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Fox finds new face

Fall sked brings 8 new shows, radical revamp

NEW YORK — In his first upfront presentation to advertisers since taking over as president of Fox Entertainment, Doug Herzog unveiled a fall sked that radically reinvents the web on several nights, with changes to two-thirds of the net’s 15-hour lineup.

While most webs have preached stability this week during their sked announcements, Fox reinforced its rep as the renegade net by adding at least one new show every night of the week but Saturday and scheduling new shows at 8 p.m. every night but Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (Daily Variety, May 19.)

Most new shows

Overall, Fox is adding five dramas, two comedies and a half-hour version of “Ally McBeal.” The tally of eight new shows is more than any of the other nets, all of which have announced their 1999-2000 skeds.

Economic concerns also seemed to play a major role in the radical shape of the new lineup.

Successful reality skeins such as “World’s Wildest Police Chases,” “Guinness Primetime” and Fox News’ “Fox Files” didn’t land a slot on the fall sked, in part because of advertiser reluctance to shell out top dollar for such gritty fare.

The addition of a half-hour version of “Ally McBeal,” tentatively titled “Ally,” also figures to save Fox money by repurposing programming that’s already been paid for at minimal additional cost. With encore presentations of “Cops” continuing Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., Fox will now program just 14 hours of first-run programming next fall.

Big development

Herzog said a strong development season was a top reason for the unusually large number of new shows. “I was blown away by what we were able to do in four months,” said the exec, who arrived at Fox in January.

At a press conference Thursday a few hours before his formal sesh with advertisers, Herzog took some heat from journalists who questioned the concept of reusing “Ally” in a half-hour format, particularly when successful frosh laffer “The PJs” was left off the fall lineup in favor of a midseason slot.

Herzog fought back, however, calling the move a sign of the times. “We think it’s a great step forward in the repurposing of our own programs,” he said. “You’ll probably see more of this on network television.”

The former Comedy Central exec also pointed out that cable nets almost always repeat their original skeins and pics within days of their premieres, while the WB net has successfully pumped up numbers for “7th Heaven” by airing repeats of early segs Sundays at 7 p.m. The Big Four, he said, “are the only (ones) showing (programs) once a week.”

ABC also has tried repurposing some of its primetime product, double-pumping certain theatricals within the course of a week or two.

Noting that “Ally” creator David E. Kelley was the father of the concept, Herzog added that the quality of the half-hour version of the show will match that of the original Monday hour. “You don’t walk away (from viewing the 30-minute edition) feeling you’ve had a snack rather than a meal,” he said.

‘PJs’ pushed out

As for why Fox didn’t slate “PJs” instead of the “Ally” encore, Herzog said the urban-themed animation skein didn’t fit with the rest of the net’s new Tuesday sked, which includes “That ’70s Show” and “Party of Five.”

Other notable moves on the new Fox sked include the moves of “King of the Hill” and “Futurama” back to Sunday nights, at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., respectively, and the shift of animated hit “Family Guy” to Thursdays at 9 p.m. opposite NBC’s “Frasier” and the WB’s “Charmed.”