By Bridget Byrne
Fox is yukking it up with Cedric the Entertainer Presents, cruising in the Fastlane and extending the life of John Doe, but network suits are still uncertain if Firefly has enough glow.
The network, which pulled the plug on the high-profile David E. Kelley's legal-eaglettes drama girls club after just two airings, decided this week to stick with two other hour dramas, the undercover cops actioner Fastlane and mystery-thriller John Doe, as well as Cedric the Entertainer Presents, the half-hour variety show headlined by the Original King of Comedy. All three have received full-season orders.
Still no word yet on the fate of the space Western Firefly, created by another high profile writer-producer Joss Whedon of Buffy fame.
None of Fox's pick-ups has earned exactly sterling ratings, but in an era of little long-term planning, there's only so many reality shows, blooper specials and pets-behaving-badly footage the network has stockpiled.
Fastlane, in which Tiffani Thiessen, Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy play a slacker era version of mod squaders, has been averaging 7.9 million viewers. Considering its tough Wednesday night time slot, against ABC's The Bachelor and NBC's The West Wing, that's considered pretty good business. John Doe, starring Dominic Purcell as a genius amnesiac crime solver, gets the nod because it's been scoring first in the male demographic on Friday nights, despite being opposite CBS's cabbie crime drama Hack.
As for Cedric the Entertainer Presents, the 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night show has, per Nielsen Media Research, become the number one series in African-American homes, holding on to 100 percent of those viewers who also love The Bernie Mac Show, which fills the previous half hour. Overall, 8.3 million are tuning in for Cedric's skits.
"Cedric has a unique voice, which is perfectly suited for Fox," Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman said. "The series is unlike any other, and this pickup is an acknowledgement of the belief we have in both the show and Cedric as a television star."
Another skit artist, Wayne Brady, also learned this week that his talk-variety show will stay on the air. ABC-owned stations have agreed to renew the The Wayne Brady Show, produced in-house by Buena Vista Television, for nationwide airing next fall. The Whose Line Is It Anyway? star's freshman daytime series has been airing in about 54 percent of the country, but with the push now on to broaden its market next year, that means there will be a less than rosy future for the Warner Bros.-distributed The Caroline Rhea Show, which has been airing on ABC affiliates.
Meantime, over at UPN, its midseason series Abby has been awarded a time slot. The sitcom about ex-lovers still sharing digs, starring Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Sidney's daughter) and Kadeem Hardison, will premiere January 6 at 9.30 p.m. following Girlfriends. Eventually, Abby will settle into the 9 p.m. Tuesday slot vacated by the recently canceled clairvoyant private eyes series Haunted. The second half of the hour will be filled with comedy reruns.
By this time of the season, most of the networks' lineups are pretty well set. There are some key decisions yet to be made: Aside from the Firefly crew, CBS, for example, still hasn't pronounced on the fate of the crime series Robbery Homicide Division from yet another high-profile creator, Michael Mann.