The Frog has treated Treat Williams to some good news: Everwood has been picked up for a full season.
The WB's new family series, starring Williams as a single dad and doctor relocated to a small town, is the first drama of the 2002-03 season to receive a 22-episode order.
Over at ABC, two half-hour sitcoms have also been extended for the rest of the season: John Ritter's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter and Bonnie Hunt's Life with Bonnie.
Both Tuesday sitcoms launched early to attract viewers to the ratings-desperate Alphabet net, and that plan has worked. Ritter's show has averaged 14.5 million viewers, winning its 8 p.m. slot among adults 18-49 and registering a 62 percent gain in that key demo for ABC over the same time slot last season.
Hunt faced a tougher challenge last week when her show moved into its regular 9 p.m. slot against NBC's Frasier. But it played better there with adults 18-49 than any other ABC program has done for eight months, or any ABC sitcom for 18 months, attracting 11.1 million total viewers, an improvement of 13 percent. So it's a keeper.
Everwood, meanwhile, received favorable reviews when it debuted September 16 in the 9 p.m. Monday slot behind the WB's biggest hit, 7th Heaven. Last week, Everwood retained 81 percent of its Heaven-ly lead-in audience and had an 85 percent hold with teenagers, presumably attracted to young stars Gregory Smith and Vivien Cardone, who play Williams' kids. While averaging 6.4 million viewers, Everwood has also scored in two other key demos, ranking first in its time period with female teens and second with women 12-34.
This success, along with the continued appeal of Charmed, The Gilmore Girls and Smallville, has boosted the WB to its best season opening ever, especially within its favored 12-34 demographic. However, the network's sitcoms are not doing so well. The second season of Reba has helped keep freshman series What I Like About You and Greetings from Tucson afloat on Fridays, but Family Affair and Do Over are playing to crickets on Thursdays against high-powered competition on NBC and CBS.
Odds are that one of the first victims of the new season may be another show struggling on Thursdays--the Ben Affleck-devised mystery Push, Nevada. Last week it only attracted 4.3 million viewers, ranked a woeful fifth in its Thursday 9 p.m. period, only managing to beat the WB's lame sitcom lineup.
Despite a glut of like-minded series, most of the rookie cop and crime shows are doing well. CBS has another hit on its hands with CSI: Miami, and the network's poorly reviewed Hack has pulled in surprisingly strong numbers on Fridays. But the Eyeball's better reviewed Robbery Homicide Division, which follows Hack at 10 p.m., hasn't been able to make much impact against NBC's established Law & Order: SVU, meaning RHD could soon be RIP.
CBS' missing persons investigation drama Without a Trace is doing okay and so is NBC's time-distorting crime series Boomtown, making both contenders for full-season pickups.
NBC also should have faith in its nostalgic American Dreams. On Sunday, the second episode of the '60s era drama retained 85 percent of its debut audience, finishing second at 8 p.m. to Ted Danson's newly positioned Becker on CBS, but winning the 8:30 period against Alfred Molina's new sitcom, Bram and Alice. If Bram doesn't pick up steam quickly, it will undoubtedly get the bye-bye from the Eye.
In the Wednesday night medic wars, the odds are favoring CBS' femme-oriented Presidio Med over ABC's buck-the-system MDs, but unless ratings rise both may eventually succumb to the power of NBC's everlasting crime show Law & Order.
Over at Fox, the main worry is whether the network can keep Josh Whedon's outer-space oater Firefly alight once the baseball season ends. The highly hyped series could be beamed off the schedule if its numbers don't get healthier after the World Series is over.