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Here's How to Take Care of the Backend

In an unprecedented mid-season switch, The WB is taking over Fox's Grounded for Life after the February sweeps, and the deal is all about syndication later on.

The WB will purchase six new episodes of the show and the rights to 50 episodes created in the two years the Carsey-Werner-Mandabach-produced series has been on Fox. The WB is likely to air Grounded for Life
as part of its Friday-night comedy lineup.

Fox, said a source, had been lukewarm about picking up a full 22-episode run of the sitcom, about the travails of a couple who became parents in their teens. But it had decent ratings with male teens and young men and averaged 8.3 million viewers in the two times it aired this season.

After Fox missed a contractual window to renew the show, C-W-M informed Fox that it was going to shop the show around. The WB grabbed it; Fox let them.

In truth, it's a smart move for Fox, which owns 25% of Grounded for Life's backend. That means Fox stands to reap millions should it end up in syndication. If Fox had canceled the show, its syndication hopes would have been over, because it wouldn't have produced enough episodes. But, if Grounded
can make it through this season and the next on The WB, it would build a big enough library to make it an attractive syndicated offering in 2005.

Last week, The WB also was deciding the fate of its Wednesday-night drama, Birds of Prey.
It's still in production, and The WB plans to air it through mid December, using all 13 episodes of the original order.

The WB also has cut back its orders for Thursday-night comedies Do Over
and Family Affair, picking up only two new episodes of each, bringing the total order for each to 15.

Over at Fox, the network still hasn't decided what to do with Friday night's Firefly, created by Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon, but the network has ordered two more episodes, keeping the ratings-challenged show on the schedule for now.

UPN ordered three additional episodes each of Monday-night comedies The Parkers
and Girlfriends
and one extra episode each of One on One
and Half & Half.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.