Chuck Saves a Buck—ABC has agreed to bring the spy-fi series “Chuck” back next season with one caveat: The budget needs to be slashed. The network will only be producing 13 episodes next season, and the show will have two fewer writers and at least one less cast member to work with. (No word yet on who gets the ax.) Apparently, the penny-pinching is not an unusual request these days. At the same time, ABC opted not to renew the Christina Applegate sitcom “Samantha Who?” for a third season after producers failed to trim around $500,000 (ouch!) from each episode’s budget.
Dollhouse Downsized—Speaking of reduced funds, FOX has (shockingly) agreed to bring Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series “Dollhouse” back for a second season. Fans probably shouldn’t get all that excited, though. The show is returning with a severely truncated budget, what looks like a completely retooled premise (which is apparently laid out in the show’s as-yet-unaired season finale) and a brand-new lead-in. Yup, FOX is keeping the ratings-deprived show (it closed out its truncated season with a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49) in the Friday night death slot. But since a heavily hyped sci-fi lead-in (“The Sarah Connor Chronicles”—now canceled) failed to build ratings, FOX is saddling the lineup with a couple lame sitcoms (“Brothers” and “’Til Death”). It’s like FOX just hates Joss Whedon and wants to torture him for as long as possible.
Reaper’s a Keeper—The CW’s supernatural comedy series “Reaper” looked like it was headed to cancellation in its third season, but the network’s recent decision to give up on Sunday nights might have provided the show another shot at life. The show’s producer, ABC Studios (yes, it’s produced by a rival network), is thinking about creating a third season just for syndication. Come fall, the struggling CW network will stop providing Sunday night prime-time programming, leaving affiliates (like Albuquerque’s KWBQ-19) with blank schedules to start off each week. The idea is that current CW affiliates will just start airing “Reaper” on Sunday nights, effectively moving it from its regular Tuesday night slot. Allegedly, ABC has pitched the idea to stations, who say they’re interested as long as the terms are right (read: cheap).
To “Bee” or not to Be—Proving that you can’t kill a bad idea, NBC’s karaoke-style reality show competition “The Singing Bee” is returning for a new season. Only now, the show has migrated to Country Music Television, ensuring at least 10 weeks’ worth of bad singers mangling the words to “Redneck Woman.”
Frosty with a FOX Attitude—Fox Broadcasting Company and 20th Century Fox Television have partnered with Aniboom, the world’s first “virtual animation studio,” to launch the FOX-Aniboom Holiday Animation Challenge, an animation contest to find the next great FOX holiday TV special. The contest, which kicks off on Wednesday, May 27, invites up-and-coming animators to enter their original, holiday-inspired animated shorts for the opportunity to win cash prizes and a FOX development deal. Submissions should present an original idea for a holiday special and feature “the irreverent, edgy and uniquely FOX animation spirit that has made such shows as ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ hits for the network.” Log on to aniboom.com/fox for details.