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Fox mulling strategy for Magic show

Mel Gibson was among the celebs who dropped by the KNBC studios Wednesday night for the pilot taping of “The Magic Hour,” Twentieth TV’s upcoming latenight talkshow with NBA legend Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

Fox’s syndie arm still is targeting the show for a syndication launch early next year, with tentative plans to begin pitching “The Magic Hour” (working title) to stations in the fall.

But Fox network officials are eyeing the show as a candidate for the network’s next stab at latenight. Fox hopes to be back in the latenight fray in fall 1998, Peter Roth, president of Fox Entertainment Group, told reporters Thursday during Fox’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. gathering in Pasadena.

Either way, Twentieth is waiting to see what becomes of two syndie latenight strips debuting next month, Columbia TriStar’s “Vibe” and Buena Vista TV’s “Keenen Ivory Wayans,” before solidifying distribution plans for the Johnson show. Like Twentieth, Buena Vista and Col TriStar are hoping their shows will click with the young, urban audience that made “Arsenio Hall” such a success in the early 1990s.

“The Magic Hour” is likely to be pitched as a midseason replacement if one or both latenight newcomers fail to draw a crowd. But the pressure to perform will be greatest on “Wayans” because the show is cleared on the Fox O&O group, which generally is first in line for any syndie product from Twentieth. If successful, however, “Wayans” could provide a strong lead-in to “The Magic Hour.”

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