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The latest news from the TV beat

Eddie Murphy, ”Dawson’s Creek,” ”Ally McBeal,” and more made news this week

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‘Tisn’t the season?
”Whitney Houston, we have a problem.” That’s probably what The PJs‘ Thurgood Stubbs said when he heard about Fox’s decision to delay his series’ return until mid-season.

It wasn’t ratings that did The PJs in. The sitcom — cocreated by Eddie Murphy (who voices Thurgood) — managed to outperform King of the Hill and Futurama (both of which are coming back in the fall). No, it was purely a matter of color: green. The two other shows are produced by Fox’s sister studio, Twentieth Century Fox TV, as is Ally McBeal, whose ”new” half-hour version will occupy the space The PJs could’ve had. Since The PJs comes from an outside supplier (Imagine Television), it’s a victim of bottom-line politics.

”Eddie was really upset when this happened,” says one Imagine TV exec, who adds that the star even considered exiting the show. People close to Murphy are hoping he’s just blowing off steam and will return. Fortunately for The PJs, Fox has been known to have more than a few fall shows tank early in the season. ”Hopefully, we’ll be the phoenix rising from the ashes,” says the exec.

Bare facts
Fans of sex-filled TV can rejoice. Next season looks very promising! The pilot of The WB’s high school drama Popular features one girl having sexual fantasies about a teacher, while another girl divulges her desire to ”go all the way” with her boyfriend. In Fox’s drama Manchester Prep, a teenage girl admires her stepbrother’s manhood while he’s showering. And Fox’s new sitcom Action is already keeping censors busy with sexual euphemisms like ”hum job.”

You know the Parents Television Council won’t be pleased — the conservative advocacy group is still reeling from this season. Its new study says TV is ”more offensive than ever” and sexual content has ”skyrocketed.” Shows cited include Ally McBeal (particularly the episode in which the waif lawyer discusses penis size with a priest) and The WB’s Dawson’s Creek (including an episode in which the cast discusses porn titles such as The Sperminator and Little Oral Annie).

In contrast, another watchdog group, the Media Project, recognizes that fighting sexual content on TV is an uphill battle and has consulted on several shows (including ER, Felicity, and Creek). Recently, King of the Hill producers called for advice on an upcoming episode about Bobby’s discovering the joys of self-pleasure (thank God it’s animated).

”We’re not going to get sex off of TV,” says Media Project director Kate Langrall-Folb. ”We can still have sexy, fun, entertaining shows and incorporate the realities of sex.” While Langrall-Folb says most shows try to be responsible, there are a few she’d like to have a say on. ”I would love to meet the producers of Friends,” she says. So would anyone who’s ever gone apartment hunting in New York City.

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