Fox opens up HBO’s ‘Crypt’

Fox Broadcasting Co. has acquired off-HBO rights to “Tales From the Crypt” and will begin airing back-to-back episodes of the anthology series at 11 p.m. Saturdays starting Jan. 22.

The weekly hour will replace “Comic Strip Live,” which had its last airing on the weblet Nov. 20. Fox has acquired the 65 half-hour installments of “Tales,” which premiered in January 1989.

The pay service shot extra footage of “Tales” episodes in anticipation of a broadcast TV deal on the R-rated series — a practice also employed with the ribald sitcom “Dream On” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Fox said “Crypt” would be treated like a feature, leaving as much of the original version as possible uncut and “edited where necessary to comply with latenight standards and practices.”

The more critical issue may be how well Fox does with the show in terms of advertising. When Lorimar introduced “Freddy’s Nightmares,” a 1988 firstrun latenight series based loosely on the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, the show performed reasonably well in ratings but was canceled after two seasons, in part due to difficulty finding sponsors. That’s a struggle Paramount also faced with “Friday the 13th: The Series.”

Because HBO reaches only about 20% of U.S. TV households, Fox notes that most viewers will have access to the show for the first time. On the flip side, an HBO spokesman said such deals represent a way to showcase the pay service’s original programming to a wider audience.

The arrangement continues a cozy relationship between Fox and HBO. Fox has agreed to air various HBO movies (among them “Barbarians at the Gate” and an upcoming telecast of “Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman”), and HBO Independent Prods. has been one of Fox’s most prolific series suppliers, giving the weblet “Roc” and “Martin.””Crypt” has become quite a franchise, spawning an animated version that’s currently one of the highest-rated shows in ABC’s Saturday morning lineup. Based on the E.C. Comics, “Tales From the Crypt” is exec produced by Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis.

In other macabre scheduling, Fox will repeat two episodes of its Friday drama “The X-Files” in its Monday movie slot Jan. 17. The Twentieth TV hour also received a recent stunt airing at 8 p.m. Tuesday, where it improved on Fox’s average in that hour.

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