The Fox Broadcasting Company continues to carve out a niche for itself with the announcement of its fall schedule.
That niche remains young viewers, who are the targets of Fox's five new series - four sitcoms and an "adventure" show.The fourth network experienced serious growing pains last season when it expanded to five nights, losing several million viewers and failing to come up with any hits to rival the extremely successful "The Simpsons" and "Married . . . With Children." But FBC is staying the course with comedies, reality shows and a new series styled after "American Gladiators."
The line of thinking here is that Fox had the right idea with its scheduling strategy, but some of the shows weren't up to par. (A great understatement.) And FBC still shows a willingness to take chances on off-the-wall concepts.
To make room for the new series, Fox axed "Against the Law," "Babes," "D.E.A.," "Haywire," "Get a Life" and "Top of the Heap."
Here's a quick look at Fox's new fall shows:
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.): Half-hour sitcom based on the hit movie. Evan Richards and Chris Kennedy take of the roles of the "most excellent time-traveling dudes."
It's All In Your Head (Sundays, 8:30 p.m.): William Ragsdale stars as Herman, an "ambitious young editor trying to make it in the tough corporate world." But much of the action takes place inside Herman's head as personifications of his virtues and vices - hedonistic Animal, virtuous Angel, Genius and Wimp - battle it out over his daily decisions. From the producers of "Soap" and "The Golden Girls."
Roc (Sundays, 7:30 p.m.): Fox calls this a "special comedy of contemporary black American life." From the producers of "Mary Tyler Moore," "Cheers" and "Taxi," it's about Roc Emerson (Charles Dutton), a "put-upon, opinionated and, at times, volatile" garbageman, his wife, free-spirited younger brother and "obstinate, racist" father.
Shut Up, Kids (Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.): Dabney Coleman ("Buffalo Bill," "Slap Maxwell") returns as a con man and convicted tax evader who's sentenced to teach fourth grade instead of being sent to prison.
The Ultimate Challenge (Fridays, 9 p.m.): Hourlong adventure series features "top stunt professionals, premiere adventurers, skilled athletes and daredevils" doing everything from bungee jumping off the Empire State Building to capturing crocodiles. From the producers of "American Gladiators."
FOX'S FALL SCHEDULE (with new shows in bold italics):
Sunday: 6 p.m., "True Colors"; 6:30 p.m., "Parker Lewis Can't Lose"; 7 p.m., "In Living Color"; 7:30 p.m., "Roc"; 8 p.m., "Married . . . With Children"; 8:30 p.m., "It's All In Your Head"; 9 p.m., "The Sunday Comics."
Monday: 7 p.m., "Fox Night at the Movies."
Thursday: 7 p.m., "The Simpsons"; 7:30 p.m., "Shut Up, Kids"; 8 p.m., "Beverly Hills, 90210."
Friday: 7 p.m., "America's Most Wanted"; 8 p.m., "The Ultimate Challenge."
Saturday: 7 p.m., "Totally Hidden Video"; 7:30 p.m., "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures"; 8 p.m., "Cops."
BREAKING TRADITION: Fox President Jaime Kellner also announced that his network is going to break from the traditional 30-week TV season that begins in September and ends in April.
"Every September, viewers are assaulted with a hopelessly confusing spasm of new season launches, with the result being viewer dissatisfaction and wasted promotional investments," Kellner said. "Fox doesn't plan to subject any of our program assets to this mindless and counterproductive marketing frenzy."
As a consequence, new episodes of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "The Ultimate Challenge" will begin in July, "Roc" will debut in August, "It's All In Your Head" and "Shut Up, Kids" in September and "Bill & Ted" in October.
Of course, part of this has to do with Fox's ability to get shows ready by September and its need to do something in order to gain some notice.
JANUARY SWITCH: Fox hasn't even trotted out its fall shows yet and it has already announced major schedule changes for January.
Come 1992, the network will switch its Friday night programs to Mondays (in the same time slots). And its Monday night movie will switch to Wednesdays.
The reason? Fox finally figured out that there just aren't as many people watching television on Fridays.
"The available audience on Friday has not proven to be as strong as expected," said Peter Chernin, president of the Fox Entertainment Group.
What he didn't explain was why, if this is such a great idea, the network is waiting until January to implement the change. And how a shift like this isn't just going to add to viewer confusion.CAROL ON CBS?: It looks like NBC, which failed to renew "Carol & Co.," will be competing against Burnett come this fall.
Burnett has been saying for some time that she was tired of her half-hour anthology format and wanted to go back to doing an hourlong variety show. The ratings for "Carol & Co." were pretty good (it finished 38th this past season), but NBC said no. However, that's not the end of the story.
When CBS announces its schedule later this week, don't be surprised if Carol Burnett is on it. She's currently negotiating with that network, where her very successful variety show ran from 1967-79.
And don't be surprised if she returns to Saturdays at 9 p.m.
Sounds like a great idea to me.
BYE, BYE FRED: Another show that didn't make NBC's fall schedule was "Hunter." And there's no one to blame for that but its star, Fred "Oversized Ego" Dryer.
Despite falling ratings, NBC was willing to pick "Hunter" up for an eighth season. And the production company was willing to keep producing it.
But Dryer priced himself right out of the market. Reportedly, he was demanding that his salary be increased from $150,000 per show to $350,000 per show.
That's an additional $4.4 million over 22 installments, a full season's worth of shows.
Get real, Fred. And good luck finding another job that'll pay you $150,000 a week.