FOX gives boot to 'reality' -- some of it -- in fall plans
May 21, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- In a week filled with fall TV-network schedule announcements, the FOX lineup news has been perhaps the most surprising.
The network says it's keeping some of its proven performers -- including actor Jennifer Love Hewitt and "McBeal"-maker David E. Kelley. And it's dumping three "reality-based" programs, a genre for which the network has been known -- and criticized .
The perennially low-rated UPN also announced its fall plans Thursday. The two networks were the last of the seven broadcast commercial networks to unveil their fall schedules to advertisers this week.
Announcing its fall season prime-time lineup, FOX says it's putting the lens cap on "World's Wildest Police Videos," a "reality" show that often features disturbing situations involving violent confrontations with law-enforcement officers. "Guinness World Records: Prime Time" gets no time in the new schedule. And the home-video show "World's Funniest" has had its last laugh, too.
The proven performers? The network is to premiere a virtual-reality game gone awry from Chris Carter, the man behind the hit sci-fi show "The X-Files"; a new half-hour spinoff of Kelley's creation, "Ally McBeal"; and another spinoff series, "Time of Your Life," with "Party of Five" star Hewitt.
"I think Sarah has become a huge role model for teen-age girls and teen-agers in America, which I'm very happy about," Hewitt says about her role on the long-running FOX drama.
"But I think Sarah is one of the only characters that's not an essential part of the five, and breaking up the five would not be a good idea. So that kind of left my character dangling out there for a chance to either leave the show or spin off. And they chose to spin off."
Short skirts, shorter show
That new second "Ally McBeal" show, slated to air on Tuesdays, is to include the same characters, cast and theme -- an unconventional Boston law firm of attorneys who tend to break into song in the unisex bathroom.
Episodes are to be fashioned from outtakes and material from the show's first two seasons, but the stories are to be set at the firm and after hours -- not in court.
FOX says it's canceling another Carter vehicle, "Millennium" (Carter created and was the executive producer for the show). And the network has taken the animated comedy "The PJs" off the schedule -- although executives say it's to return as a sub-series.
The issue of violence on TV
The move to dump the "reality" shows comes after network executives made a pledge to move away from screen violence. "We've seen some dramatic changes in the country's attitudes toward violence over the last couple of weeks," says Doug Herzog, president of entertainment for FOX Broadcasting Company. "It's a sensitive issue and we'll be keeping our eye on it, no question about it."
Still, "Cops" -- another show that follows police around with a camera -- and "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," in which crimes are re-enacted by actors, are to remain part of the network's Saturday night lineup.
And two new FOX dramas also appear violent, based on trailers shown to journalists on Thursday evening: Carter creation "Harsh Realm" is about a soldier ordered to test a top-secret military combat training game. The other new drama, "Ryan Caulfield," is about a 19-year-old rookie policeman who on his first day at the job is at the scene of a multiple homicide. The trailer shows him walking among blood-spattered bodies, and later, shooting at suspects.
UPN: Wrestling with low ratings
Meanwhile, struggling mini-network UPN has announced it will sink its "Love Boat" remake. And, noting pro wrestling's hold on the cable-TV audience, it's adding a two-hour weekly World Wrestling Federation show -- "WWF Smackdown!" -- to its schedule.
The new wrestling program is slated for 8 p.m. Thursdays, and will be tamer than its cable counterparts, UPN president Dean Valentine says.
"It will probably be toned down a bit in terms of language and the upraised finger -- you'll see a lot less of it," Valentine says.
UPN also plans to spin off its most popular sitcom, "Moesha," with a new comedy called "Mo'Nique" -- and to shift its comedies aimed at the African-American audience to Mondays.
In addition to "Love Boat," the network says it's canceling "Clueless," "The Sentinel" and "Between Brothers."
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