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May 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Fox adds two dramas, three sitcoms

Reflecting the renewed strength of its younger-skewing schedule, Fox is expected to add only two new dramas and three sitcoms to its fall 2001 schedule, according to Fox insiders and Hollywood talent agency sources.

“Temptation Island II” is said to be leading the list of returning alternative series, while it is not immediately known if the new “Love Cruise” will set sail this summer or in November.

Fox, which makes its 2001-02 season schedule announcement on Thursday, appears intent on doing more dramatic reworkings of its troubled Thursday and Friday evening schedules than previously anticipated.

On Thursday night, the network is going to bring back 22 fresh animated episodes of “The Family Guy” to kick off the evening, followed by previously anticipated sitcom entry “The Tick” (starring “Seinfeld’s” Patrick Warburton) and a to-be-announced reality series in the closing hour. According to Fox insiders, the 10 p.m. (ET) Thursday hour is currently marked “Darnell” (a reference to Mike Darnell, Fox’s vice president of alternative programming), which may turn out to be a code word for the return of “Temptation Island II” for at least a 10-episode run.

Meanwhile, “Dark Angel” will be moving from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 8 p.m. Friday, as previously reported on EMOnline.com (May 15), to serve as a lead-in springboard for the new prime time soap “Pasadena.” Starring Dana Delaney and executive-produced by Diane Keaton and Brad Grey, “Pasadena” had been previously speculated for midseason. But Fox executives see it as good female-skewing counterprogramming to male-oriented shows like “Thieves” on ABC and “Dateline” on NBC.

On Tuesdays, current hit “That ’70s Show” will continue to lead off the night, with the Judd Apatow-created college comedy “Undeclared” getting the coveted 8:30 p.m. lead-out time slot. At 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Kiefer Sutherland-led drama “Twenty Four,” which unravels an assassination plot to kill the president of the United States over the 24 episodes of an entire season, fills in the slot to be vacated by “Dark Angel.”

On Wednesdays, “That ’70s Show” reruns at 8 p.m. will lead into midseason hit “Grounded for Life” at 8:30 p.m. Meanwhile, highly rated “Titus” moves from Tuesdays to 9 p.m. Wednesday to provide a springboard for the new comedy “The Bernie Mac Show” set to air at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The rest of Fox’s Saturday through Monday rotations will remain intact.

Midseason pickups include the drama “Emma Brody” (20th Century Fox) and the comedy “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” (20th Century Fox). Although it has a 13-episode commitment from Fox, the unorthodox sock puppet comedy “Greg the Bunny” (20th Century Fox) is said to be going back for reworking and is up in the air in terms of getting a midseason pickup.

The expected fall 2001 Fox schedule follows:


7 p.m. “Futurama” (20th Century Fox)

7:30 p.m. “King of the Hill” (20th Century Fox/Original Films)

8 p.m. “The Simpsons” (20th Century Fox/Gracie Films)

8:30 p.m. “Malcolm in the Middle” (20th Century Fox/Regency)

9 p.m. “The X-Files” (20th Century Fox/Ten Thirteen Productions)


8 p.m. “Boston Public” (20th Century Fox/David E. Kelley Productions)

9 p.m. “Ally McBeal” (20th Century Fox/David E. Kelley Productions)


8 p.m. “That ’70s Show” (Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co.)

8:30 p.m. “Undeclared” (DreamWorks)

9 p.m. “Twenty Four” (20th Century Fox/Imagine)


8 p.m. “That ’70s Show” reruns (Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co.)

8:30 p.m. “Grounded for Life” (Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co.)

9 p.m. “Titus” (20th Century Fox)

9:30 p.m. “The Bernie Mac Show” (20th Century Fox/Regency)


8 p.m. “The Family Guy” (20th Century Fox)

8:30 p.m. “The Tick” (Columbia TriStar)

9 p.m. TBA reality series (rumored to be “Temptation Island II”)


8 p.m. “Dark Angel” (20th Century Fox and Cameron/Eglee Productions.)

9 p.m. “Pasadena” (Columbia TriStar/Brad Grey Television)


8 p.m. “Cops I” (Fox TV Stations Productions/Langley Productions)

8:30 p.m. “Cops II” (Fox TV Stations Productions/Langley Productions)

9 p.m. “America’s Most Wanted” (STF Productions)

CBS moves ‘Angel,’ firms up Thursdays: CBS will move “Touched by an Angel” to Saturday nights at 8 p.m., most likely giving its old Sunday 8 p.m. time slot to new drama “The Education of Max Bickford,” sources say. The network, which announces its 2001-02 schedule tomorrow in New York, has also scheduled new drama “The Agency” at 10 p.m. on Thursday, leading out of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” sources say. Thursday nights will most likely kick off at 8 p.m. with the third edition of “Survivor.”

