On The Air
— STATS ALL, FOLKS! The 1997-98 television season brought more bad viewership news for the big-four networks, which hit historic lows by averaging a meager 59 percent of the prime-time audience.
But like all good statisticians, the nets know how to put a positive spin on even the most dismal numbers. CBS, for example, boasts of being the only network to see a hike in total viewers (its average prime-time audience was up 2 percent — courtesy of the Winter Olympics — to 14.1 million). NBC can claim another first-place win in overall viewers (averaging 14.9 million) and the all-important 18-to-49 demos, while Fox crows about finishing second for the first time ever among that age group. In the battle between the would-be networks, The WB can celebrate overtaking UPN in total viewers for the first time. And as for faltering ABC, well, you can only massage the numbers just so much.
— BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD Although Fox just got done unveiling its lineup for next fall, people are mostly buzzing about two of its animated mid-season replacements: The PJs and Family Guy.
The PJs — done in ”Foamation” by the Will Vinton Studios, which produced the California Raisins ad campaign — features Eddie Murphy as the voice of Thurgood Stubbs, the superintendent of a housing project. From the pilot’s opening line of ”Where’s my whore?” to Stubbs pleading with his gun-toting neighbors to keep the noise down by using silencers, the shock-filled comedy could raise a South Park-style ruckus.
Equally outrageous is the cartoon Family Guy, about a Simpsons-esque dysfunctional family featuring Baby Stewie, an evil 2-1/2-year-old who’s hell-bent on killing his mother.
Hoping to use its upcoming NFL play-offs and Super Bowl coverage as a promotional platform, Fox plans to launch The PJs and Family Guy in late January.
— AND SO ON This fall, fans of Michael Madsen, the star of ABC’s new action drama (currently titled Mr. Chapel), may stare into his deep blue eyes and think they’re just too good to be true. Guess what? They’d be right. ABC, which is hoping Madsen will become the net’s biggest sex symbol since the Fonz, wanted to make his greenish blue eyes bluer and is getting producers at Warner Bros. TV to do touch-up work via computer.