The WB had "heavenly" news for a half dozen of its family friendly fare.
One, the long-running 7th Heaven, has earned a two-season renewal, while Charmed, Gilmore Girls, Reba, Smallville and Everwood have all been picked up for the 2003-04 season.
Getting an early jump on establishing the foundation of its fall prime-time lineup, the Frog announced its commitment to the five dramas and one sitcom at a presentation to advertisers in New York today.
"Scripted programming represents the best measure for long-term success," WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin told Daily Variety.
Three of the shows--the mother-daughter dramedy Gilmore Girls, the adolescent Superman fantasy Smallville and the network's newest hit, the single doc/dad drama Everwood, starring Treat Williams--are produced in-house by Warner Bros. TV. The sitcom Reba is a 20th Century Fox TV production. Both 7th Heaven, which will now take the extensive Camden family into at least a ninth season of trials and tribulations, and Charmed, which will continue the adventures of the witchy Halliwell sisters for a sixth season, are produced by Aaron Spelling's television company, a division of Paramount/Viacom.
Levin credited 7th Heaven creator Brenda Hampton for establishing the type of series that have attracted continued solid ratings for the WB.
"She reinvented a franchise, the family drama, that was dead in the water," Levin said of Hampton, who, unlike many show creators, has not left for other pastures. It was a sentiment echoed by show star Stephen Collins, who plays the head of the Camden household.
"I'm tickled that I'll get to keep playing around with the character of Eric Camden," Collins said in a statement. "And I'm thrilled that Brenda Hampton, who created 7th Heaven, is staying. Over the past seven seasons, Brenda has handed me the richest, most challenging, fun material I've ever had as an actor."
The series, about a minister, his wife and their expansive brood, is the network's most watched show. So far this season, Heaven has been averaging 7 million viewers and is the top-rated drama with female teens.
The other Spelling hour series, Charmed, has improved 92 percent among adults 18-34 (one of advertisers' prefered demos) since moving to 8 p.m. Sundays and is now averaging 4.7 million viewers.
Everwood, which follows 7th Heaven on Monday nights, is averaging 5.2 million viewers. On Tuesdays, the current season of Gilmore Girls (which has its first-year episodes also airing Sundays as the lead-in to Charmed) attracts 5.3 million, and Smallville, which follows, has been averaging 7.1 million. Reba, starring country singer Reba McEntire, has gained 20 percent with adults 18-34 this season to become the network's top-rated sitcom, averaging 4.7 million viewers amid the Friday lineup of half hours.
In trumpeting the six pick-ups, the WB emphasized the names of the masterminds behind the shows: E. Vincent Duke, coexecutive producer of Charmed and 7th Heaven; Greg Berlanti, previously a staff writer for the network's onetime big hit Dawson's Creek (which ends its six-season run in May) and now creator and coexecutive producer of Everwood; and Amy Sherman-Palladino, honored with a Peabody for her work on Roseanne, now creator and coexecutive producer of Gilmore Girls.
Although the network says it's backing the shows because it believes in the long-term viability of scripted shows, Frog execs are hedging their bets. The net has already green-lighted second seasons of the reality series The Surreal Life and High School Reunion.