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Fox Family picks up 'Freaks and Geeks' reruns

Tuesday, July 11, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. -- The freaks are back. And the geeks, too.

Fox Family Channel, which has struggled in the ratings, announced Sunday it purchased the rerun rights to NBC's canceled and critically acclaimed "Freaks and Geeks."

The one-hour dramedy will air Tuesday nights with two episodes back-to-back, beginning Aug. 29. The 18 episodes are expected to run in the order the show's producers originally intended, including three episodes that were never broadcast by NBC.

The announcement came the day after NBC broadcast a minimarathon of three "Freaks and Geeks" episodes, which boosted NBC to a demographic ratings win Saturday night, coming in first among adults 18 to 49 and 18 to 34, according to preliminary ratings data.

"We're just ecstatic that the show is going to be seen and be seen every week," said "Freaks and Geeks" executive producer Judd Apatow. "We've always assumed that we would be a one-season show, just based on the way things were going, and since there were no rats being eaten or anything like that...."

One of the three unaired episodes was actually designed for broadcast third in the series. After airing a preview of the episode, which explains how Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps) become friends, NBC pulled it, reportedly because network executives deemed it too dark.

"When you have a new show, [the networks] basically want the first six episodes to be the same show," Apatow said. "They feel like people are finding the show for the first time, and every episode, to them, is a pilot. That is their strategy, and it's actually kind of boring."

Rob Sorcher, executive vice president of programming and development for Fox Family, said there are no plans to produce new episodes because the show would cost too much for a basic cable network and because cast members have moved on to other projects. But, he added, "I would love to figure out another way to do it and figure out how to keep it going and what's the best way to do that."

Apatow said his experience with NBC hasn't soured him on working with the broadcast networks, but he does have a new pitch he'll use when developing future shows: "Please let me make the show that makes you feel less dirty about the other [expletive] you're putting on the air. Let me help you sleep at night."

SCARY MOVIES: University of Pittsburgh English professor Colin MacCabe, a veteran film producer, attended his first the TV critics press tour Sunday, listening in on a session for his Independent Film Channel production, "The American Nightmare." The documentary, about the masterminds who created the first independent American horror films, premieres at 10 p.m. Oct. 13.

"This is my Pittsburgh movie," MacCabe said, noting filmmakers George Romero and makeup expert Tom Savini hail from the 'Burgh and are interviewed in the program. MacCabe filmed portions of "The American Nightmare" in Pittsburgh in January and February, shooting at locations such as the Allegheny Cemetery and Monroeville Mall.

This was MacCabe's first visit to press tour, the twice-a-year gathering of TV critics at the Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel. Press conferences run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for 19 days.

"It's on such a scale, the hotel itself and the event, I find it slightly overwhelming," MacCabe said. "It's also interesting to see how the [cable] channels get papers all over the country to look at their future schedules."

"QUEER" CASTING: Showtime's upcoming Pittsburgh-set series "Queer as Folk" began filming yesterday in Toronto with a cast of mostly unknowns. The biggest name in the series is former "Talk Soup" host Hal Sparks, who stars as Michael, a romantic on the cusp of turning 30 who still collects comic books and harbors a secret love for his best friend, Brian (Gale Harold).

Showtime's press release describes the show's setting as "Liberty Avenue, a gay Main Street populated by a couple of bars, a disco, a few shops and a diner." In the series premiere, expected to air in December, Brian picks up Justin (Randy Harrison), who he assumes to be a twentysomething. Turns out Justin is 17, "and this is his first trip to the fabled and forbidden world of Liberty Avenue."

Can you say, "controversial"?

NEW MTV SHOW: MTV's new series "DFX" aims to be a "TRL" for the hip-hop set.

For those over the age of 16, that's "Direct Effect," a live hip-hop show where viewers vote on the Internet (www.mtv.com) for which video should be played next, similar to MTV's hugely popular "Total Request Live."

"DFX," premiering Sept. 11, will be hosted by Teck, one of the cast members of last year's "Real World" set in Hawaii. Remember him? He's the guy who got naked in the first five minutes of the show.

"ABFAB" REUNION: Next year BBC America will broadcast the pilot for "Mirrorball," a new comedy that reunites the cast of the popular "Absolutely Fabulous," who play new characters in the world of London's West End musicals.

Jennifer Saunders, creator of "Mirrorball," plays a former dancer, and Joanna Lumley stars as an ex-disco diva. Other returning cast members include Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield and Jane Horrocks.

CABLE NEWS: High ratings for this spring's "Walking With Dinosaurs" on Discovery Network have prompted development of a sequel. "Walking With Prehistoric Beasts," which picks up after the extinction of dinosaurs, is currently in production with an expected premiere in 2001.

Fans of Animal Planet's "Crocodile Hunter" will be able to see the show's host, Steve Irwin, and his family in a less-dangerous setting when "Croc Hunter Holiday" airs on Travel Channel, a sister network. "Holiday" airs Sept. 11 and features the Irwin family exploring Australia, just in time for the summer Olympics.

Animal Planet will give fans of "Crocodile Hunter" another series about man and beasts: "Shark Gordon." Hosted by yet another Australian with a death wish, shark expert Ian Gordon gets up close and personal with sharks in this 13-part series, premiering Sept. 28.

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour through July 25.

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