One year after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, a chilling effect has impacted TV content, Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said Monday.
Addressing reporters Monday during Fox’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour, Berman said Fox recently had to go back and add pixelation over the rear end of a cartoon character on a repeat of the animated laffer “Family Guy.”
The episode originally ran five years ago with the naked shot, to no complaints. But times have changed.
The net was stung in October after the FCC fined Fox stations $7,000 each in October for airing an episode of the reality show “Married by America.”
With no clear direction from the FCC, Berman said the net has started to err on the side of caution.
“We have to be checking and second-guessing ourselves now,” Berman said. “We have to protect our affiliates.”
Meanwhile, having stumbled in the fall, Berman said the network will take another hard look at how it rolls out its schedule.
Berman admitted that the net’s plan to stunt in the fall with short-order reality shows hadn’t fared well.
“I think in the case of fall, we drifted from the balance too much on the unscripted side,” she said.
It’s a problem that Berman has faced since joining the network five years ago: Trying to keep the lights on in the fall, when October’s Major League Baseball championships prevent the net from fully unveiling its new wares.
Fox attempted to curb that problem this year by spreading its program launches year-round, but to mixed results. Summer entries like “Method and Red” and “North Shore” fell by the wayside, although fall drama “House” performed decently and returns for midseason.
Despite those mixed results, Berman said she’s not ready to curb Fox’s attempts at programming year-round original fare.
“You have to start somewhere,” she said. “We knew we were going to take our lumps in doing that, but the logic is still there, and we’re going to use that strategy going forward.
Heading into midseason, Berman is bullish on the net’s chances, given the strong fourth-season premiere of hit drama “24” and the return of “American Idol,” as well as next month’s Super Bowl.
“We expect January to be a to be a good time for us even anticipating some declines for ‘Idol,’ ” Berman said.
Meanwhile, Berman said she was still surprised over last summer’s accusations by rival webheads that Fox stole their reality ideas. Berman pointed out that those networks are also launching shows containing twists on pre-existing, successful concepts.
“I think it’s very interesting for competitors to show indignancies and then turn around and just behave the way normal TV works,” she said. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
In other Fox news:
- Net will bring back reborn animated series “Family Guy” with new episodes starting Sunday, May 1, at 9 p.m.
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s new animated entry, “American Dad,” officially premieres the same night, at 9:30 p.m.
Viewers, however, will get an early peak at “American Dad,” which is also exec produced by Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman, on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6. Fox will screen the pilot episode “Dad,” which comes from 20th Century Fox TV (as does “Guy”), following a post-Super Bowl edition of “The Simpsons.”
- Fox has also scheduled the new sitcom “Life on a Stick,” which bows Wednesday, Mar. 23 at 9:30 p.m. Laffer, from Paramount Network TV and creator Victor Fresco, will air after the weekly “American Idol” results show.
- Berman confirmed that long-running laffer “That ’70s Show” will return next fall for an eighth season, although without series stars Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher (Daily Variety, Jan. 3). But Berman said the thesps may still occasionally appear on the show.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)