The Fox Broadcasting Co. is hanging its hopes for next fall on Dabney Coleman, Baltimore's Charles Dutton and some sleight-of-hand programming aimed at disguising what a bad year it's been for the fourth network.
Overall, Fox will introduce five new shows for next year's season, while canceling three regular series -- "Babes," "Against the Law" and "Top of the Heap."
The two most promising new shows are "Roc" and "Shut Up, Kids." Dutton and his fellow cast members from Broadway's "The Piano Lesson" are the big attraction in "Roc," a comedy about a garbage man, which is produced by Stan Daniels ("Mary Tyler Moore" and "Taxi"). Dutton, a former Towson State student, plays garbage man Roc Emerson. "Shut Up, Kids" stars Coleman as a con man forced to teach fourth grade in lieu of going to prison for tax evasion.
Fox's other new entries are: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures," a spin-off of the movie about two teen-age time travelers; "It's All in Your Head," a sitcom where actors play emotions and impulses inside the brain of a character named Herman; and "The Ultimate Challenge," a show featuring real-life daredevil and sports challenges from the makers of "American Gladiators."
In announcing its schedule yesterday, Fox President Jamie Kellner tried to emphasize the network's strategy more than specific shows. Kellner said Fox is going to break away from the traditional pattern of launching all its shows in the fall. "Every September," he said, "viewers are assaulted with a hopeless spasm of new season launches. . . . Fox doesn't plan to subject any of our program assets to this mindless and counterproductive programming frenzy."
As a result, Fox will launch "The Ultimate Challenge" in July, "Roc" in August, "It's All in Your Head" and "Shut Up, Kids" in September and "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in October.
Kellner is right about the clutter of the fall launch. But his approach does not appear to be the answer. NBC tried starting new shows in August last year, and most of those shows failed.
Kellner said Fox will move toward a year-round schedule of dTC original programming starting this year. His first step was to order 30 episodes, instead of the traditional 22, of "In Living Color."
Included in last fall's crop of new shows that were renewed yesterday for another season is "True Colors," the interracial sitcom set in Baltimore. Chris Elliott's "Get a Life" won't air this fall, but will return in January, Kellner said.
Fox fall schedule
(New series in bold face)
7 p.m.: "True Colors"
7:30 p.m.: "Parker Lewis Can't Lose"
8 p.m.: "In Living Color"
8:30 p.m.: "Roc"
9 p.m.: "Married . . . With Children"
9:30 p.m.: "It's All In Your Head"
, 10 p.m.: "The Sunday Comics"
1% 8 p.m.: "Fox Night at the Movies"
, No scheduled programming WEDNESDAY
No scheduled programming
8 p.m.: "The Simpsons"
8:30 p.m.: "Shut Up, Kids"
9 p.m.: "Beverly Hills, 90210"
8 p.m.: "America's Most Wanted"
9 p.m.: "The Ultimate Challenge"
8 p.m.: "Totally Hidden Video"
8:30 p.m.: "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"
9 p.m.: "Cops"