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‘Studio 60' is picked up by NBC for full season

Times Staff Writer

Cutting down continuing speculation about the future of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” NBC announced Thursday that it was picking up the drama from creator Aaron Sorkin for the remainder of the season.

“ ‘Studio 60' is a damn good show that deserves a full season,” said NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly in announcing the 22-episode order.

Reilly said he was fully confident that the show -- a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional late-night sketch show -- would eventually be embraced by viewers beyond its loyal core audience.

The announcement came little more than a week after reports that the network was about to yank “Studio 60" because of disappointing ratings.

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Since its September debut, “Studio 60" has drawn an average of 9.8 million viewers and a 4.0 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic group. But this week’s episode drew only 7.7 million viewers.

“The anticipation and expectations surrounding the show were burning too bright ... ,” Reilly said. “There were stratospheric expectations.”

That sentiment echoed comments last summer from Sorkin, the creator of the Emmy-winning “The West Wing,” who said he felt a backlash against the series months before its debut.

The series, produced by Warner Bros. Television, is an expensive one for NBC, especially given that the network’s parent company, NBC Universal, recently announced layoffs.

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For the first 13 episodes, NBC reportedly paid a licensing fee of $2 million an episode to Warner Bros., and each episode costs more than $3 million to make.

One person close to the production said NBC won concessions on the fee and would now pay less to Warner Bros.

Reilly declined to comment on the financial details or to say whether “Studio 60" would continue in its 10 p.m. Monday slot.

greg.braxton@latimes.com

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