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May 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Fox schedule includes five new dramas

Fox, according to studio and talent agency sources, has finalized its 2002-03 schedule with 71/2 hours of new programming — the most of any of the five other broadcast networks. The revamping of five nights of Fox’s schedule, to be unveiled at its upfront presentation Thursday in New York, is punctuated by the somewhat unexpected cancellation of Friday drama “Dark Angel” and the 11th-hour insertion of two unscripted “fun shows” for the opening 8 p.m. (ET) Thursday hour.

Fox accented the launch of five drama series but also added two “reality comedies” and three scripted comedies to its prime-time schedule next season. Coming as unexpected additions to Fox’s 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Thursday lineup are the unscripted half-hours “30 Seconds to Fame” and “Meet the Marks,” both of which were not listed previously as part of Fox’s development slate.

Termed as “fun shows,” in contrast to Fox’s appetite for sensational reality shows, “30 Seconds” is described as a quick-fire talent show where contestants are “forced to impress off-screen judges and a cynical audience,” said a source close to the network. “Meet the Marks,” coming from Vin Di Bona Productions (producer of ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos”), features an “unsuspecting mark who walks into a sitcom-like environment” in which hired improv actors play assorted pranks.

Sources say Fox does not plan to premiere “30 Seconds” and “Marks” until December 2002 or January 2003, once the network’s slate of Major League Baseball postseason games and other specials end their runs.

One studio source said the “reality-comedy” series are also being seen by Fox as cost-effective alternatives to big budget shows such as NBC’s “Friends” and CBS’s “Survivor.” Both of the shows will lead into the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Thursday run of “Septuplets,” which centers on an unusual exploration of seven 16-year-old siblings who live in their family’s hotel.

Fox is also undertaking a complete gutting of its Friday lineup, picking up Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” sci-fi drama to take over the 8 p.m. Friday time slot. The amnesiac-turned-genius drama “John Doe,” from director/executive producer Mimi Leder and Regency Television, will take over the 9 p.m. Friday hour from “Dark Angel.” Sources close to Fox say the network does not have plans to hold the once-popular “Dark Angel” for midseason.

New dramas also figure heavily into Fox’s partially revamped Wednesday and Monday night lineups. “Fast Lane,” described as a sexed-up, high-octane version of the movie “The Fast and the Furious,” will take over 9 p.m. Wednesday. That means freshman hit “Bernie Mac” will move backward an hour to an 8 p.m. Wednesday start as a lead-in springboard to “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” at 8:30 p.m.

As widely expected, Monday will be David E. Kelley’s night, with “Boston Public” returning at 8 p.m. as a lead-in to his “Girls’ Club” legal drama, which is being subbed for Mr. Kelley’s “Ally McBeal,” which ends its run this season.

Fox is going all-comedy on Sunday night with the 7 p.m.-to-10 p.m. rotation of “Futurama,” “Oliver Beene,” “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “The Grubbs.” The plan is said to mark one of the first times a network has scheduled six comedies together in prime time.

Now that CBS has scheduled a comedy block from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, Fox is said by said by sources to be looking at an all-comedy lineup for the same night.

“Oliver Beene,” a Cold War-era comedy in the fashion of “The Wonder Years,” is believed to be a personal favorite of Fox Television Entertainment Group President Sandy Grushow, who feels it is self-starting comedy for the 7:30 p.m. time slot, sources say.

For the 8 p.m. hour, Fox is said to be not all that concerned by a challenge from CBS’s launch of a new comedy block featuring the new Christopher Lloyd-produced “Bram & Alice” sitcom and the move of “Becker” from 9:30 p.m. Monday. Fox is leaving top-rated Sunday sitcom “The Simpsons” in place at 8 p.m. while moving “King of the Hill” backward an hour to a 8:30 p.m. Sunday slotting. That move leads to “Malcolm in the Middle” sliding forward a half-hour to the 9 p.m. Sunday slot as a lead-in platform for “The Grubbs,” at 9:30 p.m. The last two comedies take over the 9 p.m. slot from “The X-Files,” which ends it nine-year run this Sunday.

