'Dancing' machine returns to ABC


ABC is bringing back "Dancing With the Stars" in March in a time slot yet to be determined, while CBS is demonstrating its faith in the new Monday comedy "The Class" by ordering additional episodes. Those were two news tidbits revealed Wednesday at a panel here organized by the International Radio & Television Society Foundation.

The IRTS Newsmaker Breakfast, titled "The Schedulers," also spent time discussing Fox's controversial two-part interview with O.J. Simpson, set to air Nov. 27 and 29 to end this month's sweep.

Mitch Metcalf, executive vp program planning and scheduling at NBC Entertainment, received questions about his network's recent focus on reality programming at 8 p.m. He emphasized that this is "not a hard rule. We believe you have to have a balance between reality and scripted shows."

ABC Entertainment executive vp Jeff Bader offered that "we all have thoughts like that, but we don't say it out loud." But he added that comedy, which has had a tough primetime run in recent years, still can work in the 8 p.m. slot.

He said his network is looking to bring back "Dancing" in March with the time period still being worked out as ABC is trying to figure out whether to run it opposite the "tsunami" that is Fox's "American Idol."

Metcalf said the network's rookie drama "Friday Night Lights" has a strong fan base within NBC and has brought in young demos. "In January, we have a chance to give it a time period with hopefully more protection," he said without providing more details. "We'll take care of it."

He said NBC also is looking at other time slots for "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and will increase the show's focus on characters and their relationships as it is "not retaining the size of audience we want" right now. But he suggested a change of time slot may well disrupt viewers more than boost the audience.

Preston Beckman, executive vp strategic program planning and research at Fox Broadcasting Co., said Fox will "probably" pick up more episodes of "Standoff," but might move it, while leaving "Bones" where it is as it should benefit from the "American Idol" lead-in starting next year.

Asked about cooled-off "The O.C.," Beckman said Fox will leave it opposite "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursdays in hopes that it will draw interest in December, when other networks will offer many reruns.

Bader said the competition with repeats also could help the new Taye Diggs drama "Day Break" find an audience, even though he emphasized: "We are not expecting 'Lost' numbers."

Kelly Kahl, senior executive vp programming operations at CBS, said his network will pick up more episodes of "Class," though CBS reps later said the deal was still being hammered out and it is still unclear how many additional episodes will be ordered.

Beckman said he initiated talks about the Simpson special only about two weeks ago by calling Fox's alternative programming expert, Mike Darnell. He argued it "conveniently" turned out that the special was ready for the sweep, while others on the panel suggested Fox will have a hard time selling ads around the program.

"It will be very difficult to fill it with any kind of spots," Metcalf said.

Kahl earned laughs when he threw in: "I don't think we should get any more grief about Victoria's Secret," a reference to the network's annual special featuring scantily clad models.

All panelists Wednesday agreed that one core theme this broadcast season is increased patience with new shows.

"We all need more patience" and to let shows find their audience, Bader said.