On the Air
The latest news from the TV beat
When Kevin Williamson left his beloved Dawson’s Creek this season to develop the vapid Wasteland for ABC, it was as if a Carolina hurricane hit The WB drama: The three-year-old show dropped 27 percent in viewers. So, did other scribes learn from Williamson’s mistake? Nosirree. Darren Star is gradually exiting his creation, HBO’s Sex and the City, to concentrate on two network projects that look good for a fall pickup (one’s a Wall Street drama for Fox, the other a twentysomething WB soap); and hot writers like Bonnie and Terry Turner (That ’70s Show), Rene Balcer (Law & Order), Adam Chase (Friends), and, eventually, Chuck Lorre (Dharma & Greg) are either expanding their reach or leaving their signature shows altogether to develop elsewhere. Star insists his heavy schedule won’t hurt Sex (not only did he prewrite this season’s episodes, he — like the Turners and Lorre — will handpick a show-runner who’ll mind the store day to day). “If I had stayed on Beverly Hills, 90210, I’d be finishing my run now, and I would have never done anything else,” says Star. “There’d be no Melrose Place and no Sex and the City.” Of course, there also wouldn’t have been Central Park West.
Topless Fox, Part 1
Don’t hold your breath for Fox to announce its sixth entertainment president in 11 years before May 18, when the network reveals its fall plans to the New York City advertising community. Typically, the president uses this day to unveil new shows and reflect on Fox’s stability — but that strategy flew out the window with the recent resignation of Doug Herzog, who was only on the job 15 months. Speculation over a possible successor has swirled around Regency TV topper Gail Berman — whose latest claim to fame is developing Malcolm in the Middle for Fox — but network insiders insist nothing’s firm. Said one top TV agent: “It’s very possible they’ve already identified the candidate and made a deal, but the person won’t start until June 1.” That could be a blessing: Anyone who jumps on board now could inadvertently take some heat if the network’s fall development proves to be disastrous. After all, since Tori Spelling is likely to be heading up a new Fox sitcom, would you want to be blamed for that?
Topless Fox, Part 2
Give Party of Five star Matthew Fox credit for sticking to his word. While discussing the pitfalls of fame with an EW reporter back in 1996, he made the following pledge: “The minute I’m done with this show, I’m going to shave my head and shave my beard, and nobody in the world will know who I am….I mean it, I’m serious.” Sure enough, at the April 6 PO5 finale fete, he showed up sans mane and facial hair. And as for being unrecognizable? Well, Matthew, two out of three ain’t bad.