Fox’s inside-Hollywood fall sitcom, Action, is that rare example of network envelope pushing that works. Problem is, this potential breakout show might scare away advertisers with its bleep-filled dialogue and edgy humor.
”We spent a quarter of a million dollars and we got the wrong Jew!” screams hotheaded Xanax-popping movie exec Peter Dragon (Jay Mohr) after his assistant confuses the name Rafkin with Rifkin and purchases the wrong script. Dragon also makes reference to his well-endowed studio boss’ ”anaconda.”
There’s no question that this ribald look at Hollywood is inventive, but whether advertisers (who have bemoaned networks’ dull programming) will support it despite the inevitable controversy is another matter.
”We have clients who don’t want to be in it,” says media buyer Paul Schulman of Schulman/Advanswers NY, who personally likes Action and thinks if Fox sticks with it, any controversy will fade. ”If Action clicks, maybe the networks can come close to [airing] what pay cable does. I hope it works.”
”As the show starts up, it will probably be a tough sell for Procter & Gamble,” acknowledges Action creator and exec producer Chris Thompson. ”But advertisers trying to attract young people ought to be lining up.” And if the show is a hit, everyone will want in. Says Thompson: ”A 30 share can cover up a lot of sins.”
Just the facts
It’s a great story: A Connecticut prep school headmaster leads a one-man revolt against Fox’s raunchy Family Guy and succeeds in persuading some advertisers to pull spots from the show in the name of family values. Problem is, that’s not the whole story. Richardson Schell, the Kent School head leading the anti-Family charge, also has a personal ax to grind with Family Guy creator and 1991 Kent grad Seth MacFarlane.
Apparently, Schell is upset that MacFarlane chose the surname Griffin for the show’s fictional family — the same name as a Schell aide. Schell, Fox execs say, asked MacFarlane to rename the clan before the show debuted but was refused. MacFarlane’s mom even got caught in the fray, quitting her job in the Kent admissions office to avoid the tension between Schell and her son. The Griffins are said to be considering litigation against Fox and MacFarlane. Schell was unavailable for comment. A Fox spokesman said, ”None of the show’s characters are based on any real family.” Thank God.