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Tuned In: Shows can't live by quality alone, says Fox exec

Saturday, January 12, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, Calif. -- In the fall, Fox had the best batch of new series with "24," "The Tick," "The Bernie Mac Show," "Pasadena" and "Undeclared," but ratings didn't match the critical acclaim.

At midseason, Fox again has the best new shows in "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" and "Greg the Bunny," but even Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow acknowledged quality alone doesn't pay the bills.

Already, "The Tick" has been canceled, "Undeclared" is on shaky ground and "Pasadena" has disappeared into the purgatory known as hiatus.

"I don't know anybody who's ever set out to make a show just for the critics and not for the public or just for the public and not for the critics," Grushow said. "The fact is, this has been a challenging year thus far. I don't think it has to do with the fact all of you like the majority of our shows and the American public hasn't responded. 'Bernie Mac' is the best example of a genuine success, and, frankly, we believe '24' is doing quite well."

But if you've been watching "24" reruns on Friday night, prepare to set your VCR on Tuesdays (or catch the reruns on FX). Next month "Dark Angel" slides into the 9 p.m. Friday time slot and the double run of "24" each week will cease.

The return of "Pasadena" remains up in the air. One of the Hollywood trade papers suggested the show will move to 9 p.m. Thursday, but Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman wouldn't commit to that time slot or its assured return.

Upcoming mid-season series airing on Fox include:

"The Chamber" (previews tomorrow at 8 p.m., moves to 8 p.m. Fridays Jan. 25): A new game show that's being rushed on the air to beat ABC's "The Chair," which premieres Tuesday. In "The Chamber," a contestant enters the chamber, sits in a chair and "environmental distractions" -- heat, wind, cold, water -- distract the contestant while he or she continues to answer questions. Not available for review.

"That '80s Show" (premieres 8 p.m. Jan. 23): A pseudo spinoff of "That '70s Show," Fox's latest sitcom features a gang of twentysomething friends living it up in the Reagan era. Not as bad as it looks in promotions, but "That '80s Show" lacks the camaraderie of the characters on "That '70s Show."

"American Embassy" (premieres 9 p.m. March 11): A young woman goes to London to work as vice counsel at the American embassy. It's rather "Ally McBeal"-ish, though not as ridiculous as that show has become.

"Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (premieres in March): An odd, unique little show that's the best mid-season sitcom, it stars former "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" sidekick Andy Richter as an insecure guy who imagines various outcomes of decisions in his daily life. Smart, funny and original, Richter deserves to control his little corner of the tube.

"Greg the Bunny" (premieres in March): A bizarre comedy about puppets that co-exist with humans working on a children's TV show. Seth Green ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") stars as Greg's roommate in this sometimes rude, often uproarious series.

'Price' is right

Host Bob Barker, announcer Rod Roddy and "Barker's Beauties" will celebrate the 30th anniversary of CBS's "The Price Is Right" in a one-hour prime-time special Jan. 31. The show will be taped in Las Vegas next week and features retrospective clips along with the regular games seen in the daytime version of the game show.

Barker said his profile has been on the rise with young viewers since his appearance in Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore." But there's a reason why he hasn't appeared in other movies.

"I refuse to do nude scenes," he said.

When asked if contestants had gotten smarter or dumber over the years, Barker said, "Contestants have always been dumb. They were dumb then and they remained dumb for 46 years. No, no, I just did that hoping to get a laugh."

Barker said he'd make a lousy contestant on "Price is Right."

"I don't know a damn thing about prices," Barker said. "Why should I pay any attention to the prices? I can't win."

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