Fox Broadcasting, having dodged a bullet the day before by avoiding an all-expansion team Super Bowl in its first crack at broadcasting the game, nonetheless found itself on the firing line Monday at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, where critics grilled execs about “snuff TV” and lawsuits.
Specifically, the network was taken to task for its broadcast late last year of specials that included film and videotape footage of animals attacking human beings that NBC West Coast prexy Don Ohlmeyer derisively labeled “snuff TV.”
There also is the legal powder keg known as “Martin,” where lawsuits and countersuits have followed sexual-harassment charges leveled against star Martin Lawrence by the co-star on the fifth-year sitcom, Tisha Campbell.
Get me rewrite
Campbell abruptly quit the series last month and has had to be written out of the last several episodes planned for the show this season.
Fox Entertainment Group prexy Peter Roth said Monday that he couldn’t comment about “the personal issues” surrounding Lawrence and Campbell but added, “I can tell you this: Whatever happened outside of the set is not affecting the show whatsoever. … As far as I’m concerned, shows are being delivered on time and they are, and have been, on track creatively.”
As for the controversy that erupted concerning Fox’s broadcast of the “When Animals Attack” special, Fox Television prexy and CEO David Hill scoffed at the idea of “snuff TV” and noted, “I could almost make the point that the ‘Animals’ show was a way of teaching people that animals aren’t all like Pooh Bear.”
Asked if he was thus calling the show educational, Hill said, “No, I’m not saying that. … (But) I doubt really think that Don (Ohlmeyer) would have had anything to say unless it had rated as well as it did.”
Added Roth: “These specials are not unique to television, nor are they particularly unique to Fox.”
With “Party of Five” being shelved following its April 2 season finale, Roth was asked if that meant the show was officially canceled.
“Not at all,” Roth said. “We are platforming it toward what we think is a long-term future. (This is a) show that we love and we honor and that we’re proud to be associated with.”
Spelling out the future
Fox also used the platform of the press tour Monday to unveil its development slate for next season and to report that Aaron Spelling will produce a third nighttime soap for the network that’s slated to premiere at 9 p.m. Wednesdays beginning in mid-April.
That soaper, with the working title “Pacific Palisades,” will center around “Baywatch” alumnus and onetime Playboy poser Erika Eleniak, as a “shrewd real estate agent” working in Pacific Palisades, “where new money mixes with old and some neighbors are more than friendly,” according to a Fox release.
The show, which Roth announced over the weekend in New Orleans, is expected to name additional cast soon.
As for the Fox development roster laid out Monday by Roth, it includes:
* “The Visitor,” a sci-fi adventure drama from “Independence Day’s” Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich.
* An ensemble drama from David E. Kelley (“L.A. Law,” “Chicago Hope,” “Picket Fences”).
* “Roar,” a medieval action drama from Shaun Cassidy (“American Gothic”) and Ron Koslow (“Beauty and the Beast”).
* A live-action sitcom version of the Dilbert comic strip set in an office and incorporating the Dogbert character.
* A half-hour comedy created by and starring “In Living Color’s” Damon Wayans, and an edgy drama created by Wayans titled “The Door.”
* A new half-hour from Carsey-Werner Prods.
* “The Klumps,” a series adaptation of the hit theatrical remake “The Nutty Professor” that’s inspired by Eddie Murphy’s family scenes in the film and executive produced by Brian Grazer
* A half-hour from Brian Levant and Ivan Reitman called “Metropolitan Hospital” that Fox describes as “Police Squad!” in a hospital.
* New dramas from “Party of Five” creators-executive producers Chris Keyser and Amy Lippmann, and from Glen Morgan and James Wong (“The X-Files,” “Space: Above and Beyond”).
* An adult family comedy from “Seinfeld” co-executive producers Tom Gammill and Max Pross and another sitcom from former “Grace Under Fire” exec producer Kevin Abbott.