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Original series segs key to Fox strike plan

Net to have minimum 83 half-hours of comedies, 26 hours of drama

While upbeat about their fall 2001 development slate, Fox execs Tuesday also outlined a strike contingency plan that includes original episodes of no less than 12 scripted series, including hits such as “The Simpsons” and “That ’70s Show.”

“We are hoping we can avoid a strike, but if that is not possible, we are not going to miss a beat,” Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman told advertisers at a pre-upfront gathering in Beverly Hills.

Berman and Fox Television Entertainment Group topper Sandy Grushow said the net will have a minimum of 83 half-hours of comedies and 26 hours of drama programming on tap in the event of WGA or SAG labor actions, including the following:

  • 13 episodes of the Judd Apatow laffer “Undeclared,” and the same number of segs of the dramas “Night Visions” (a holdover from fall 2000) and “When I Grow Up” (a new romantic dramedy from Glenn Gordon Caron).

  • Seven segs of the new Steven Levitan laffer “Greg the Bunny,” which drew strong laughter from advertisers reacting to early clips of the Eugene Levy (“American Pie”) vehicle.

  • Five episodes each of Sunday toon hits “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” along with original segs of animated vets “Futurama” and “Family Guy.”

  • Four segs of ” ’70s” and five segs of midseason success “Grounded for Life.”

  • Five firstrun hours of latenight sketch vet “Mad TV.”

Fox also has a slew of unscripted fare in the works, including full seasons of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted”; a second season of “Temptation Island”; and multiple segs of several other reality skeins, such as “Love Cruise” and “Beyond Belief.” Baseball playoffs will fill up most of October.

Meanwhile, buoyed by a strong Nielsen comeback this season, Fox execs also outlined a fall 2001 development slate filled with offbeat premises and big-name showrunners.

Pilots and series in the works feature talking puppets (“Greg the Bunny”), crime-fighting priests (“Monsignor Martinez”), superhero couples (“Ball and Chain”) and plots that unfold in real time (“24”) or according to the whims of viewers (“Nathan’s Choice”). Scribes crafting series include Greg Daniels and Mike Judge (“King of the Hill”), Chuck Lorre (“Dharma and Greg”) and Paul Simms (“NewsRadio”).

Grushow said Fox’s mission next season will be made easier given the solid success the net has enjoyed this year.

“We have turned this ship around (and) re-established the Fox identity,” he said, pointing to Fox’s No. 1 status this season with viewers 18-34 and teens.

As for the large number of out-of-the-box concepts in the works, Berman seemed to be channeling former Fox Entertainment boss Peter Roth’s mantra of being “daring, distinctive, different.”

“Audiences are searching for compelling and unique programming,” she said. “And they’re only rewarding those networks that deliver.”

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