CBS is expected to pick up at least five new dramas and two new sitcoms for its fall 2001 schedule, talent agency sources say. The network has confirmed series orders for dramas “The Guardian,” “Wolf Lake,” “Citizen Baines,” “The Agency” and “The Education of Max Bickford.” On the comedy side, CBS has placed fall orders for “Community Center” and “Ellen, Again.”

The biggest surprise among the pickups is “The Guardian” (Columbia TriStar, CBS Productions), a drama about a high-priced attorney who decides to do community service as a child-advocacy-rights lawyer after a being convicted on a drug charge. The drama, starring relative newcomer Simon Baker and veteran actor Dabney Coleman, had flown under the radar of some talent agency sources during the pilot-screening process.

The other dramas, such as the Richard Dreyfuss starrer “Education of Max Bickford” (20th Century Fox/CBS Productions), the Pacific Northwest action thriller “Wolf Lake” (CBS Productions/Big Ticket Television) and the James Crowell-led “Citizen Baines” (Warner Bros.,/John Wells Productions), had all tested well in pilot screenings. “The Agency” (CBS Productions/Studios USA), a behind-the-walls of the CIA drama from noted film director Wolfgang Petersen and former singer and “American Gothic” producer Shaun Cassidy, is said by sources to have also tested well and is a possible midseason order.

“Community Center” (20th Century Fox/Acme Productions), starring Daniel Stern, is said to be a personal favorite of CBS Television Network President Leslie Moonves. “Community Center” will most likely air between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. (ET) Wednesdays, possibly paired with Ellen DeGeneres’ new sitcom, “Ellen, Again” (Artists Television Group). It is fairly likely that reality show “The Amazing Race” (Touchstone Television/CBS Productions/Bruckheimer Films) will lead off at 8 p.m. Wednesdays for at least the early part of the fall schedule.

Olbermann leaves Fox Sports Nets “by mutual agreement”: Departing from his third network in five years, Fox Sports Networks announced it has reached a “mutual agreement” to part ways — effective immediately — with weekend sports anchor Keith Olbermann after a 21/2-year stint at the basic cable network. The host of Fox Sports Net’s “Keith Olbermann Evening News,” at 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET) Sunday, Mr. Olbermann had scaled back his role in the show from five days a week to the single day in August 2000 to lighten his work load.

Mr. Olbermann was also slated to return as Fox Sports Net’s host of the Saturday pre-game for its national Major League Baseball telecasts starting in June. A Fox Sports Network official, who emphasized Mr. Olbermann’s departure was met through an “amicable agreement,” added that the network is expected to name a new baseball pre-game host shortly.

Mr. Olbermann, who is reportedly being paid $900,000 to $1 million annually by Fox Sports Net, is being released with more than six months left on his contract, which expires January 2002.

Mr. Olbermann’s Sunday news analysis and commentary show had been on hiatus for the last two weeks, then returned last Sunday for what turned out to be its last telecast. For the time being, Fox Sports Net plans on telecasting “The National Sports Report” newscast from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, adding a seventh day to its current Monday-Saturday 10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. rotation.

A Fox Sports Net official said the network is planning on even
tually allowing for Fox Sports Nets’ “Regional Sports Report” highlight shows to air at 10 p.m. Sunday, scaling back “The National Sports Report” to the bottom half-hour.

There was no word from Mr. Olbermann, nor his representatives, on whether he had secured any new on-air role at another sports or general entertainment network.

Previously, Mr. Olbermann had set the mold as an acerbic, quick-witted sports anchor at ESPN, but left that network under acrimonious terms to relocate to New York and take a job at MSNBC. While at MSNBC, he hosted the critically acclaimed but little seen societal sketch series “The Big Show.” Mr. Olbermann joined Fox Sports Net in January 1999.

Before moving to cable, worked as a sportscaster in local TV at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, among other major-market outlets.

’20/20′ move doesn’t represent a ‘diminution’ of ABC News: ABC will bounce “20/20” from its longtime 10 p.m. (ET) Friday time slot to give romantic drama “Once and Again” another chance, but ABC Television Network President Alex Wallau insisted Tuesday, “This represents no signal, this represents no diminution” of ABC News in the network’s eyes.

