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NBC Bumps Love Bites to Mid-Season

Does true love wait? We'll see: NBC has just decided to pull buzzworthy fall dramedy anthology series Love Bites from its fall schedule and instead hold the show for mid-season. Bites, a sort of Love American Style for Our Time, had been set to occupy the very important 10 p.m. Thursday time slot starting in September. Now NBC will air the return of the regular-people edition of The Apprentice in the hour. So why the delay? Well, for one thing, it turns out Ugly Betty alum Becki Newton — who recurs weekly in the show's vignettes as a virginal twentysomething woman — is pregnant. As a result, "We're having to make adjustments," NBC development exec Vernon Sanders deadpanned, adding that it's not yet clear if Newton's real-life situation will be incorporated in the show. But Newton's pending bundle of joy isn't the only issue facing Love Bites: Creator Cindy Chupack, a former exec producer of Sex and the City, has decided to step back as show-runner for "personal reasons."

Other writers will fill the gap, but Chupack's role change and Newton's pregnancy prompted NBC to delay the start of production on the series, thus making a September debut impossible. Despite the last-minute drama, there may be a silver lining to pushing Love: NBC insiders have been concerned about having too many new shows to launch this fall, between the 24-like The Event, J.J. Abrams's Undercovers, and new Thursday comedy Outsourced, all of which are understood to be the networks' main promotional priorities. Given the difficulty of selling viewers the concept of an anthology — and the fact that Donald Trump and The Apprentice pretty much promote themselves — taking some extra time before unveiling Love is probably a smart idea. And past last-second delays have paid off for networks before: Grey's Anatomy was originally a fall contender before it was pushed to March 2005, while last year, when NBC had to push Parenthood back after Maura Tierney dropped out because of breast cancer, the extra time allowed the network to successfully debut the series in the spring.

Photo: NBC