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IN THE KNOW / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Speaking of Infatuation . . .

September 28, 1998

No one expects Alanis Morissette to match the astounding 15 million sales of her 1995 album "Jagged Little Pill" with the follow-up, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie," which is due in stores Nov. 3. But don't tell that to radio programmers and fans who are showing their continued infatuation with the Canadian singer by strongly embracing "Thank U," the first track from the album to be released to radio. You can bet everyone from record retailers to execs will be watching the trade publication Radio & Records this week to see how high the single enters the various radio charts. The advance word is that "Thank U" will do well indeed. The publication has already reported that the track was last week's most-added song at four different radio formats--pop, alternative, adult alternative and "hot" adult contemporary. That gives it an extremely rare quadruple crown. And this is just the start. A video for the song is now being shot in Los Angeles by director Stephane Sednaoui, who did Morissette's eye-catching "Ironic" clip. It's set to premiere on MTV and VH1 in mid-October, coinciding with a brief tour that includes an Oct. 14 date at the Hollywood Palladium. "The number of stations adding the song are indicative of someone who's really emerged at superstar status," says Steve Wonsiewicz, music editor of R&R. "She's become so mass appeal that everyone wants to be playing Alanis Morissette."

This Year, Networks Stick With the Script

Networks have used every imaginable ploy in recent years to get people to check out new series, including "previews" in time periods in which the network already has a big audience. Two years ago, for example, NBC introduced "The Pretender" in "ER's" ward, while CBS rolled out last year's Friday night entry "The Gregory Hines Show" with a Monday telecast after "Cosby." This fall, however, the networks appear to have reached the conclusion that programs must ultimately sink or swim in their regular slots, and moving them around only risks confusing viewers. As a result, just one new series, "Vengeance Unlimited," will open the season out of position, making its debut Tuesday in the 10 p.m. parking space normally reserved for "NYPD Blue." The ABC program, starring Michael Madsen as a shadowy figure who avenges miscarriages of justice (and co-starring Kathleen York), then segues into its regular 8 p.m. Thursday slot. That hour, long dominated by NBC's "Friends," has proven especially unfriendly to new ABC dramas, with a casualty list that includes "Nothing Sacred," "Prey," "High Incident" and "Charlie Grace." Small wonder, then, that ABC wants to give "Vengeance" a running start, even if might be heading toward a brick wall.

The Big Screen's Latest Wild and Crazy Guys

Predicting the box-office potential of movies inspired by "Saturday Night Live" skits is like trying to predict the direction of today's Dow Jones Industrial Average. There have been blockbuster hits like "Wayne's World," which grossed $121.7 million domestically. There have been profitable films like the 1980 Dan Aykroyd-John Belushi comedy "The Blues Brothers" ($54.2 million) and "Wayne's World 2" ($46.7 million). And there have been flops like "The Coneheads" ($21 million), "Stuart Saves His Family" ($911,171) and "It's Pat: The Movie" ($50,344). On Friday, Paramount Pictures is rolling the dice with another feature-length "SNL"-inspired comedy, "A Night at the Roxbury." The film is based on the popular Roxbury Guys, the "we're so cool," head-bobbing nightclubbers created by Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan on "Saturday Night Live" sketches. Paramount and NBC, which is an investor in the film, have forged a partnership to market "A Night at the Roxbury." On Thursday night, NBC provided free commercial spots--$2 million worth of promotional air time--to promote the movie. On Saturday night, NBC aired "The Bad Boys of Saturday Night Live" featuring the Roxbury Guys, and the duo also was prominently featured on that night's "SNL" season premiere with Cameron Diaz as host (see related story, F10). Paramount marketing chief Arthur Cohen said that the studio's target under-23 audience is a big fan of "SNL." But making a successful movie out of a TV skit is not that simple. "I think it's very tough to take something that on television may run for one to five minutes and change the scope of that into a theatrical film," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. The Blues Brothers worked, he said, because the characters were funny and versatile. "You could put them in outer space," Dergarabedian said. However, he added, it is difficult wrapping an entire movie around something like writer-performer Al Franken's self-affirmation guru, Stuart Smalley. "What may work for two minutes," he said, "doesn't necessarily work for 90."

--Compiled by Times staff writers and contributors

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