If you've never heard of "Goose-bumps," you obviously don't have pre-adolescent children who like to read.
And lots of kids who don't like to read anything else like to read "Goose-bumps,"R.L. Stine's series of spooky kid thrillers that sell at the rate of 1.25 million per month.That right, per month.
More than 71 million "Goose-bumps" books have been sold since 1992.
"Kids like to be scared," Stine said recently. "It's a scary world, and I think scary stuff helps kids figure out how to deal with it."
Now the Fox Children's Network, which recognizes a hot kids trend when it sees one (these are, after all, the people behind the Power Rangers) is bringing "Goose-bumps" to television, in association with Scholastic Books.
The end result is something your 7-12 year olds won't want to miss. And it's something that parents just might enjoy as well.
The thing about both the "Goose-bumps" books and the TV shows is that they're scary, but they aren't gross or disgusting.
"I try to write about real kids - very normal, believable kids they can identify with," Stine said. "It's very important that the characters be believable. Then I put these totally believable kids into totally outlandish, scary situations.
"But there's never any violence. No one gets killed or hurt. And there's always a lot of humor."
If there's blood in "Goose-bumps," you can pretty much bet it came out of a ketchup bottle.
The premiere of "Goosebumps" airs in prime-time. "The Haunted Mask" (7 p.m., Ch. 13) follows a quiet, shy 11-year-old girl, Carly Beth, who's enchanted with a really scary Halloween mask. It's her chance to scare the boys who tease her.
But the mask isn't quite what it seems, and strange things start to happen.
The prime-time, hourlong kickoff is a prelude to a weekly half-hour series (Fridays, 4:30 p.m., Ch. 13) that begins Nov. 3. The first of those episodes, "The Cuckoo Clock of Doom," concerns a 12-year-old boy, his obnoxious 6-year-old sister, and a clock that warps time if you fool with it.
It's the sort of thing that kids will find intriguing and entertaining. And if it gets them reading the "Goose-bumps" books, so much the better.
MORE MUPPETS: ABC, which announced last summer that it was picking up "Muppets Live!" (formerly titled "The New Muppet Show"), is now going into partnership with those Muppets.
Capital Cities/ABC Inc. and Jim Henson Productions have announced an exclusive five-year partnership to create family television programming.
And the first fruits of that partnership will be a series titled "Aliens in the Family," which is scheduled to go into production in January for broadcast sometime next year.
"Aliens" follows the adventures of a single father, Doug, who was abducted by an alien spacecraft - and falls in love with an alien single mother, Cookie. They marry and return to suburbia.
"It is a challenging period of adjustment as Cookie's alien kids have to adjust to both a new school system and a new solar system. Meanwhile, Doug's human children have to deal with their strange new siblings, including the alien baby, Bobot, who acts as if he is Emperor of the Universe, and with good reason - he is."
(ABC's words, not mine.)
It's a live-action series that will employ "state-of-the-art animatronics and puppetry, one generation past the breakthrough technology introduced in Jim Henson Productions' `Dinosaurs.' "
WORKAHOLIC: That Jay Leno just can't seem to get enough of hosting "The Tonight Show."
One item in his new contract - which will keep him at NBC through the year 2000 - is at least a little bit odd. Leno actually wanted less vacation time than the network offered.
Quite a switch from "Tonight's" former host, Johnny Carson.
Leno finally agreed to take five weeks a year. But it's with the stipulation that no guest hosts be brought in - NBC must show reruns of past Leno appearances.
"SNL" TOPS "MAD": The folks at Fox made quite a big deal out of the fact that, in its debut, "Mad TV" topped "Saturday Night Live" in the ratings.
Of course, Fox played down the fact that "SNL" was a rerun that week.
This past Saturday, a new installment of "SNL" trounced "Mad" by 1.7 rating points. And in the half hour that they overlap (10:30 p.m.-11 p.m.), "SNL" did even better, openign a 2.9 rating point gap.
Adding to the bad news for Fox was that "Mad TV" was down by 1.4 rating points from its debut - not a good sign.
(What all of this does not take into account is that both shows are lousy.)
UPN GETS THE BLUES: Speaking of "Saturday Night Live," a pair of former "SNL" characters are headed for the United Paramount Network.
"The Blues Brothers," based on the characters created by Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi, is being turned into a half-hour animated series that will air in prime time.
UPN has ordered 13 episodes, and the show might be ready to go on the air in March, when the network wannabe is scheduled to begin airing a third night of programming.
Aykroyd and Belushi's widow, Judy Belushi Pisano, are among the producers.
And speaking of Dan Aykroyd, the former Ghostbuster is going to host an hourlong syndicated series about the paranormal titled "The PSI Factor." It's set to debut in the fall of 1996.
Aykroyd apparently came up with the concept and will serve as its executive producer as well.
Hmmm . . . when was the last time you saw Aykroyd in a hit movie?
SHE'S STILL THE BOSS: Her latest tantrum aside, Roseanne apparently still throws a lot of weight around at ABC.
The Nov. 7 episode of "Rose-anne" will be telecast in black and white. It's a parody of '50s TV, but a major network broadcasting anything in black and white these days is all but unprecedented.
CHANGES AT FOX: Well, Fox has pretty much given up on its new Saturday and Sunday sitcoms - at least for the all-important November Sweeps.
"The Preston Episodes," "Too Something" and "Misery Loves Company" are all going on hiatus. Fox promises they'll return at some future date. (But if they didn't, the viewers would come out winners on this.)
The bad news is that the utterly awful "Martin" is getting a reprieve. The show will move from Saturdays at 7 p.m. - where it was bombing badly - to Sundays at 7:30 p.m. beginning Nov. 5.
(Well, it is just about the only show that Fox has that's as tasteless as "Married . . . With Children," which will follow "Martin" on Sundays.)
Worse yet, Fox has scheduled full hours of "Married" for Nov. 5, 19 and 26 - two repeat episodes that follow original episodes on the 5th and 19th and a full-hour clip-fest titled "The Wide World of Bundy" on Nov. 26.
As for Saturdays, Fox has convicted rapist Mike Tyson's boxing match with Buster Mathis Jr. on Nov. 4.
The following two weeks it's episodes of the schlocky unreality series "Encounters: The Hidden Truth." And then it's a third airing of "Alien Autopsy: Fact orFiction."
As to good news for viewers in all of this . . . there isn't any.
BAILING OUT: Once again, Peter MacNicol has decided to quit the CBS drama "Chicago Hope." But, despite some reports that he has been unhappy on the series since it began last season, MacNicol told the Los Angeles Daily News that just wasn't so.
No, MacNicol's discontent came when creator David E. Kelley left the series this season. The former executive producer and writer is working on a new project, and he's currently just a consultant on "Hope."
Kelley, the former "L.A. Law" executive producer/writer who also created and produced "Picket Fences," is himself a former lawyer. And MacNicol, playing the only lawyer on a show full of doctors, felt he greatly benefitted from having Kelley doing the writing.
(And the fact is that, with Kelley weilding the pen, MacNicol's character had some of the snappiest scenes in the show.)
As to what becomes of Mac-Nicol's character, here's the scoop. If you want to be surprised, don't read the rest of this story. REPEAT: IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED, DON'T READ THE NEXT THREE PARAGRAPHS!!!
MacNicol and Mandy Patinkin, who plays Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, are actually leaving the series on the same episode. But while Patinkin may return as a guest star, Mac-Nicol will not.
His character, Alan Birch, will be killed in an accident. And Geiger's "self-centered world at Chicago Hope shatters and he learns that he must suddenly grow up and take responsibility for his actions."
Word is that Geiger will adopt Birch's adopted daughter and leave the hospital to devote his time to raising her.