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And, yes, 'The Closer' is returning

Rick Kushman
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

We're starting something new today. Or more accurately, we're starting something organized. If you know me, you know organization is not generally my first response to pretty much anything.

Still, we're doing this: On Wednesdays, I'll be giving updates on the status of shows - if they're coming back, if they've been canceled, if they're on life support, if they're returning in the summer - like, for instance, TNT's "The Closer." Probably June, OK? Can we let that go?

It won't be the status of all shows, because there are, as you know, precisely a bazillion TV channels. It also won't be the status of shows we've reported on over and over because, at some point, you gotta move on.

But I'll try to answer the e-mails and phones calls about the series that pop up, then vanish, then reappear then, poof, they're gone again. Some Wednesdays I'll have a lot of info. Some Wednesdays there won't be much new. Either way, this will be the Bat Time and Bat Place to check.

Let's start with NBC's "Friday Night Lights." Great, great show. It returns with four new episodes on Wednesday nights starting this week (at 8) and ending April 11, then that will be it for the season. Maybe forever. But if I'm betting, I'm betting NBC renews the show. (I should warn you, though, I lose a lot of bets.)

NBC is in a bit of a rough spot. It has a few new, high-quality shows that are getting low-quality ratings. The others include "30 Rock" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

My read - and this is totally just me - is that NBC will keep one of the dramas, and it will probably be "Friday Night Lights." It seems to have more potential for growth, although it's also more of a serial than "Studio 60." Plus, the reviews have been more uniformly good.

"Lights" has some hurdles, however. Viewers need to pay attention to it. And it sounds like a show about football, but it's really a sharply written, strongly acted series about a family and some teens and about life in a small Texas town.

One problem is that people who tune in looking for a football show get disappointed by all the, uh, real content. And lots of viewers who'd like the show have not gotten involved because they think it's about football. (Which is not to say that some of the football scenes haven't been dazzling.)

In any case, we're not likely to learn the fate of "Lights" until NBC announces its fall schedule in May, and a lot will depend on how well NBC does developing dramas for the coming fall.

Which brings up "Studio 60." It's probably a goner. Probably. NBC has invested a lot of money and show biz collateral in this series, and would love to stay in business with creators Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, but the ratings probably won't get it there.

There are a handful of new episodes to come on, probably as soon as NBC finishes burning off "The Black Donnellys," which is getting miserable ratings and is a dead show walking.

And there's "30 Rock." This comedy just gets better and better, and it's had a little, teeny bit of growth. You get the sense that NBC believes it can grow more. I'm betting with NBC on that, but like I said, don't put money on my bets.

___

Another show getting a bunch of questions: ABC's "Men in Trees." That's off for a bit while ABC inflicts "October Road" on Thursday-night viewers for six weeks.

"Trees" should be back with new episodes before the season ends, and it's a tossup for renewal, but ABC execs seem to like the show and they've been patient with it so far.

ABC's other series that suddenly disappeared was the witty "Knights of Prosperity."

The bad news is that ABC swung and missed with all of its new half-hours this season. (There's another coming April 11 called "Notes from the Underbelly," and that's a strikeout-in-the-making if ever I saw one.)

The good news is that ABC missed on all its new half hours. That sort of clears the way for ABC to keep "Knights," partly because it's good, and partly because ABC entertainment president Stephen McPherson is said to be a fan.

___

CBS' so-so comedy, "The Class," has finished its season, but the network has made no decision on it. It might have been a tossup for renewal until "Rules of Engagement" showed up, and "Rules" is both funnier and gets better ratings.

___

A few people have asked, though I don't understand why, but just so you know, Fox's "Standoff" got taken out.

___

The CW has a couple big "maybes" hanging out there. "Gilmore Girls" will come back if stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel renew their contracts, and that seems to be a long shot. "Veronica Mars" probably survives only if "Gilmore Girls" comes back. (Daily Variety reported that producers have pitched a fast-forward for next season, which would move Veronica (Kristen Bell) ahead a couple years and put her in the FBI Academy.)

___

Finally, on the cable front, because people keep asking no matter how many times we say it, FX's "The Shield" returns April 3. HBO's "The Sopranos" starts its last run April 8, the same day "Entourage" kicks off a new season. Comedy Central's "Reno 911!" returns April 1. "Rescue Me," "Nip/Tuck" and - one last time - "The Closer" are coming back, but dates haven't been set.


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