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NBC will join Family Friendly forum

The network announced it is joining The WB, ABC and CBS in the Family Friendly Programming Forum's script-development initiative. NBC will receive funding from 14 major advertisers, including Johnson & Johnson, IBM and Procter & Gamble, for development of scripts aimed at programming for the entire family. The networks are given full control over the process in terms of which scripts are made into pilots and possibly prime time series, the advertisers say.

NBC will participate in the script initiative next season. The WB was the first to join forces with the advertisers two years ago, and Gilmore Girls, which debuted this season, is the first series to emerge from the initiative.

NCAA game boosts ratings for CBS

CBS' coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game between Duke and Arizona gave the network a shot-in-the-arm ratingswise.

The April 2 game showed across-the-board ratings improvement over last year's, including a 9% jump in total viewers, to 23.9 million. The NCAA game was also up 11% in households, with a 14.1 rating/23 share, and 22% in adults 18-49, with 10.0/25, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Bertinelli spreads new Angel wings

Valerie Bertinelli is joining the cast of CBS' Touched by an Angel. Bertinelli, who starred in the former hit CBS sitcom One Day at a Time, will play a new-to-Earth angel on the Sunday-night series. Her first appearance will be April 29.

Midseason dramas get chopped

NBC has yanked its midseason legal drama First Years from the schedule. The series, which aired only three times, averaged a 4.7 rating/7 share in its final Monday-night effort, according to Nielsen Media Research. NBC executives say repeats of Law & Order will fill the 9 p.m. ET/PT Monday void for the time being.

At CBS, The Big Apple, from producer David Milch (NYPD Blue), has been pulled after five episodes. The episodes, which aired in the prime post-Survivor/CSI slot, averaged 9.7 million viewers and a 3.4 rating among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen Media Research. CBS executives have returned newsmagazine 48 Hours to Thursdays at 10 p.m.

Haber to head USA's Trio

Bill Haber has been named president and CEO of Trio, USA Networks' arts-and entertainment-themed digital/satellite channel.

In his new position at Trio, which is under USA's Emerging Networks unit, Haber will continue to serve as adviser to the president and board member of nonprofit organization Save the Children.

Talk or Walk gets a go

Tribune Entertainment has officially declared its daytime strip Talk or Walk a "firm go" for a fall 2002 launch.

The show, in which a studio audience votes on whether feuding guests should talk out or walk away from their differences, has been cleared in 154 markets, including 48 of the top 50, representing 92% of the U.S.