The latest news from the TV beat

By Dan Snierson and Lynette Rice
Updated December 17, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

A Stake in the Future

Coming up on Fox: a very special episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! It sounds odd now, but TV insiders aren’t ruling out the possibility that when Buffy’s contract with The WB expires in 2001, negotiations may get so heated that show and network part ways. Right now The WB pays up to $1 million per episode for Buffy, making it one of the net’s most expensive shows (along with 7th Heaven and Dawson’s Creek), and although sources are hesitant to guess Buffy’s future asking price, you can be sure it won’t come cheap.

What makes this deal especially provocative are the players involved. Buffy is produced by Twentieth Century Fox TV, whose chairman, Sandy Grushow, was just handed additional responsibility for sister net Fox. Grushow could yank Buffy for his own net if The WB doesn’t pony up, a threat he made publicly at a gathering of studio heads last January: Buffy may hit the road, he said, if WB network CEO ”Jamie Kellner attempts to lowball and refuses to step up to fair market value.”

Although no successful series has ever abandoned one net for another, now that many major studios are affiliated with particular networks (Paramount/UPN; Twentieth Century Fox TV/Fox; Warner Bros. TV/The WB), the possibility gets ever more likely. And while The WB can’t afford to send the message that it won’t fork over the cash for its prize performers, execs have said privately they also can’t afford to let the Buffy deal get out of control—especially since there is some question about how much life is left in the series. (Watch the Slayer get her Ph.D.!) The WB does have some bargaining power, however; Fox produces two other shows for the net, Angel and Roswell, both of which need major TLC. Stay tuned to see if the bloodletting begins.

Carey-On Luggage

And the Hollywood boss-of-the-year award goes to… Drew Carey, who, along with exec producer Bruce Helford, has invited the cast and crew of The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line Is It Anyway? to a top secret April vacation. The weeklong trip is rumored to be costing the two around $1 million—peanuts from a guy worth multimillions, but it sure beats, say, the canaries Kirstie Alley gave the Veronica’s Closet cast at the end of last season. Generosity isn’t new for Carey; when the studio gave him a Porsche as a bonus, he gave his Miata to an assistant in need of wheels. ”Drew is a regular guy,” says an exec close to Carey. ”No matter how much he earns, he’ll always be just a guy from Cleveland who likes to share his good fortune.”

A Real Alien Concept

Hey, X-Files fans, break out the brewskies and polish up the Pinto. Chris Carter & Co. are working on a special episode that mimics the style of Fox’s shaky-cam reality show, COPS. The brainchild of X-Files coexec producer Vince Gilligan, the episode will follow a rookie cop on the streets of Los Angeles, where he bumps into Mulder and Scully. ”X-Files, in my mind, is sort of a cool and different COPS,” says Gilligan. Still under consideration is whether the Feb. 20 show will open with the familiar COPS logo. ”We don’t want people tuning in, seeing COPS, and saying, ‘What the heck? Our show was preempted this week.’ We need to try to make clear that it’s indeed an episode of The X-Files.” Okay, but can we at least get to see Mulder in a grimy tank top? (Additional reporting by Dan Snierson)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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