“20/20” is scheduled to start the fall TV season at 10 p.m. Wednesdays and then leave the lineup altogether from November through the end of “Monday Night Football” in December.

ABC also announced Tuesday that it will fill its Monday lineup after “Monday Night Football” ends in January with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” at 8 p.m., reality show “The Runner” at 9 p.m. and drama “The Court,” starring Sally Field, at 10 p.m.

Mr. Wallau said, “I’m not trying to say there is zero impact on ’20/20,'” by moving the show. However, he said the network thinks the damage will be minimal. He conceded that Barbara Walters “would have liked to stay in the time slot” and said that although the ABC newswoman “has earned a right to be negative,” instead “she has been the ultimate class person.”

At a Monday morning meeting with the staff of “20/20,” Ms. Walters reportedly took a stance of being disappointed but not worried about the shuffling of the show with which she has been identified for more than two decades.

While the network is going to portray the “20/20” move as a testament to the show’s strength and Ms. Walters’ status, the reaction elsewhere was that the plan shows a “demoralizing” disdain by ABC Entertainment for ABC News, whose president, David Westin, is said to have lobbied against treating the 23-year-old newsmagazine like a ping-pong ball.

ABC Entertainment Television Group Co-Chairmen Stu Bloomberg and Lloyd Braun said the network has picked up two new comedies and three dramas for its fall schedule. New comedies are “Bob Patterson” and “The Dad”; new dramas are “Philly,” “Thieves” and “Alias.” “Norm,” “Two Guys and a Girl” and “Gideon’s Crossing” will not return in the fall.

This summer, new programming on ABC will include a variety show starring Wayne Brady and a series of undersea specials called “Ocean Challenge” from James Cameron and Jean-Michel Cousteau.

ABC’s announced schedule follows:


7 p.m. “Wonderful World of Disney”

9 p.m. “Alias” (Touchstone)

10 p.m. “The Practice” (20th Century Fox)


8 p.m. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (Buena Vista)

9 p.m. “Monday Night Football” (ABC Sports)

In January, when “Monday Night Football” ends, ABC will air “The Runner” (Touchstone/Live Planet Productions/Pearl Street Productions) at 9 p.m. and “The Court” (Touchstone) at 10 p.m.


8 p.m. “Dharma & Greg” (20th Century Fox)

8:30 p.m. “What About Joan” (Columbia TriStar/Gracie Films)

9 p.m. “Bob Patterson” (20th Century Fox/Touchstone/Angel Ark Productions)

9:30 p.m. “Spin City” (DreamWorks)

10 p.m. “Philly” (Bochco Productions/Paramount)


8 p.m. “My Wife and Kids” (Touchstone)

8:30 p.m. “The Dad” (Touchstone/Brad Grey TV)

9 p.m. “The Drew Carey Show” (Warner Bros.)

9:30 p.m. “The Job” (Touchstone/DreamWorks)

10 p.m. “20/20” (ABC News) from September to November (“NYPD Blue” [20th Century Fox/Bochco Productions] will take over the time slot starting in November)


8 p.m. “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (Warner Bros.)

8:30 p.m. “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (Warner Bros.)

9 p.m. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Special Edition” (Buena Vista)

10 p.m. “PrimeTime Thursday (ABC News)


8 p.m. “The Mole II” (Stone Stanley)

9 p.m. “Thieves” (Warner Bros.)

10 p.m. “Once and Again” (Touchstone) (“20/20” will take over the time slot in December)


8 p.m. “The ABC Big Picture Show”

WB announces fall schedule: There were few surprises at The WB’s two hour and 20 minute fall-schedule presentation to the advertisers in New York this morning. Of course, the network’s senior vice president for sales, Bill Morningstar, focused firmly on the network’s adults 18 to 34 demo target and why advertisers should aim products ranging from sneakers and soft drinks to life insurance at it.

As expected, the network also used the opportunity to obliquely reassure advertisers that there would be no repeat of the “Buffy” renewal imbroglio by announcing that returning lynchpin shows “Charmed,” “Sabrina,” “7th Heaven” and “Dawson’s Creek” all have been given multiple-season orders, thereby locking them in for the Frog Network.

“‘Buffy will always be a show close to our hearts,” said WB Entertainment Co-President Susanne Daniels about the show that will move to UPN, “but when networks get sixth- or seventh-year renewals of series, it often dramatically depletes their resources. Then why do it?