Meanwhile, Tuesday night remains little changed, other than modestly rated “Grounded for Life” getting the 8:30 p.m. lead-out slot from hit sitcom “That ’70s Show,” both of which are produced by Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co. The reupping of “Grounded for Life” likely means that “Titus” is being canceled.

In a bit of good news for TV critics who voted for “24” as the best new drama in EM’s fall/winter 2002 Critics Poll, the Kiefer Sutherland-led, real-time drama will be returning at 9 p.m. Tuesday. However, sources close to the 20th Century Fox Television production say “24’s” around-the-clock format for this season will announce some possible formatting changes for next season — possibly self-contained episodes or shorter serialized story arcs.

The only night untouched is Fox’s top-rated Saturday, with double runs of “Cops” at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and “America’s Most Wanted” at 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

There is also word that “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” still has an outside chance for a midseason renewal order. Sources say the return of “24” to the 9 p.m. Tuesday slot is a strong likelihood. It is also a given, according to sources, that “Greg the Bunny” and “That ’80s Show” won’t be returning.

Among the midseason pickups will be the new holdover comedy “The Pitts.” Fox is also leaning toward future midseason pickups for the revival of “Time Tunnel” and the cop-goes-to-London drama “Keen Eddie.”

In the cancellation column, the long-running “Family Guy” animated series appears to be bidding adieu.

Fox’s fall 2002 schedule follows:

MONDAY

8 p.m. “Boston Public”

9 p.m. “Girls Club” *

TUESDAY

8 p.m. “That ’70s Show”

8:30 p.m. “Grounded for Life” **

9 p.m. “24”

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. “Bernie Mac” **

8:30 p.m. “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” *

9 p.m. “Fast Lane” *

THURSDAY

8 p.m. “30 Seconds to Fame” *

8:30 p.m . “Meet the Marks” *

9 p.m. “Septuplets” *

FRIDAY

8 p.m. “Firefly” *

9 p.m. “John Doe” *

SATURDAY

8 p.m. “Cops”

8:30 p.m. “Cops”

9 p.m. “America’s Most Wanted”

SUNDAY

7 p.m. “Futurama”

7:30 p.m. “Oliver Beene” *

8 p.m. “The Simpsons”

8:30 p.m. “King of the Hill” **

9 p.m. “Malcolm in the Middle” **

9:30 p.m. “The Grubbs” *

* new series

** new time period

Rather opts out of reformatted ’48 Hours Investigates’: CBS’s shift in its fall 2002 scheduling of newly dubbed “48 Hours Investigates” newsmagazine, which is being moved down two hours to an 8 p.m. Friday time slot next season, will be sans anchor Dan Rather and have a “new focus.”

Mr. Rather will not be anchoring “48 Hours Investigates” when it gets an “edgier” and “cooler” makeover, as CBS Television Network President and CEO Leslie Moonves put it for journalists gathering for a press briefing preceding this afternoon’s 2002-03 season upfront presentation in New York.

Mr. Moonves said Mr. Rather, who also anchors “CBS Evening News,” asked to be relieved of the weekly “48 Hours” duty a year ago so he could contribute more often to his reporting stint on “60 Minutes II.”

“We have granted him his wish,” said Mr. Moonves, who said no “48” successor has been named.

Mr. Rather, who has agreed to remain at CBS News until at last 2006 but has not signed a new contract, still would be part of “48 Hours” in times of major breaking news stories.

CBS targeting younger viewers with fall schedule: Adding five new dramas and two sitcoms while revamping of six nights of its prime time schedule, CBS Television Network President and CEO Leslie Moonves boldly pronounced that his network will go even more younger and upscale with the adults 18 to 49 audience this season.

However, at a press briefing to announce the fall 2002 schedule this morning, Mr. Moonves restated that adults 25 to 54 remains the network’s
primary target demo. But he noted that his slate of prime-time dramas are “urban, upscale and clearly younger” than what CBS has offered in the past. Mr. Moonves added that he “genuinely believes our [new] development crop is the best since I’ve been here,” which traces back to his 1995 hiring at the network.

