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''Dancing With the Stars'' returns for spring

At the Television Critics Association tour, ABC announces ”Dancing With the Stars” will return in March but will switch timeslots to avoid competing with ”Idol”; meanwhile, the net decides the fates of its failed freshman series

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Dancing With the Stars, Tom Bergeron
Tom Bergeron: Adam Larkey

Pasadena, Calif. — ABC’s Dancing With the Stars will return March 19, but fans of canceled dramas like Day Break will have to go to ABC.com to see how the freshman show is resolved, ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson told reporters Sunday at the annual Television Critics Association tour. Other freshman dramas like The Nine and Six Degrees — each of which, like Day Break, only shot 13 episodes before receiving pink slips — will return to primetime sometime before May. ”With the kind of commitment that’s needed for these shows, [we] were asking a lot from the audience,” admitted McPherson. As a result, ABC will develop ”more procedurals or close-ended shows for next fall. But we are always going to have a lot of characters. That’s who we are.”

As for other second-stringers that are still on the bench, Notes From the Underbelly, a single-camera comedy about first-time pregnancy, will finally see the light of day by March, while other new dramas like The Traveler (about two young men framed for a terrorist attack) and October Road (a male-driven sudser) still don’t have airdates. While McPherson fell short of saying new shows like The Nine and Day Break were disappointments, he did acknowledge that they had absolutely nothing in common with the season’s breakout hits. ”If you look at the three hits of this year — Ugly Betty, Heroes, and Brothers and Sisters — they all have escapism in their own way. The Nine was a great show, well-cast and well-written, but there was a dour nature to it, a real serious, hard edge. You might see an adjustment toward [developing fewer shows like The Nine].”

Stars will debut with a two-hour show on March 19, followed by a two-hour performance show on March 26. The first results show will air Tuesday, March 27, and beginning April 2, the show will air Mondays from 8-9:30 and Tuesdays from 9-10. ”We didn’t want people to have to choose between American Idol and Dancing With the Stars,” McPherson said about the new Monday airdate. ”Our fans would have been upset if we put them head to head. The networks spend a lot of time beating up on each other. That’s not our intent.”

In other news, McPherson said that Marcia Cross will appear on Desperate Housewives through Feb. 4 before going on pregnancy leave. She is expected to return for the season finale. On Jan. 2, ABC was unexpectedly hit with the news that Cross, who is pregnant with twins, must go on bed rest — forcing the producers to shoot two scenes from Cross’ own bedroom on Jan. 11 and 12 (though, contrary to earlier reports, no special sets were built).

(Read Lynette Rice’s report about ‘Lost’ — including producers’ plans to nail down a date for a series finale.)

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