ABC out front as nets rev up

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With a tentative deal in place and an end to the writers strike possibly hours away, the broadcast networks on Monday began firming up their plans for what series to bring back for more episodes in the spring.

ABC went a step further, renewing nine scripted series for next season, while NBC ordered another installment of solid strike performer "The Biggest Loser" for the fall.

ABC's list of pickups for 2008-09 include juggernauts "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost" (which is in the first year of a three-season pickup), sophomore series "Brothers & Sisters" and "Ugly Betty" as well as freshmen "Private Practice," "Pushing Daisies," "Samantha Who?" and "Dirty Sexy Money."

The returning series — which all are expected to also produce four to five fresh episodes to air in the spring — all have been renewed for a full season.

Meanwhile, the four first-year shows, which all had already been picked up for back-nine, have received 13-episode orders. It is expected that, with the exception of "Samantha Who?" they won't air any new episodes this season, with any extra produced segments added to their run in the fall.

ABC is known for renewing its series early in one fell swoop. In March, the network picked up 14 series, including seven scripted, for the 2007-08 season.

Two of the series renewed then, "Boston Legal" and "Men In Trees," are missing from the list this time, raising serious doubts about the their future on the network beyond this season. "Boston" is slated to begin production on the remaining eight episodes of its current order Feb. 20.

CBS' Monday comedy block is slated to return to originals in mid-March, featuring "Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother," while "Rules of Engagement" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine" are vying for the fourth slot.

The network's crime dramas and its Friday lineup also are expected to return by the end of March, while things don't look good for "The Unit" and "Cane," whose time slots had been taken over by "Big Brother" and "Jericho." The producers of "Cane" were informed Sunday night that the network won't be ordering more segments for this season, while its future beyond May is yet to be decided.

CW's comedies also will be back on the air with originals by mid-March, while the dramas will return with fresh episodes in April.

The network is requesting five or six episodes each of "Smallville," "One Tree Hill," "Supernatural" and freshmen "Gossip Girl" and "Reaper." ("Gossip" had received a back-nine order, while "Reaper" hadn't). As for "Life Is Wild," the network is not planning to request any more episodes, and the freshman show is not expected to return.

On the comedy side, the CW is asking for eight or nine episodes of "Girlfriends" spinoff "The Game." Meanwhile, "Girlfriends," which has been expected to bow out at season's end, won't produce new episodes, but the CW is working with the show's producers on finding a way to bring closure to the show through a retrospective, clip show or something else.

No new episodes are being ordered for "Aliens in America," which already has 18 episodes in the can, or "Everybody Hates Chris," which has 22 completed episodes. Both still are in contention for renewal for next season.

Fox, whose reality series perform well, is not bringing back for more episodes such serialized dramas such "24," which won't return until January, and "Prison Break," which has concluded a 13-episode story arc. Fox also is leaning toward not ordering more original episodes of its top scripted series, "House," as well as "Bones," which has four fresh segments in the can. A return of Fox's live-action comedies this season also is in doubt.

The network, which might use the extra produced episodes of some series for an early season launch in August, also is sticking to its plan to hold an upfront presentation despite NBC's intent of canceling theirs.

NBC is looking to bring back comedies "The Office," "My Name Is Earl" and "30 Rock" and "Law & Order: SVU" back on the air with originals as soon as possible, while it's not clear if it will order more episodes of "Scrubs," now in its final season.

"Heroes" and "Chuck" are expected to return next season, with freshman "Life" also looking at a possible fall relaunch. The future of critical darling "Friday Night Lights" is up in the air.

As for the upcoming sixth cycle of NBC's "Loser," like the current edition, it will feature couples — relatives or friends. Alison Sweeney will return as host.

"The Biggest Loser 5" has posted the franchise's strongest numbers since the initial 2004 installment.

Kimberly Nordyke contributed to this report.
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