In particular, Mr. Moonves may want to think about rebranding CBS as “The Jerrry Bruckheimer Network.” Mr. Bruckheimer, whose production company co-produces “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” saw spinoff “CSI: Miami” grab the 10 p.m. (ET) time slot on Monday night (replacing “Family Law”) and the FBI missing-persons drama “Without a Trace” get the 10 p.m. Thursday closing hour. Bruckheimer Productions is also a co-producer of “The Amazing Race” reality series, which will continue to hold the 9 p.m. Wednesday time slot.

The other non-Bruckheimer dramas to get pickups were the John Wells-produced “Presidio Med” for the 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot, “Spider-Man” screenwriter David Koepp’s avenger drama “Hack” at 9 p.m. Friday and the Michael Mann-produced elite cop drama “RHD/LA” in the following Friday hour. Supreme Court drama “First Monday” and slice of New Jersey “That’s Life” will not be returning.

Mr. Moonves highlighted “Without a Trace” as being able to put a dent in NBC’s formidable yet aging “ER” drama, which Mr. Moonves had a hand in developing when he once served as head of the Warner Bros. Television studio.

Given that NBC is paying a record $13.7 million per episode in license fees for “ER,” Mr. Moonves noted that since the show is older and costs more, it will have NBC working “harder” to maintain its pricing edge in the 10 p.m. Thursday time period.

With Tuesday’s rotation — “JAG,” “The Guardian” and “Judging Amy” — being the only night left untouched, Mr. Moonves said CBS’s aggressive revamping of six nights will pay major dividends next season. Unlike NBC, which made changes on only three nights of its prime time schedule, Mr. Moonves said there is “upside, literally, every night” with CBS’s schedule.

To make room for “Without a Trace,” current 10 p.m. Thursday drama “The Agency” is making a move into the 10 p.m. Saturday time slot while “The District” will move down one hour to a 9 p.m. berth. “Touched by an Angel” will be back in its to its 8 p.m. Saturday time slot next season.

The other bold programming strokes came with comedies — leading to the start of new 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. sitcom block on Sunday night. Coming out of “60 Minutes'” broad but older demo 7 p.m.-to-8 p.m. lead-in, CBS has scheduled the Christopher Lloyd-produced “Bram and Alice” and “Becker” (moving from 9:30 p.m. Monday) for the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Sunday block. CBS will maintain its two-hour movie showcase at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Taking over “Becker’s” 9:30 p.m. Monday time slot is the blue-collar comedy “Still Standing,” taking advantage of “Everybody Loves Raymond’s” 9 p.m. lead-in springboard. “King of Queens” and “Yes, Dear” maintain their 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Monday time slots.

Potentially opening a battle-cry against Fox’s “The Simpsons” at 8 p.m. Sundays, Mr. Moonves said that while “Bram and Alice” is a “comedy for adults,” he claimed that it could snare over-18 demos away from Fox.

With CBS’s 3.9 rating/10 share average in adults 18 to 49 season-to-date just one tenth of rating point off from Fox’s second-ranked demo average (4.0/11), Mr. Moonves thinks CBS’s new lineup is poised to get more ad business in that key demo. In particular, he predicted that it would be the first time in nine years that CBS would be seriously contending for second-place in adults 18 to 49.

“We see a lot of money shifting our way,” Mr. Moonves ventured.

Still, with the advertising market sending mixed signals about a full recovery, Mr. Moonves hinted that CBS could duplicate this season’s strategy of holding 30 percent to 35 percent of the network’s fourth-quarter 2002 commercial inventory for sale in the 2003 scatter markets. Last fall, some ad buyers thought Viacom President and CEO Mel Karmazin had been posturing about holding back inventory to over-inflate the value of CBS’s inventory at the same time that NBC rushed in more fourth-quarter sales at somewhat lower rates.

In reference to advertisers’ perception of CBS seriously considering holding back inventory this fall, Mr. Mooves added: “I think they will believe us this year.”

Speaking of 2003, CBS confirmed a midseason back-order for the Oliver Platt-led court drama “Queens Supreme,” in addition to making a 13-episode backup commitment to midseason comedy hit “Baby Bob.” Although it had much initial hype, the Sylvester Stallone-produced drama “Lefty” lacked any kind of pickup, but Mr. Moonves also stressed that it is “not dead yet” as a future midseason pickup.

