Ratings champ turns to familiar characters for Saturday ayem

Fox Children’s Network, the reigning ratings champ with kids, introduced five new programs for its fall lineup to advertisers here — four of them with well-established name recognition among kids.

FCN will add three new shows to Saturday morning and two to the weekday lineup. Saturday’s first addition comes at 9 a.m. –“Droopy, Master Detective” is actually a spinoff from “Tom & Jerry.” The “Droopy” half-hour also will feature Screwball Squirrel, a character FCN president Margaret Loesch says was created by Tex Avery for MGM 40 years ago, but shelved by the studio because it was too loony.

At 9:30, Fox debuts another new show that’s not all new: “Eek! and the Terrible Thunderlizards.” This show combines one returning character, Eek, with the new Thunderlizards segments.

The final Saturday addition — the previously confirmed DIC Enterprises series “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego,” at 11:30 a.m. — has not existed as a cartoon before but is already popular as a computer game and a PBS live-action show (Daily Variety, March 22).

“Carmen,” which Karen Barnes, VP of children’s programming said has been acclaimed as “both educational and entertaining,” is designed to comply with the Children’s Television Act.

Barnes stressed FCN’s commitment to innovative interstitial programming to teach kids about everything from racial tolerance to empathy for the homeless. “Information in small doses can be highly effective. But we can only educate if we continue to entertain.”

Fox exex sang the praises of the current lineup, which has reached the top of the ratings just 2 1/2 years after the formation of FCN.

This year’s weekday schedule is up 32% with kids 2-11 and 50% with kids 6-17 over last year, led by “Batman: The Animated Series,” the highest-rated weekday show. FCN’s Saturday ayem sked is up 42% with kids 2-11 and 46% with kids 6-17, led by “X-Men,” the leader in households and kids 6-17.

Saturday ayems will also have three miniseries based on popular print sources: “The Tick,” from a cult comic about an unusual superhero; “Spiderman,” which will then return in September 1994 as a series and ultimately as a strip; and Robert Heinlein’s “The Red Planet” which Loesch — as part of the effort to be socially responsible — suggested might inspire kids to read Heinlein.

The Monday-Friday lineup includes a new morning show and a new afternoon show. Steven Spielberg’s second FCN entry, “Animaniacs,” is slated to air weekdays at 4 p.m. The show, Warner Bros.’ fifth for Fox, will star cartoon characters named the Warner Brothers … and a Warner sister. Other WB shows are the returning series “Tiny Toons,””Merrie Melodies,””Batman” and “Taz-mania.”

The morning show, at 7:30 a.m., is Saban’s live-action sci-fi comedy “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

FCN’s 95% clearance rate is the highest of any network. Fox also noted that its Fox Kids Club now has over 3.3 million households with members and 12 million readers of its “Totally Kids” magazine, an important extra form of promotion. Gould added that these kids tend to be from upscale households.

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