ABC and NBC have given small votes of confidence to some new series, asking for extra scripts on four different shows.
NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" received an order for three more scripts, while ABC has requested four stories from the writers of "The Nine," "Help Me Help You" and "Men in Trees," the showbiz trade papers say. They join a host of other series on the big four networks that have earned script orders but not full-season pickups.
The cautious strategy by the networks illustrates the relative dearth of high-performing new shows this season. Only six freshman series -- ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" and "Ugly Betty," NBC's "Heroes," CBS' "Shark" and "Jericho" and The CW comedy "The Game" -- have earned pickups so far.
The first four are the most-watched new shows of the season. "Jericho" has been a solid self-starter for CBS on Wednesdays, and "The Game" has done a decent job holding the audience from its lead-in, "Girlfriends" (it's also one of only two new shows on The CW schedule, and the new network has already canned the other, "Runaway").
All four of the latest extra-script club members have earned generally favorable reviews but have not set the ratings aflame. The heavily hyped "Studio 60" has settled in at around 8 million viewers in the past few weeks, well below that of its lead-in, "Heroes" (13 million-plus). The Aaron Sorkin-created series is, however, among the top shows on TV among "upscale" viewers -- those with incomes above $75,000.
"Help Me Help You" and "The Nine" are also bleeding lead-in viewers. Each is retaining only a little more than half the audience from, respectively, "Dancing with the Stars" and "Lost."
"Men in Trees," meanwhile, has drawn an average of 7.5 million viewers per week, a decent number for ABC on Friday nights.