueling restraint. Rather than ordering fresh episodes of tepid freshman performers, several networks are ordering more scripts and taking a wait-and-see attitude.

With the exception of a few obvious hits (ABC’s “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives”), several average performers on a struggling network (NBC’s “Medical Investigation” and “Joey”) and a critically respected drama on a netlet (The WB’s “Jack & Bobby”), networks have been hesitant to make full season plans.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC has ordered nine more scripts for “Rodney,” which has provided solid, but unremarkable numbers on Tuesday nights, and six more scripts for “Complete Savages,” which has yet to find any traction on Fridays. Airing with a strong “According to Jim” lead-in, “Rodney” has averaged 9.24 million viewers per episode this season, while “Savages” has only pulled in 5.59 million viewers, though the Mel Gibson-produced comedy hasn’t had as much help coming out of the faltering “8 Simple Rules.”

Over on CBS, “dr. vegas” has drawn 8.38 million viewers, better than the Emmy nominated “Joan of Arcadia,” but fewer than NBC’s competing “Medical Investigation.” That performance has led CBS to ask for two more scripts. The network has also ordered two more scripts for “Clubhouse,” which was shipped off to Saturday after failing to make the starting lineup on Tuesdays.

Neither of UPN’s freshman offerings have become an out-of-the-box success, but the netlet wants to see four more scripts for both “Kevin Hill” (3.69 million viewers) and “Veronica Mars” (2.64 million) and three more scripts for the comedy “Second Time Around” (3.24 million).

The WB had previously announced the ordering of four more episodes of the critically slammed dud “The Mountain.”

When FOX rushed ahead and launched “Trading Spouses” before the premiere of ABC’s “Wife Swap,” pundits wondered if there was room on the television landscape for two similarly themed reality shows about displaced wives. In the end, FOX was satisfied with the so-so performance of its show and ABC is even more giddy. The network has given a full-season commitment to “Wife Swap.”
Included among the season’s 22 episodes will be two self-explanatory specials titled “Boss Swap” and “Husband Swap,” which could both become backdoor pilots should “Wife Swap” show the franchise potential of ABC’s other hot reality brand “Extreme Makeover.”

“I’m so proud of this show,” says Andrea Wong, ABC’s executive vice president, alternative programming, specials and late-night. “It has proven to be everything we hoped for — creatively, critically and in the ratings. Thanks to RDF Media’s great casting and production, we know the rest of the season is going to be fantastic.”

“Legally Blonde” director Robert Luketic has come on board to help shepherd “Spygirl,” an hour-long pilot on The WB.

The WB has given a put pilot commitment to the drama, which comes from Warner Bros. TV-based 25C Productions.

The series is based on Amy Gray’s autobiographical “Spygirl: True Adventures from My Life as a Private Eye,” which was published last fall. The book focuses on an Ivy League grad who leaves a unfulfilling job at a publishing house to join a Manhattan private investigating firm populated by quirky PIs delving into seedy cases. Soon, her love life and her professional life begin intersecting in unpredictable ways.

Maggie Friedman (“Dawson’s Creek”) wrote the pilot and will executive produce along with Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly of 25C and writer-producer Ed Redlich (“Felicity,” “Without a Trace”). Luketic, whose other credits include “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” and the upcoming “Monster-in-Law,” will direct the pilot and executive produce.

Credit: Zap2It

Murtz Jaffer is the world's foremost reality television expert and was the host of Reality Obsessed which aired on the TVTropolis and Global Reality Channels in Canada. He has professional writing experience at the Toronto Sun, National Post, TV Guide Canada, and was a former producer at Entertainment Tonight Canada. He was also the editor at