ABC ready for 'Primetime' in '9' slot


NEW YORK -- ABC newsmagazine "Primetime" will get its first shot of the season on the regular schedule next week, when it begins a five-episode run for a limited series it calls "Basic Instinct."

"Primetime: Basic Instinct" features five hourlong reports using hidden cameras and how people react to such situations as dealing with a prejudiced cab driver, unruly children running amok and a loud person talking on his cell phone at a restaurant. "Basic Instinct" will at 10 p.m. for five consecutive Wednesdays in the slot formerly occupied by "The Nine."

"Primetime" wasn't on the fall schedule when ABC announced it in May. But to ABC News' relief, the network gave the newsmagazine a 48-episode order for the new season, but no definite time of when it would return. The last time "Primetime" aired regularly was at 10 p.m. Thursdays in mid-September, though there have been two specials since then.

"We asked (ABC News) if they could do like what we do with scripted series, if they could have a series that would be ready to go if we needed to fix a time period, even temporarily," said Jeffrey Bader, executive vp ABC Entertainment.

"Primetime" executive producer David Sloan said Wednesday that since May the team has been working not only on "Basic Instinct" but also another run of "Medical Mysteries" and "The Outsiders," both of which ran successfully during the summer.

But it's not clear whether "Primetime" will get to keep the 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot, which will follow "Lost" beginning in February. ABC has yet to announce its January schedule.

"We're still discussing," Bader said.

Sloan said that the beauty of the new "Primetime" format is that it is expandable or contractable based on what the network needs.

" 'Primetime' is emerging as a brand that is very flexible," Sloan said. At one point during the summer, "Primetime" ran four times in one week.

Unlike "Dateline," which saw 16 staff members cut under the NBCU 2.0 program, Sloan said the "Primetime" staff has been able to remain intact because of the full order. Some staff members also are working on "20/20," which remains on Friday nights and will get some two-hour blocks in the near future.

It remains to be seen what will happen with "Primetime," though Sloan hopes that it will be able to keep its 10 p.m. Wednesday slot.

"Primetime" definitely will have a regular time slot in the summer, Bader said.