PASADENA, Calif. -- Before such acclaimed, sophisticated dramas as "Party of Five," "The X-Files" and "Ally McBeal," Fox was the raunchy, push-the-envelope-until-it-busts-wide-open network.
This fall, the original Fox style is back, with better shows.
While many of Fox's new programs are inventive and funny ("Action" is one of my favorites of the new season), their content deserves scrutiny:
"Action," about an obnoxious Hollywood movie mogul, contains bleeped-out profanity, including the f-word.
When a mother discovers her son in bed with his girlfriend on the alleged family drama "Get Real," she barely bats an eye and invites the girl to join them for breakfast.
"Malcolm in the Middle" features a mother running about the family home without a top (her breasts are fuzzed out).
Fox entertainment president Doug Herzog met the press prepared for content questions. He said he was proud of the shows developed and wasn't feeling apologetic about any of the new series. (It should be noted Herzog last worked at Comedy Central, where he developed "South Park.")
"What we've done is pushed the envelope in a lot of different ways, in the ways we tell a story, not just in terms of content," Herzog said. "We don't do it in a calculated way -- we need a show with more sex, we need a show where we can bleep out the obscenities -- we're looking for good shows. We need to be relevant and keep on exploring and experimenting. That's what the audience expects from Fox."
Herzog said "Action" will not become "a bleep-out fest," but there will be more bleeped profanity "if it will take the joke to another level." He defended "Action's" content because the show is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Thursday and will be promoted as a cutting edge show.
"I know 'Action' is going to offend some people, there's no question about that," Herzog said. "We're trying to position it so if people are going to be offended, please don't watch. We'd rather not field the phone calls and e-mails."
Herzog said the mom's reaction on "Get Real" was realistic. "It may not be every family, but I think it's naive to think that doesn't exist out there," he said.
As for the naked mom on the otherwise smart, creative sitcom "Malcolm," Herzog said he imagined many parents move about their homes in various states of undress, admitting, "Let the word go forth, I walk around my house in my underwear, folks!"
LONG WAIT: Fans of "The X-Files" and "Ally McBeal" have a long wait for new episodes. "Ally McBeal" premieres Oct. 25 and "The X-Files" returns Oct. 31.
COMING EVENTUALLY: The WB announced plans to create a sitcom for fall 2000 around Nikki Cox, star of the network's late "Unhappily Ever After." The series, which doesn't yet have a premise, will be conceived by Bruce Helford, executive producer of "The Drew Carey Show."
Nicholas Turturro will leave "NYPD Blue" after this season to develop a sitcom for The WB. The network also has commissioned a pilot about a student law clinic called "Sullivan Street."