'Hope' Runs High At CBS

By Jenny Hontz

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - With creator David E. Kelley promising to write this season's finale and next season's premiere, CBS is now planning to renew ``Chicago Hope'' for another year, although several cast members, including Christine Lahti, will be leaving.

The medical drama's fate has been up in the air for months because of big ratings declines this season. But Kelley is promising to get involved again next year, despite his duties with ``Ally McBeal,'' ``The Practice'' and his new ABC show, ''Snoops.'' He will return to ``Hope'' as an executive producer, and will supervise the writing of all episodes next season.

Lahti, who is expected to announce her next project shortly, may return for a few episodes next season. Other actors leaving the show include Vondie Curtis Hall, Jayne Brook, Stacy Edwards and Eric Stoltz. Peter Berg was previously scheduled to leave at the end of the season.

Returning will be Mark Harmon, Hector Elizondo, Adam Arkin and Rocky Carroll. Several new cast members will be added, but there's no word yet on how Kelley plans to write out the cast members who are leaving or introduce those who are joining. The final episode of the season will set up the changes, though, and insiders are likening next season's revamped premiere to a whole new ``Hope'' pilot.

Separately, Fox Tuesday renewed the midseason animated comedy ``Family Guy,'' and at least 22 episodes of the show are being planned for 1990-2000.