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`Knights' gets pushed back possibly many, many nights

ABC's new caper comedy, which was supposed to debut this month, may premiere in January.

October 04, 2006|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

Viewers awaiting ABC's comedy "The Knights of Prosperity" -- at one time widely known as "Let's Rob Mick Jagger" -- will have to extend their patience. The network is pushing back the Oct. 17 premiere by a number of weeks, possibly until January.

But unlike many series facing such delays, "Knights" isn't mired in creative or financial trouble, producers and network officials say. ABC has spent so much time promoting fall dramas such as "Ugly Betty" and "Six Degrees" that "Knights" -- starring Donal Logue as the leader of a band of would-be celebrity heist thieves -- was getting "a little bit lost in the shuffle," said executive producer Rob Burnett.

ABC hopes to give the show a much bigger promotional push in midseason. As a sign of confidence in Burnett and fellow writer-producer Jon Beckerman, the network already has ordered scripts for nine more episodes, in addition to the original 13 episodes requisitioned in May (episodes 10 and 11 are now shooting).

Jagger, who filmed several scenes for the pilot, hasn't returned for additional work but numerous other celebrities will crop up in guest roles for subsequent episodes, with Ray Romano, Kelly Ripa, Sting, Regis Philbin and even Sally Jessy Raphael either signed or in negotiations.

"We feel it's so good, it deserves to have a strong launch," ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson said of "Knights."

"The TV lineup now is incredibly crowded," he added. "You really need to focus, you need to spend money and you need to surround the audience with these openings."

As a result of the switch, "Knights" will lose the popular contest "Dancing With the Stars" as its lead-in, because "Dancing" will end its season next month. But McPherson said it was possible "Knights" would remain in its original 9 p.m. Tuesdays slot. He's looking at other days and times as well.

The producers say they don't mind the delay, as long as it eventually means a bigger spotlight for their show.

"ABC had other priorities going into the fall," Burnett said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We could not be happier about this decision."

Of course, none of this guarantees that "Knights" will prove a success. The environment for any type of network comedy, let alone one with an atypical premise about a motley band of robbers, has proven especially challenging in recent years.

"It's hard to launch any kind of show, and it seems that there are fewer comedies on the air than ever," Beckerman noted. "But we tried to come up with a show that has a little different concept." Burnett cited the hit movie "Old School" as an example of the kind of comedic tone they hoped to establish.

McPherson, who took over ABC after the network spent years in the ratings cellar, said that spirit was what originally attracted him to "Knights."

"We as a network made our way back by taking chances on things," he said.

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