Thursday afternoon Joss Whedon grabbed a snack at a Manhattan hot dog cart. It was a brief respite for the producer at the center of two network lineups being unveiled at upfront presentations that day. Whedon’s ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer” continues to hold down a key spot on UPN’s schedule, while his new series, ”Firefly,” beat out James Cameron’s ailing ”Dark Angel” for a Friday spot on Fox.
Not even the self-proclaimed King of the World’s direction of the ”Dark Angel” season finale could save the series from a smackdown by Fox executives. In fact, Fox’s schedule is looking like a night of the network’s ”Celebrity Boxing,” with a long line of fading has-beens being knocked out, and a line of similar, equally obscure contenders declaring victory. Along with ”Dark Angel,” Fox is ringing the bell on ”Ally McBeal,” ”The X-Files,” ”Undeclared,” ”That ’80s Show,” ”Titus,” ”Greg the Bunny,” and even the seemingly unkillable ”Family Guy.” In their places are a whopping 10 new shows that resemble previous hits. They include:
”Firefly” Whedon has described his new show as a Western in space. Like ”Buffy,” it features a shipload of attractive young unknowns and one older mentor figure (”Barney Miller”’s Ron Glass).
”Fastlane” ”Charlie’s Angels” director McG brings you another babelicious action franchise, this one starring Tiffani Thiessen as an ”Alias”-like heroine.
”John Doe” Following ”Firefly” on Fridays will be this ”Memento”-like puzzler about an amnesiac trying to recall his identity while fighting shadowy pursuers. Meat Loaf plays a bartender named Ripper who dispenses advice to the show’s hero.
”Girls Club” Replacing ”Ally” will be another David E. Kelley show about women lawyers — three of them, to be exact, living in San Francisco, not Boston. They’ll be played by Gretchen Mol, ”90210” alumna Kathleen Robertson, and Chyler Leigh of the just-canceled ”’80s Show.”
”Septuplets” Miss ”Party of Five”? Maybe you’ll like this party of seven, a group of 16-year-old siblings living in a seaside hotel. At least their folks are still alive.
”Oliver Beene” Like ”Malcolm in the Middle”? Then you’ll dig this sitcom about a wacky family with one smart son. But it’s set in the 1960s, like ”The Wonder Years.”
”The Grubbs” This remake of a British sitcom about a blue-collar family with a dough-faced dad sounds a lot like CBS’ new ”Still Standing.” Here, dad and mom are Randy Quaid and Carol Kane.
”The Cedric Show” Cedric the Entertainer will follow fellow Original King of Comedy Bernie Mac’s sitcom with this half-hour of sketch comedy.
”30 Seconds of Fame” Think ”Gong Show” in this reality talent contest, which Fox is saving until after baseball season ends.
”Meet the Marks” A post-baseball companion to ”30 Seconds,” it sounds like a cross between ”The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” and ”Big Brother.” Hapless civilians will visit a house rigged with hidden cameras, inhabited by a family who are really a group of improv comedians.