CBS’s fall 2002 schedule follows:

MONDAY

8 p.m. “King of Queens”

8:30 p.m. “Yes, Dear”

9 p.m. “Everybody Loves Raymond”

9:30 p.m. “Still Standing”*

10 p.m. “CSI: Miami”*

TUESDAY

8:00 p.m. “JAG”

9 p.m. “The Guardian”

10 p.m. “Judging Amy”

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m. “60 Minutes II”

9 p.m. “The Amazing Race”

10 p.m. “Presidio Med”*

THURSDAY

8 p.m. “Survivor”

9 p.m. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”

10 p.m. “Without a Trace”

FRIDAY

8 p.m. “48 Hours Investigates”**

9 p.m. “Hack”*

10 p.m. “RHD/LA”*

SATURDAY

8 p.m. “Touched by an Angel”

9 p.m. “The District”**

10 p.m. “The Agency”**

SUNDAY

7 p.m. “60 Minutes”

8 p.m. “Bram & Alice”*

8:30 p.m. “Becker”**

9 p.m. “CBS Sunday Movie”

* new series

** new time period

Viacom closes KCAL-TV purchase: Viacom closed today on its purchase of independent KCAL-TV, Los Angeles. Don Corsini, general manager at KCAL will run Viacom-owned KCBS as well. The acquisition gives Viacom a duopoly in Los Angeles.

Rigas out at Adelphia: Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, Adelphia Communciations founding Chairman and CEO John Rigas stepped down today, conceding his company “needs fresh, independent leadership.”

Adelphia will need more than that. It’s stock was halted at $3.90 a share today when the NASDAQ asked for more details about the company’s announced investigation of issues surrounding the delayed preparation of its annual report and an audit being conducted by its longtime auditor, Deloitte & Touche. The company faces NASDAQ delisting and is in default of some of its loan and credit agreements as a result of its delayed annual report. A NASDAQ hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

The sixth-largest cable operator, which is selling systems in Los Angeles and elsewhere to pay some of its $14.7 billion debt, already is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for $1.6 billion in off-balance sheet deals by Rigas family members. Adelphia has hired high-powered attorney David Boies and faces a new challenge by shareholder Leonard Tow, who owns 12 percent of the company and is demanding that he and two others be appointed to Adelphia’s board.

Schiller named GM, Discovery Civilization Channel: Discovery Communications and The New York Times Co. announced today the appointment of Vivian Schiller to be general manager of Discovery Civilization Channel, which the two companies co-own and will jointly develop and re-launch in an agreement announced last month. Ms. Schiller, who takes up her new post in early summer, will oversee programming, management and operational aspects of the network. She will be based in Bethesda, Md., where the channel is headquartered. Previously Ms. Schiller was responsible for long-form programming at CNN.

Pax schedules new series, original movies for fall: The Pax TV 2002-03 prime-time lineup will include a “Three Day Weekend,” four new hour-long programs and 30 original movies scheduled to make their debuts on Friday and Saturday nights.

Three new series will be slotted for launch at 9 p.m. (ET) Sundays in September and October:

— “Body & Soul,” starring Peter Strauss and Daphne Zuniga as health professionals who advocate different routes to achieving wellness. Described as “darkly funny,” it will move to 9 p.m. Mondays after its debut Sept. 8. It is executive produced by John W
helpley and Peter Tortorici.

— “Just Cause,” about a single mom (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) who was wrongly imprisoned for five years, studied law and becomes an assistant at a law firm. Richard Thomas also stars. From Jackie Zambrano and Gail Morgan Hickman. It will debut Sept. 15 and remain on Sunday until mid-October.

— “Lip Service,” a light-hearted action series about a young deaf woman whose ability to lip-read gets her out of the FBI’s filing room and onto its surveillance team. It stars deaf actress Deanne Bray and comes from the team behind “Doc,” Dave Alan Johnson and Gary R. Johnson. It is scheduled to debut in October.

In November, Pax will launch “Young Blades,” introducing a new generation of Musketeers. It is produced by Georges Campana, Dan Angel and Billy Brown.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications