If you're a fan of anything on the Family Channel - with the exception of "The 700 Club" - say goodbye. The cable network's entire lineup will change as of Saturday, when it is relaunched as the Fox Family Channel.
It's about as complete a makeover as possible. (Although a few shows will linger for a couple of weeks.) And it will come complete with a new "attitude."Haim Saban, the chairman of Fox Kids Worldwide, promises "a family channel that is even more family than its predecessor."
"The new Fox Family Channel will serve an audience that many other networks have missed," he said. "We will provide television that the entire family will enjoy."
Which sounds lovely. But the emphasis is not really on the people who are already watching the Family Channel, it's on more advertiser-friendly families.
"We would love to have every single family in America watching Fox Family Channel, but we've got to focus," said Rich Cronin, president of Fox Kids Networks and FFC. "Our focus is on families that are a little younger, more suburban or urban, more plugged into pop culture - what we call contemporary families who appreciate a network with attitude."
There's that troublesome term "Fox attitude," which the new operators of the channel referred to continually at the recent TV critics press tour. TV viewers have grown accustomed to the "Fox attitude" that includes brashness and, often, tastelessness.
"We think it's a funny, quirky, surprising, savvy attitude that is combined with our mandate to always be safe for family viewing," Cronin said in an attempt at clarification.
"The fact is that most TV is not safe for family viewing," he added. "The current Family Channel has a strong following. But kids and teens are not sitting down with their parents to watch shows like `Diagnosis Murder' or `Hawaii Five-O.' These are fine shows - don't get me wrong - but we have the opportunity with Fox Family Channel to expand on the current audience by creating a network that the whole family will watch together. A network that entertains contemporary families with a Fox attitude."
FFC is going with all-original series in prime-time - but none of them appears to be exactly high-budget material.
- "Outrageous" (7 p.m.) is a "comedy scavenger hunt" in which teams compete to "create the funniest videos."
- "I Can't Believe You Said That!" (7:30 p.m.) is a family game show hosted by ex-NBA star John Salley.
- "Show Me the Funny" (8 p.m.) is a "Funniest Home Videos" clone.
- "The New Addams Family" (8:30 p.m.) - a live-action revival of the old series - joins the schedule on Oct. 19. (Until then, FFC will fill the time slot with a second episode of "Show Me the Funny.")
- "Mr. Bill Presents" (9 p.m.) features the clay character from "Saturday Night Live" as well as sketch comedy.
- And "Life, Camera Action" (9:30 p.m.) is another home-videos show.
And the new attitude will be expressed on Sunday night, when the Fox Family Channel airs the specials "Leo-Mania: DiCaprio's Unauthorized Biography" and "Spice Girls in Concert: Wild!"
The channel is also working on an ambitious slate of made-for-TV movies, kicking off with the spoof "National Lampoon's Men In White" on Sunday night and including titles like "Earthquake in New York," "National Lampoon's Golf Punks" and "Young Hercules."
"Our niche at Fox Family will be broad, irreverent," said Lance Robbins, who's in charge of movies for the channel.
And FFC will air theatrical films such as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "All of Me" - edited to TV-G ratings.
The daytime schedule is completely kid-oriented - no more "Home & Family" - and there's very little in the way of original programming. There are live-action shows such as "Pee-wee's Playhouse," "The All-New Captain Kangaroo" and "Shining Time Station" and cartoons ranging from "Eek!" to "Bobby's World" to "Dennis the Menace" to "Casper."
Saturdays and Sundays it's more animation, including a number of shows that once aired on the Fox broadcast network - shows like "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," "Spider Man" and "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?"
"Our goal is to get entire families watching and to have parents be perfectly comfortable sitting next to a 2-year-old, a 12-year-old or a 25-year-old to watch our shows," said Maureen Smith, general manager of the network.
Certainly an admirable goal. And most the FFC's programming does appear quite kid-friendly.
Whether adults are going to be particularly interested is more of a question, however.
VERY STRANGE: Perhaps the strangest part of the new Fox Family Channel is the continued presence of "The 700 Club" - the religious program hosted by televangelist Pat Robertson.
It was Robertson who sold the Family Channel to Fox - and keeping "The 700 Club" on the schedule (apparently in perpetuity) was part of the deal.
"We're happy to have Pat Robertson and his `700 Club' on the air," Saban said, rather unconvincingly. "We don't think it's conflicting with anything we're doing."
Right. It fits right in there in the midst of the morning cartoons.