Jamie Kellner, president and chief operating officer of Fox Broadcasting Co., recently noted (with eyebrows significantly raised) that there would be a full moon for the debut episode at 8 tonight of "Werewolf," the newest entry in the program service's fledgling prime-time schedule.
Well, not quite a full moon, Kellner. That was Friday.
Still, the moon will be full enough to make tonight's launch of Fox Broadcasting's Saturday night lineup--with a special two-hour "Werewolf"--eerily appropriate. (Also eerily appropriate: The show's creator is named Frank Lupo --Italian for wolf .)
Fox Broadcasting Co., a satellite-delivered national program service that supplies programming to KTTV Channel 11 here and other independents nationwide, made its first prime-time programming splash in April with a lineup of Sunday night programs; the service had joined the late-night circuit last October with its first program, "Late Night With Joan Rivers." Fox still airs "Late Night" but without Rivers, following the comedienne's controversial removal from the show in May.
Saturday night marks not only a new phase of the moon but the newest phase in the Fox plan to launch one night of new prime-time programming every six to 12 months (next will be Friday, then Thursday, and so on). Fox chose to start with weekends on the theory that it would be easier to get audiences thinking in terms of a new viewing alternative then, rather than on some random weeknight.
Tonight and over the next two Saturdays, Fox will unveil four series: "Werewolf," a half-hour horror drama about a young werewolf on a quest to rid himself of the curse; "The New Adventures of Beans Baxter," a comedy about a teen-ager who becomes entangled in top-secret espionage; "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," a comedy based on the movie, and "Karen's Song," starring Patty Duke as a 40-year-old who falls in love with a 28-year-old man.
"Werewolf," slated to find its permanent home at 9 p.m., was thought to be the best show to compete with the strongest network show in that time slot, NBC's "Golden Girls," because it should appeal to males 18-49 who don't watch "Golden Girls." Kellner predicts that, although lead werewolf Eric Cord (John York) is post-college age, the show will have wide teen-wolf appeal as well.
"There hasn't been, to my knowledge, any kind of action-horror series since (the 1974-75 series) 'The Night Stalker,' " Kellner said. "It has a young male lead, a handsome male lead--at least, half the time he's handsome."
Fox programming chief Garth Ancier added: "It gives us something more defined than just going for another cop show."
Fox changed its original plans to begin the Saturday schedule May 30 to allow more time to concentrate on promoting its Sunday lineup, which includes "21 Jump Street," an action-adventure show that has turned out to be the most popular Sunday entry; "Married . . . With Children," an insult-comedy featuring unhappy couple Al and Peg Bundy; the romantic comedy "Duet," "The Tracey Ullman Show," featuring British comedienne Ullman in an unconventional blend of skits and animation, and "Mr. President," starring George C. Scott as the chief executive.
For Sundays, the delay paid off. Kellner and Fox programming chief Garth Ancier both said that ratings have steadily increased over the last few months, and all the Sunday shows were considered successful enough to be renewed.
"Actually, we \o7 had\f7 to have these shows work," Ancier said. "We had some back-up shows, but not enough to cover if anything had been a dismal failure. If you get talented people, there is a growth period--they can usually fix a show. The shows have gotten better throughout the season. That's true of any show--the first season of 'Cosby' was not as good as the second. We're really looking forward to our second season."
Ancier does not believe that "The Late Show" falls into the "dismal failure" category despite the demise of Rivers. "What Joan did for us was launch us as a station group in this venture," he said. "It would have been much more difficult to do without a person to rally around. I think the challenge for us now is discovering what a late show is without Joan Rivers as host, somebody the show was really built around."
Kellner said that advertisers have become increasingly interested in Fox's young, affluent demographics. "Advertisers are saying that we're where NBC was five years ago," Kellner chortled, referring to NBC's rise to No.1 both in the ratings and with advertisers for targeting young audiences. "Major advertisers are treating us like one of the three networks. They're treating us like a big guy!"