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'TGIF'? Well, ABC's Not So Sure Anymore

Television * Family viewing habits have changed, challenging the Disney-owned network's Friday franchise.

April 14, 2000|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Frustrated by that experience, Miller and Boyett--who once provided ABC a half-dozen family sitcoms--essentially retired from television. Warren, meanwhile, suggests the genre needs to be reinvented. "I think you can still do this kind of show, you just have to do it differently," he said. "We had run all the tread off the tires."

As for what lies ahead, ABC is thriving by the grace of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," a program able to succeed across a wide variety of time slots and attract a broad audience. The show affords ABC enormous latitude in setting next season's prime-time lineup.

According to sources, scheduling scenarios include expanding "Millionaire" to a fourth or even fifth night as well as moving "The Wonderful World of Disney" to Fridays--a transfer from Sunday, when TV usage is highest, to the night of lowest viewing. That would at least continue family-oriented fare on Friday to help promote ABC's Saturday morning children's lineup, which, given Disney's emphasis on animation, remains a major priority.

The WB, meanwhile, hopes "Sabrina" will allow the network to strengthen its foothold in teen-oriented comedies and will be happy to garner a portion of the youthful crowd currently watching the show on ABC. "Sabrina" averages 10.5 million viewers, more than three times the audience for "The Steve Harvey Show," the WB's most-watched sitcom.

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