The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice
January 14, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Monster Smash?

Fox may be looking to cut back on the reality-TV biz, but UPN’s more than willing to pick up the slack. Look for a new spate of reality programming to emerge this winter on the fledgling network. First up: the stunt series I Dare You (which will feature such ”plots” as a guy who bungee-jumps from one helicopter into the spinning blades of another!). Then, just in time for sweeps, comes Feb. 29’s The Great Monster Truck Race, which could actually become a series if the hour-long special steers home some ratings. ”This isn’t Busted on the Job or Shocking Moments on Video,” said UPN Entertainment President Tom Nunan, trying to distance his net’s shows from Fox’s decidedly lowbrow fare. ”These are sports-related programs and much more ad friendly.” Are you listening, monster tire companies?

The Ali Shuffle

ABC proved it can sting like a bee when it comes to rushing a Muhammad Ali biopic to the small screen. Originally slated for the February sweeps — when Fox’s competing flick, Ali: An American Hero, was set to air — the Alphabet’s Muhammad Ali: King of the World will now debut Jan. 10, thereby beating Fox to the punch. At first, Fox was tempted to retaliate by moving its Ali project up even earlier but then decided to shelve it for a later date rather than take away valuable promotional time from new shows like Malcolm in the Middle. Says one Fox source: ”It’s not worth getting into a p—ing match over.”

Cox Fights

Antenna salesmen could make a killing in Texas, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., where 430,000 cable subscribers are now without Fox programming because their operator, Cox, refuses to grant the net a new retransmission deal (Cox considers it unreasonable that the network is now demanding digital distribution of Fox Sports World and FXM: Movies From Fox). In addition to disciples of Ally McBeal and The X-Files, et al., the fans most inconvenienced are those of the Dallas Cowboys, whose play-off games air on Fox. How long will this standoff last? ”It’ll be determined by how important Cox feels these local Fox stations are to their subscribers,” says the net’s Tom Tyrer, ”and how much of an impact new competitors like satellite TV may have in those markets.” Responds Cox’s Amy Cohn: ”We’re hopeful we can resolve this as soon as possible.” Rabbit ears, anyone?