“You do it out of the theory that you can’t replace the show, and [because of] the effect it has on the network. But we saw the teen audience begin to erode on ‘Buffy.’ And to a degree, the longer you leave a show on the air, the older its audience gets.”

The bottom line about “Buffy”: “It’s up to us to embrace change,” Ms. Daniels said.

The only other reference to “Buffy” came late in The WB’s presentation when David Boreanaz, the star of “Angel,” the “Buffy” spinoff that remains on The WB’s fall schedule, took the stage:

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “This is not the UPN.”

“We did not write that,” Co-Entertainment President Jordan Levin interjected crisply.

“Where’s ‘Buffy’?” the actor continued, noting that crossover opportunities for his character would be “slim” in the new season. “Maybe I’ll go over to ‘Felicity,'” he added drolly.

“Empowerment and wish fulfillment” are two themes of the network’s programming, Ms. Daniels said. And WB Chairman Jamie Kellner made the task ahead for the programming duo explicit when he declared that this would be the year that The WB, noted for its dramas, “will break through” with comedy.

Conspicuous by its absence at the presentation was any mention at all of “Roswell,” which did not make the fall schedule.

The announced lineup follows:


7 p.m. “Lost in the USA” (Bunim Murray Productions/ATG) –“No Boundaries” (Lions Gate Television, ConnQuest Productions and Ford Motor Co.), an alternative reality show, will air in this time slot in midseason.

8 p.m. “The Steve Harvey Show” (Universal)

8:30 p.m. “Men, Women & Dogs” (Paramount)

9 p.m. “Nikki” (Warner Bros.)

9:30 p.m. “Off Centre” (Warner Bros./DreamWorks SKG)


8 p.m. “7th Heaven” (Spelling Television)

9 p.m. “Angel” (20th Century Fox Television)


8 p.m. “Gilmore Girls” (Warner Bros.)

9 p.m. “Smallville” (Warner Bros./Tollin-Robbins)


8 p.m. “Dawson’s Creek” (Columbia TriStar)

9 p.m. “Felicity” (Imagine Television/Touchstone) — “Glory Days” (Warner Bros./Miramax) will air eight episodes in this slot in the winter.


8 p.m. “Popstars 2” (Stone Stanley)

8:30 p.m. “Elimidate Deluxe” (Telepictures Productions)

9 p.m. “Charmed” (Spelling Television)


8 p.m. “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (Viacom)

8:30 p.m. “Maybe I’m Adopted” (Warner Bros./Touchstone)

9 p.m. “Deep in the Heart” (20th Century Fox, Acme Productions)

9:30 p.m. “Raising Dad” (Paramount)

Kellner reassures advertisers about CNN: The new corporate executives in charge of CNN went out of thei
r way at The WB’s presentation to the advertisers to make certain their commitment to the integrity of its news operation was on the record. Said TBS Chairman Jamie Kellner: “CNN has become something almost religious in my mind.”

Garth Ancier, his chief programming lieutenant, later told Electronic Media, “The responsibility of having that under your banner is a challenge. At the end of the day it can’t be just hiring attractive people.”

Of former actress Andrea Thompson, CNN’s most controversial recent hire — who will become a news reader on Headline News — Mr. Ancier noted both that “she has a real star quality about her” and that her hiring was “initiated by CNN management, not by us,” although the new Kellner/Ancier team did sign off on the decision.

Mr. Ancier, like Mr. Kellner a former Fox programming executive, also took a swing at the news competition, saying he applauds what Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes has done at the Fox News Channel “in terms of getting the network ramped up quickly and having some strong personalities, but there’s no news gathering there. It’s just talk shows.”

Mr. Kellner also made certain that The WB’s assembled advertisers knew he still has his hands on the tiller at the Frog Network, telling them, “I’ll keep my hands on it, I promise you.”

FCC considers Time Warner’s electronic-program-guide request: The FCC put Time Warner Cable’s request for a declaratory ruling on electronic program guide information on public notice. The cable operator wants the FCC to designate that electronic program guides be deemed “not program related,” thus not entitled to the mandatory carriage protections of Section 76.56 of the Commission’s rules. Gemstar-TV Guide International’s EPG was specifically referenced in the request.

Gemstar had petitioned the FCC in March 2000 for a ruling that entitled its EPG to mandatory carriage protection; it sought to withdraw the petition on April 11 of this year. One day later, Time Warner filed a response, urging the agency to issue a ruling even if Gemstar’s petition is dismissed.

