The new ABC drama "Grey's Anatomy," which has proved a strong Sunday night partner for "Desperate Housewives," is cutting the season short for "Boston Legal."
"Grey's Anatomy," about first-year surgical interns at a Seattle hospital, debuted March 27 and improved on the ratings in the 10 p.m. EDT Sunday time slot that had belonged to "Boston Legal."
Maximizing that period is key for ABC since the show preceding it at 9 p.m. EDT is "Desperate Housewives," the big freshman hit, and the network wants to keep as many of its viewers as possible on board.
"Desperate Housewives" and another newcomer, "Lost," have helped pull the network out of a ratings slump.
Both "Grey's Anatomy" and "Boston Legal," a reworking of the long-running ABC series "The Practice," were winning the time slot among total viewers and with advertiser-favored adults 18-to-49.
But "Grey's Anatomy" has averaged 17 million viewers compared to 12.5 million for the legal drama from veteran producer David E. Kelley ("Ally McBeal," "Boston Public").
Kelley had no comment Friday on ABC's plans, a spokeswoman said.
The blow for "Boston Legal" has been softened by the fact it will get an interrupted run of 27 episodes next season, which includes the five that were to air this year. ABC had already renewed the series.
The network was in the "enviable position" of having two strong shows for the time period, Stephen McPherson, ABC Entertainment president, said in a statement Friday.
"However, with this embarrassment of riches comes a tough decision," he said. "Ultimately we decided that, without having adequate lead time or marketing dollars to devote to moving either show so late in the season, we'd continue to let 'Grey's' build on its tremendous momentum through May."
"Grey's Anatomy" features Ellen Pompeo as intern Meredith Grey, along with Sandra Oh ("Sideways").
Emmy-winners James Spader and William Shatner star as eccentric attorneys in "Boston Legal."
For creative reasons, the last of the 22 episodes that were to be produced this year will now be added to next year's production schedule, according to Kelley's spokeswoman.