Originally created 07/22/98

Fox kicking off its fall season in August with two new sitcoms



PASADENA, Calif. -- Fox will get a jump on the fall season next month with two new sitcoms.

The move reflects the network's intention to spread programs more evenly throughout the year and to avoid the typical fall debut logjam, programming chief Peter Roth said Tuesday.

"I think throwing 61 new shows in this two-week window of insanity is so unbelievably disrespectful to viewers," he told the Television Critics Association.

Fox also is trying to break the stale tradition of summer reruns that has hurt networks as viewing choices have grown.

For the first time ever, Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC recorded a week (June 29-July 5) in which more people watched cable channels.

"The single largest issue facing us all is (audience) erosion," Roth said. "Viewers are hungry for original fare."

Fox's new season will begin Aug. 23 with the debut of "Holding the Baby," a comedy about a suddenly single dad, and "That 70's Show," a coming-of-age sitcom set two decades ago.

Roth was asked about new shows that seemed to indicate a return to Fox's roots of such popular but crass fare as "Married ... With Children" after the network's move toward maturity with the likes of "Party of Five" and "The X-Files."

Critics have noted that new comedies like "Costello" have a share of crude, bathroom-type humor.

"There's room for a wide array of fare," Roth said.