There's no 'Saving Grace'

TNT announced plans Friday for a shortened nine-episode final season of "Saving Grace," the cable network's at-times risque drama starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter.

Those were not the "plans" that TNT had hoped to announce. TNT did not cancel "Saving Grace." That was done by Fox Television Studios, the News Corp. unit that produces the hourlong series.

The last nine episodes of the show will run next summer, TNT said.

"Saving Grace" was a solid if not spectacular performer for TNT. While it did not get the big ratings that "The Closer" pulls in for the network, TNT wanted to keep the show through a third and even a fourth season.

But Fox Television Studios saw more risk than reward in going ahead with more episodes of "Saving Grace," which stars Hunter as a detective whose hard living creates headaches for her and those trying to rein her in.

The worry for Fox Television Studios was that the show would not bring in enough money in reruns or in DVD sales to justify the production costs. The show also did not have huge appeal abroad, which producers count on for additional revenue, and that played a part in the decision.

It is unusual for the producers to pull the plug on a show rather than the network, especially because in this case TNT had a contract for "Saving Grace" that ran a few more years.

However, the two sides opted to negotiate an agreement to end the series early rather than get into a battle.

A challenging environment may make such events more common. The rerun market for television shows in the United States is not as strong as it once was. Although cable networks such as TNT, USA, FX and AMC are becoming homes for the types of big-budget serial dramas that broadcast networks for the most part are cutting back on, a steady long-term revenue stream on these shows is not guaranteed.

Although reruns of HBO's "The Sopranos" can pull in big bucks from A&E;, that is still the exception, not the rule. In the case of "The Closer," TNT bought the reruns from Warner Bros. But the idea of TNT buying repeats of "Saving Grace" in order to ensure the producers a revenue stream did not come up in talks with Fox Television Studios, people familiar with the situation said.


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