Mmmmmm…Kelly Ripa!

ABC Struggling to Rebuild Prime-Time Lineup
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A new sitcom for morning TV host Kelly Ripa and a drama based on the Jennifer Lopez/George Clooney film ‘Out of Sight’ are among the pilot series drawing the most buzz as contenders for the fall schedule ABC will unveil next week.
Those two shows and nine other pilots have emerged as the leading candidates for an ABC launch next season as executives at the Walt Disney Co.-owned network toil away on a program lineup that can boost its sagging fortunes.
Meanwhile, ABC executives are said to be uncertain about the future of two existing shows — veteran legal drama ‘The Practice’ and the freshman remake of ‘Dragnet.’
ABC, which has struggled for two seasons in the ratings doldrums, found marginal success this past year with several comedies, like ‘George Lopez’ and ‘Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.’ But the network remains desperate for a breakout hit.
The network’s most pressing challenge is to find solid new dramas for the 10 o’clock hour. A number of dramas launched last fall collapsed from poor ratings, and the highly anticipated ‘Dragnet’ series from producer Dick Wolf has struggled to find an audience since its debut early this year.
The Emmy-winning ‘Practice’ has likewise stumbled in the ratings since it was moved out of its longtime Sunday night berth to make room for ‘Dragnet.’
One major bright spot on ABC’s lineup this season has been the hit reality franchise ‘The Bachelor,’ but network executives have acknowledged pressing their luck with such unscripted duds as ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!’ and ‘Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People.’
ABC is due to announce its programming lineup for the 2003-04 season next Tuesday at its ‘upfront’ sales presentation to advertisers in New York.
In terms of ABC’s scripted development slate, word has it that network executives have narrowed their choices for the upcoming season to nearly a dozen shows, including the Kelly Ripa comedy and a drama inspired by ‘Out of Sight.’
Ripa, the daytime drama veteran who currently shares the stage with Regis Philbin on ‘Live with Regis & Kelly,’ would star in a family sitcom tentatively titled ‘Hope and Faith,’ about a soap opera actress who moves in with her sister’s family. Philbin himself once pulled double duty on his morning talk show and ABC’s prime-time schedule while hosting the onetime game show sensation ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.’
The pilot series adapted from ‘Out of Sight’ would star little-known actress Carla Gugino, movie veteran Robert Forster and former ‘thirtysomething’ star Peter Horton. The series is based on characters created by Elmore Leonard and adapted for the 1998 film that starred Lopez as a federal marshal and George Clooney as a career bank robber.
Another leading contender is a legal drama based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel ‘The Street Lawyer,’ co-starring Mario Van Peebles and Hal Holbrook. Lawyers also figure prominently in two other promising pilot dramas — one set in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and another about a recovering alcoholic who opens a storefront law practice.
Rounding out the short-list of most favored drama pilots is the female cop ‘Partners’ and ‘Threat Matrix,’ about men and women in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A similarly themed pilot drama on NBC’s development slate is also a candidate for the fall schedule. ABC already has ordered 13 episodes of a new ensemble FBI drama for next season.
On the comedy front, ABC is said to be high on four other sitcoms — including one from former ‘Spin City’ star Michael J. Fox, one from producer Chris Henchy tentatively titled ‘I’m with Her’ (inspired by his marriage to actress Brooke Shields) and a ‘Bird Cage’-esque romance about the son of conservative family dating the daughter of a gay couple.