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ABC Seeks Maintained Stability

ABC Entertainment Television Group chairman Lloyd Braun and ABC president Susan Lyne plan to embrace two sides of the scheduling coin, they said Thursday at the Television Critic Association’s winter press tour in Hollywood.

The two hope to maintain the network’s current stability by keeping scripted shows in their time slots, but they also plan to introduce short four-episode runs of new shows, giving them a less expensive way to gauge whether they will succeed or fail.

Lyne, echoing The WB’s Co-CEO Jordan Levin, said she likes HBO’s scheduling model, in which a series runs in originals for 13 straight weeks and then shares the time slot with another original series. "There’s definitely an appeal to a straight run of original episodes," Lyne said. "That’s exactly what we are trying to do here."

Unlike NBC and CBS with Law & Order and CSI, ABC lacks a closed-ended drama that holds up in repeats. And while the network’s comedies all perform solidly, ABC lacks a blockbuster show. "We are going to search for and nurture that megahit, but we are also going to smartly and patiently continue on the path that we’re on," Braun says.

Braun and Lyne were frank in their disappointment that ABC doesn’t seem to be able to launch a new drama, no matter how much ABC believes in it. "We are as bollixed by why we can’t get traction with dramas as anybody else," Lyne said.

Two dramas that both ABC and critics praised-Karen Sisco and Line of Fire-have not been able to garner ratings. Karen Sisco will be back this spring in another time period for one more try, while Line of Fire’s chances of returning look less certain.

ABC is in negotiations with both Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley over whether NYPD Blue and The Practice will return. With The Practice’s renaissance this year, a renewal looks like a good bet, with Blue less certain.

Coming to ABC’s schedule is Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital, starting the last Wednesday of the February sweeps at 10 p.m. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will replace 10-8-which is not canceled, Braun and Lyne said-on Sundays at 8 p.m., hopefully giving a boost to Alias. The D.A. comes to ABC in March, although no premiere date or time is set yet.

On Friday, April 2, ABC will start a four-episode run of The Big House at 8:30 p.m. USA’s Monk returns to ABC’s lineup on Saturdays at 10 p.m., replacing the canceled L.A. Dragnet. ABC also picked up a game show for prime time called Deal or No Deal from producer Endemol.