Fox Plans Sizzling Summer

Network wants to avoid baseball playoff pitfall
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Fox is so committed to a year-round schedule that it may chuck the traditional premiere season altogether. "I don't know if we are going to launch anything in September," Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman declares. Why? Fox is preoccupied with baseball playoffs in October, so any new series loses momentum. This June, Fox will kick off a full summer season.

After all, for three years running, summer has been good to Fox, with American Idol
and The O.C.
getting their starts during the warm months. "We're four months ahead of where we've ever been," Berman says. "It's required changes in our relationships with writers, studios, and agents—and incredible commitment and discipline."

The enterprising Fox doesn't plan to premiere anything new in November. Last November was particularly rough with Skin
and Joe Millionaire 2. This year, Berman says, it "will be a time to bring back our returning schedule and anything that was successful in the summer."

With June and January serving as major launch months, "our goal is to have overlapping original series," says Preston Beckman, executive vice president of strategic program planning. That means shows won't run year-round but will air as original episodes for a few months a year, then surrender the time period to another series.

That maneuver is going to make upfront ad sales tricky for a while, admits Executive Vice President of Ad Sales Jon Nesvig, but will ultimately prove more valuable to advertisers: "It will give them information to analyze schedules that will actually run, as opposed to guesswork."

Fox has three reality shows ready: Mark Burnett's The Casino, Fremantle's The Complex: Malibu, and Bunim-Murray's second run of The Simple Life. Drama The Jury
is ready for a summer run. But The Casino, about two dotcom millionaires who refurbish the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, premiering June 8, is the network's only certain summer launch date.

Two weeks ago, the network placed an early series order for sitcom Method & Red, starring real-life rappers Method Man and Redman as hip-hoppers who move to a suburban New Jersey mansion and bug the neighbors. Fox also ordered 13 episodes of drama The North Shore, a sort of Melrose Place
set in Hawaii.

Other possible summer shows include Touchstone's Ricochet, a police drama; The Deerings, a drama about a blended family that resembles a modern-day Brady Bunch; Hollywood Division, about young Los Angeles detectives; Lucky Us, about a mismatched couple who get pregnant after a one-night stand; Quintuplets, about the challenges of raising five teenagers; and Related by Family, another blended-family show.

Fox is not alone in reassessing its yearly agenda. NBC is also fleshing out its own development plans.

With the arrival of The Apprentice
and Average Joe
and good performances from Las Vegas
and Crossing Jordan, NBC has only four hours to fill come fall: an hour and a half on Tuesdays, an hour on Wednesdays, a half-hour on Thursdays, and an hour on Fridays. What comedy will return on Tuesday is yet to be determined, but three new half-hours will be added. NBC's Thursday night is in far better shape than expected, with The Apprentice
taking over at 9 p.m.

And unlike Fox, NBC plans to premiere most of its schedule in September, as it emerges from the Olympics.

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