New summer programming and the future of ''Friends'' and ''Sports Night'' made the news the week of March 3, 2000

By Lynette Rice
Updated March 03, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Summer Stock
Here’s something to look forward to this summer: fewer TV reruns. CBS is gearing up its hidden-camera sagas Big Brother and Survivor; Fox has the reality show tentatively titled American High (cameras follow Illinois teens), the new boarding-school drama The Opposite Sex, and more original episodes of The PJs and Time of Your Life (oh, goody); ABC will unveil the animated Clerks and the brain-busting quiz show Mastermind; The WB has a teen soap, Young Americans; and UPN has — you guessed it — new episodes of Smackdown! ”Summer’s a great time to be daring in the programming you present and in the manner in which you schedule it,” says CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves, who plans to air 100 hours of Big Brother on consecutive nights. Strangely, NBC is playing it cool and sticking with repeats (save a few fresh Datelines). Why? Entertainment prez Garth Ancier disagrees that there’s money to be made with original fare. ”We’re all still paying increasingly high program license fees,” says Ancier of the nets’ September-May lineup. ”To run episodes only once seems plainly naive. You need those summer reruns.” Party pooper.

Outlook: Friendly
It’s season-finale time for TV writers, which means it should also be time for all six Friends (whose $100,000-per-episode deals expire in May) to decide if they’re coming back. But with only five more episodes to shoot before wrapping in mid-April, the sextet has yet to even begin negotiations. Apparently, that’s not such a bad sign: ”There’s not a lot of anger or angst or confrontation,” says a source close to the show who’s cautiously optimistic about its return, even though cast members will likely seek north of $500,000 per episode. On the brighter side: Many key Friends writers are already signed on for two more seasons. As for the finale, the source speculates that the scribes may have to write it without knowing what the future holds. Hey, you can’t go wrong marrying Ross off again.

Sports Competition Since ABC vultures seem to be circling Sports Night, rival nets are ready to pounce. ”Sports Night is a terrific show, and I’m sure other networks, including NBC, would consider [grabbing] it,” says NBC Studios president Ted Harbert. Even HBO was approached, but ”we’re not in any discussions to pick [it] up,” says a spokeswoman. Although no official decision’s been made, Sports Night‘s future on ABC definitely doesn’t look rosy; the net is ending the show’s season on April 4 to prevent it from doing more ratings damage (it averages a paltry 11.6 million viewers) during May sweeps. Still, ABC’s not ready to count Sports Night out just yet. Says one net exec: ”It’s a devilish series. We really, really like it. It’s just a [scheduling] challenge.”



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