Fox Broadcasting Co. is expected to add eight new series totaling six hours of programming next fall, in the process shuffling or shelving a number of established reality shows and returning 10-11 p.m. Sunday to affiliates, as anticipated (Daily Variety, May 19).
The most surprising move involves the anticipated shift of “America’s Most Wanted”– the successful lead-off to Fox’s Friday lineup since September 1990 — to Tuesdays at 9 p.m., to follow the HBO Independent Prods. series “Roc” and “Bakersfield” (formerly “Buddy Blues”), a new Disney comedy about black-and-white buddy cops starring Giancarlo Esposito and Ron Eldard.
That will create a three-way ABC, NBC and Fox comedy logjam at 8 p.m., while Fox may be hoping to pick up some migratory reality viewers at 9 coming out of CBS’ “Rescue 911.”
Relocating “Most Wanted” will allow Fox to put what it considers its best new drama pilot, Warner Bros.’ western action series “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.,” Fridays at 8 p.m. leading into another new one-hour series, Twentieth TV’s “X-Files,” about two FBI investigators of paranormal phenomena.
Also, Fox reportedly will take the expected step of breaking up Twentieth’s “The Simpsons” and its lead-out “Martin.” The latter, an HBO series, is moving to 8 p.m. Sunday as the centerpiece of a comedy block that begins at 7 p.m. with Robert Townsend’s one-hour variety show “Townsend TV,” from the comic/director’s TinselTownsend TV.
“Martin” reportedly will lead into Lorimar’s Queen Latifah-Kim Coles sitcom “My Girls,” followed by Columbia’s “Married … With Children” and the new Richard Lewis-Don Rickles sitcom “Daddy Dearest,” also from HBO Independent Prods. In a test Sunday at 8 p.m., “Martin” posted a 15 share in Nielsen overnights, slightly worse than “In Living Color’s” average there.
On Thursday, “The Simpsons” will now likely lead into Disney’s new comedy starring Sinbad, while “In Living Color”– which Fox has been repeating at 9 p.m. Thursdays — moves to that time period paired with Disney’s “Herman’s Head.”
The one-hour Fox News magazine, tentatively titled “Front Page,” is expected to follow “Cops” Saturdays at 9 p.m., bumping the reality series “Code 3,” which , like “Cops,” comes from Barbour-Langley Prods.
Barbour-Langley reportedly has a 22-episode renewal on “Code 3,” which has done a respectable job of holding onto its “Cops” lead-in. The company also is working on a short order of a “Cops” spin-off, “Cop Files,” that some assumed would be used to fill out the Saturday lineup.
All four services have increased the output of their news divisions at the expense of reality programming. With the Fox Newsshow, the four “networks” will provide a total of 10 hours of prime time news programming.
“Fox Night at the Movies,” which becomes a weekly entry June 21, will remain on Monday night, and Wednesday also is expected to be unchanged, composed of Spelling TV’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place.”
Pilots with back-up series orders include Disney’s “Monty,” starring Henry Winkler, and TriStar’s “City High,” featuring rapper Hammer. Other likely pickups are “Locals” (Warner Bros.), “My Kind of Town” (Witt-Thomas) and Lorimar’s Richard Grieco project.
Several other midseason deals are still being discussed, but current series not making the fall cut are “The Edge,””Shaky Ground,””Parker Lewis,””Likely Suspects,””Key West,””Class of ’96,””Sightings” and “Down the Shore.”
Eight new series from Fox would bring the total from the four prime time programmers to 39 — six more than last fall, when the webs collectively fretted about the difficulty of promoting new product in such a glutted field.
The Tuesday schedule marks a sharp departure from the current season, where Fox has struggled with one-hour series since introducing programming on the night in January. The lead-off comedies will face ABC’s established block and NBC’s attempt to create its own 8-10 p.m. sitcom franchise.
As noted, dropping its fourth hour of Sunday programming will spare Fox from filling an hour where the weblet has struggled, while creating a uniform sign-off time seven nights a week.
Fox will thus be offering 15 hours of programming per week, compared to 22 for the Big Three networks. Ironically, recent revisions in the financial interest and syndication rules would allow Fox to go beyond the previous FCC-defined 15-hour cap without being subject to any of the same strictures as ABC, CBS and NBC.
Including the news magazine, three shows from Fox Inc. division Twentieth TV, and two hours (“America’s Most Wanted” and “Cops”) from the Fox Television Stations, Fox apparently will wind up supplying itself six shows totaling five of its 13 hours of series programming. HBO and Disney each have three half-hour comedies penciled in on the fall lineup.
Fox was said to have had a tentative schedule worked out late last week before Fox Inc. chairman Rupert Murdoch began tinkering with it. The weblet officially presents its lineup to advertisers today.
Correspondents for the news mag are Ron Reagan, Andria Hall, Tony Harris, Josh Mankiewicz and, just announced Monday, former KCOP co-anchor Vicki Liviakis.