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Baseball Gets Priority on Fox This Fall

Television: Some shows on the network will start their seasons in late August; others will wait until October, after the World Series.

July 18, 1996|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fox Broadcasting said Wednesday that it will roll out its prime-time lineup in staggered fashion this fall because of interruptions caused by the baseball playoffs and World Series.

For that reason, "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Party of Five," "Living Single" and "New York Undercover" will begin their new seasons in late August, and other shows--among them "Millennium," the new drama from "The X-Files" creator Chris Carter--will be delayed until after the World Series in late October.

Fox will also bring back "Melrose Place" and "Martin" and introduce two new Monday comedies before the official Sept. 16 start of the new season.

In a sign of the times, Fox Entertainment Group President John Matoian opened a press conference with TV critics in Pasadena by joking about persistent rumors that he is leaving the network.

"So far none of them are true," Matoian said, adding, "I promise you if anything happens, I'm sure you'll know about it before I do."

A onetime CBS executive, Matoian is approaching his two-year anniversary at Fox. The networks in general--and Fox in particular--have been characterized by frequent personnel upheaval in recent years.

Fox will begin the season with its top-rated show, "The X-Files," in its current Friday time period for several weeks before shifting the series to Sundays, allowing "Millennium" to take over its Friday time slot.

The network is hoping "The X-Files" will benefit from the fact that viewing levels are about 20% higher on Sundays than on Fridays and from the promotional base provided by Sunday afternoon football games.

Matoian added that Fox will do "everything in our power" to get "X-Files" started at 9 p.m. on the East Coast, joining other programs in progress, if necessary, when football runs over into prime time. Fox has scheduled a game show, "Big Deal," at 7 p.m. Sundays in the fall, and it could be collapsed to accommodate such overruns.

According to Matoian, Fox has yet to decide whether Carter's new drama, "Millennium," will carry a parental advisory. The show is about a former FBI investigator with a facility for tracking serial killers.

Fox confirmed orders on three previously announced comedy series for midseason: "Pauly," starring comic Pauly Shore as a wealthy man's son forced to live with his father and his much younger wife; "Secret Service Guy," featuring Judge Reinhold as a security guard who joins the service after unwittingly saving the president; and "King of the Hill," an animated series from "Beavis and Butt-head" creator Mike Judge.

The last of those is seen as a likely companion to "The Simpsons" and will premiere in January, possibly after the Super Bowl, which the network will televise for the first time. Fox didn't specify what will follow the game, but NBC has already announced plans for a one-hour "3rd Rock From the Sun" that night, trying to steal away viewers.

Fox is also pushing into new times of day, adding a morning show, "Fox After Breakfast," in August and a late-night serial, "13 Bourbon Street," which will premiere in January.

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