ABC gives 'Christine' fallback plan

Network inks deal to air show if CBS passes

CBS' bubble comedy series "The New Adventures of Old Christine" is assured of a 22-episode fifth-season order.

ABC has closed a back-up deal with series producer Warner Bros. TV that guarantees a full-season order to "Christine" if CBS doesn't pick up the show, sources said.

This is the second consecutive year ABC has made such a pact for the multicamera sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a neurotic divorcee. The network's chief, Stephen McPherson, is considered a big fan of the show.

For now, the odds are in favor of CBS renewing "Christine," which helped the network open a second comedy block on Wednesdays.

But with the comedy going down to the wire every year with 11th-hour pickups at CBS, the back-up deal with ABC gives reassurances to "Christine's" producers, who are seeking to sell the series in syndication.

ABC and WBTV declined comment.