Fox plays it for laughs

TV: The network's lineup is expected to include as many as 12 sitcoms, including one from the creator of `Freaks and Geeks.'

Fall preview

May 17, 2001|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Fox, a network struggling to redefine its identity, will make the largest commitment to comedy in its history when it announces a fall lineup expected to include as many as a dozen sitcoms.

Overall, the network will add three sitcoms; two dramas, starring Dana Delany and Keifer Sutherland; and at least one reality series, probably "Temptation Island 2," according to sources at networks, production companies, Hollywood studios and Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. The networks routinely decline to confirm their fall schedules before presenting them to advertisers in New York.

The guessing game about whether "The X-Files" will return in the fall has become an annual rite. And while it appears that the series will be back, as of yesterday, Fox had not announced a deal with creator Chris Carter.

Here are probable highlights of the Fox fall season:

Sitcoms: Most promising among the new comedies is "Undeclared," about a group of college freshmen from Judd Apatow, the creator of the critically acclaimed but rather quickly canceled "Freaks and Geeks" on NBC. "Undeclared" is expected to get a cushy time spot behind "That '70s Show" on Tuesday nights, which should help it find an audience. It also suggests a real commitment by Fox to boosting the series' chances for success.

Least promising of the sitcoms is a live-action version of "The Tick," based on the comic book character. The series has been in development for at least two years, and television critics have seen several versions of a pilot that never seemed to translate to TV the way "Batman" did.

The third new sitcom, "Bernie Mac," will feature the comedian of the same name as a single man suddenly thrust into fatherhood when he finds three nephews and nieces in his care.

Dramas: Delany will star in a new drama, "Pasadena," a soap opera that's been compared to the feature film "American Beauty" by the Hollywood Reporter.

In another new show, Sutherland will star as a CIA agent in "24," which follows an assassination attempt on a national political candidate in what is meant to simulate real time. Each of the 24 episodes would be one hour, a fairly innovative concept - on paper anyway.

Fox also might raise eyebrows if it moves its freshman drama hit, "Dark Angel," with Jessica Alba, to Friday nights as expected. Fox is said to want "Dark Angel" to provide a lead-in to "Pasadena."

Reality shows: Perhaps nothing exemplifies the reality fever that all the networks have caught as much as Fox's commitment to "Temptation Island 2." (As if the original weren't bad enough.)

But the network that brought us "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" liked the ratings and the buzz that "Island" generated, no matter how negative the reviews. "Temptation" will split the season in the 9 p.m. Thursday time period with at least one other new reality series, most likely "Love Cruise," which features 16 singles on a "love boat" cruising the Caribbean.

UPN will also announce its fall schedule today, but most major announcements already have been made.

The big news is that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" moves to UPN from the WB, giving UPN a measure of respectability - at least for the hour on Tuesday nights where "Buffy" is expected to be scheduled.

UPN's fall lineup also will feature the next offering in the "Star Trek" franchise, called "Star Trek: Enterprise," starring Scott Bakula.

A new drama, "The Dead Zone," based on a book by horror writer Stephen King, also is a candidate for the fall schedule. As of yesterday, though, it appeared more likely that the series starring Anthony Michael Hall would be ordered as a midseason replacement only, especially if UPN picks up "Roswell," which was dropped earlier this week by the WB.

The only major cancellation news might be that "Moesha" may not be returning. But that also has become a recurring matter of speculation; the star, Brandy, has been talking about leaving the show for the past two years.

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