Fans of shootouts, car crashes, and people who pee in coffeepots may experience withdrawal come May sweeps. Reality-fare stalwart Fox is planning only four specials next month (six fewer than last May’s shock-athon). Instead, the net will air such films as Demolition Man (for the — yawn — third time) and Billy Madison.
Officially, Fox is keeping mum on the rationale behind the bite into reality, but insiders say there are essentially three reasons: First, despite the fact that the gritty specials bring in the highly desired young-male demo, many advertisers won’t pay top dollar for the racy content (read: The network isn’t getting enough buck for its bang). Second, now that ABC and NBC are copycatting Fox, the market is so glutted with attacking animals and office workers gone bad that the novelty is wearing off. And third, new Fox Entertainment chief Doug Herzog has indicated a desire to pull back from the net’s reliance on shock. Of course, if this approach doesn’t sit well with Fox reality guru Mike Darnell, could When Spurned Programmers Attack! be far off?
Hoping to capture the Friday-night adult audience that the success of NBC’s Providence has proved is out there, ABC is rethinking its kid-centric lineup. On April 9, 1999 the Alphabet bumped the Olsen twins’ Two of a Kind to make room for the twentysomething sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. In its first Friday-night outing in the 9 p.m. slot, Pizza improved on its Boy Meets World lead-in by 34 percent in adults 18 to 49. ABC may make the move permanent, possibly adding The Hughleys to the TGIF lineup come next fall.
While ABC wants to get older on Fridays, the trick will be luring an adult audience without alienating the kids and parents who count on TGIF to be a sexual-innuendo-free haven. It’s a delicate balancing act. As ABC scheduling chief Jeff Bader puts it: ”How kidsy do you have to be?”
As for the Olsens, if ABC bails, chances are Kind producer Warner Bros. will move the show to The WB. After all, today’s Olsen fan is tomorrow’s Felicity fanatic.