ABC beats NBC nightly newscast: For the first time in 61 weeks, “ABC World News Tonight” last week beat “NBC Nightly News” in total viewers (an average 8.34 million for “World News” to 8.2 million for “Nightly”) and adults 25 to 54 (an average 3.13 million for ABC and 2.9 million for NBC). “CBS Evening News” averaged 7.53 million total viewers and 2.54 million adults 25 to 54.

Checketts exits MSG post: Madison Square Garden President and CEO Dave Checketts, apparently a victim of the poor showings of the New York Knicks and Rangers, has left the company. MSG owner Cablevision Systems is looking for his successor. The widely presumed successor is Seth Abraham, who last September was named to the new post of MSG executive vice president and chief operating officer.

AOL, Sony in alliance: America Online and Sony Computer Entertainment on Tuesday announced a strategic alliance to fast-track the development of “next-generation entertainment” using Sony’s PlayStation platform and AOL’s interactive service. The goal is to get PlayStation2 aficionados instant messaging, chatting and e-mailing while enjoying online games and entertainment. New products are expected to be available by year-end.

The pact also outlines plans to explore broadband technologies and develop a Netscape browser. In addition, AOL features will be incorporated into the PlayStation2 software development kits available to content developers.

Damages sought against WPLG reporter: According to Tuesday’s Miami Herald, lobbyist Eric Sisser is seeking a restraining order and monetary damages in excess of $15,000 against investigative reporter Jilda Unruh of ABC affiliate WPLG-TV, Miami. His lawyer filed the suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Friday.

He claims she surprised him in his hospital room May 8 and began asking him questions about school land purchases as well as his work for a health-care contractor that is seeking a district contract. Mr. Sisser told the paper his blood pressure went up to 194/110 and he had to be given a nitroglycerin drip.

“What Unruh did was a gross violation of journalistic ethics,” Mr. Sisser said.

WPLG News Director Bill Pohovey told Electronic Media the newspaper’s account was incorrect. “We’re dealing with a lobbyist,” he said. “Jilda went without a camera, without a notepad; she went all by her lonesome. She knocked on the door, and he asked who it was and invited her in. He shook her hand and had a warm, happy smile on his face. When she started asking questions, he said, ‘Get the (expletive) out’ and she left. End of story.”

MTV announces animated slate: MTV has greenlighted two animated series, “Clone High” and “Time Boys,” both produced in-house, and put nine other cartoon offerings into development.

In addition, the network has made development deals with Glenn Eichler, creator of MTV’s current “Daria,” and Matt Harrigan, the head writer of “Celebrity Deathmatch.”

The series in development range from “Bloid,” characterized as the first-ever interactive cartoon tabloid game show, to “MTV’s Heckle and Jeckle,” a new take on the classic wisecracking magpies.

Record revenue for Young: Young Broadcasting announced record revenue and broadcast cash flow for the first quarter of 2001. Net revenue was up 28.4 percent to $92.7 million from $72.2 million last year. Broadcast cash flow increased 24 percent. The station group generated about $1.4 million in new revenues through its creative sales initiatives.

‘Keller’ looms large on WLVI: WB affiliate WLVI-TV, Boston, will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Boston’s longest-running local political talk show “Keller at Large” on Friday with a special half-hour show at 10:30 p.m. The special will also air during the show’s regular time slot at 8 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 20. The anniversary show will include highlights from the past decade, such as an interview with then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992 on ethics.

DirecTV sues: DirecTV announced it has filed a federal lawsuit against 80 individuals accused of trafficking in illegal signal-theft equipment imported from Canada for sale in the United States. The imported technology included access cards and devices allegedly pirated for reprogramming, which enabled buyers to unscramble and view DirecTV programming without legal authorization. The federal complaint was filed March 16 in the U.S. District Court’s Central District of California. DirecTV had already won a $19 million federal judgment in January against the two Canadians who initially supplied the 80 dealers.

CEA clarifies stands on standards: The Consumer Electronic Association clarified last week’s published letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell stating that the majority of its members would henceforth support two set-top box technology standards, namely IEEE 1394 and the Digital Transmission Content Protection system. According to the clarification, the members’ future set-top boxes will include IEEE 1394 but may opt for a Digital Video Interface approach, which allows for uncompressed video, or a proprietary security protocol instead of DTCP.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications