Facebook Twitter

FOX HAS DEEP POCKETS BUT A SHALLOW LINEUP

SHARE FOX HAS DEEP POCKETS BUT A SHALLOW LINEUP

So we're agreed. In the past year, the Fox network has had a huge effect on broadcasting.

Then let's agree on this: That huge effect has been made by spending money. Nothing else. Not innovation, not creativity, not quality. Fox has bought respect, which is easier, and certainly quicker, than earning it.Fox is spending more than $2 billion for three years' worth of the National Football League games, and for finding a company willing to make a dozen TV stations it owns, or will soon own, change from CBS, NBC or ABC to Fox.

An effect? Sure. Plenty. Losing the NFL was devastating to CBS, and because eight of the 12 stations that will be changing their affiliation to Fox are CBS affiliates, the network will have to dig deep to replace the affiliates it's losing.

In some cases, that means it will have to pay a lot to get NBC or ABC stations to change their affiliation, or CBS may end up on Channel 67, in the same neighborhood as home shopping stations and TV evangelists.

So Fox has strengthened itself, and weakened a competitor, CBS. More people will be sampling Fox programming than ever.

But then what? You can build a splendid store, but if you don't have quality merchandise, customers won't come back. If Fox loses the NFL after its three-year contract is up, what's left? Will Fox be able to mature into such a compelling network between now and then that viewers who sample Fox for football will come back for its prime-time programming?

Maybe, but the network's recently announced fall schedule certainly doesn't give that indication. It's difficult, even unfair, to judge these shows without seeing them, but they sure sound like a bunch of losers.

For example, Fox will follow the Sunday NFL game, which guarantees an enormous lead-in audience, with "Fortune Hunter," an hourlong spy adventure that stars Mark Frankel as "suave, self-assured master agent Carlton Dial."

Wow! An unknown playing a suave, self-assured master agent! Sounds like just the instant hit to knock off "60 Minutes."

"M.A.N.T.I.S." stars Carl Lumbly as a paraplegic scientist who can turn himself into a superhero. A pilot episode of sorts aired this past season as a made-for-TV movie, and it wasn't bad. But neither was the pilot of NBC's "Viper," and it isn't on NBC's fall schedule.

"Models, Inc." stars Linda Gray ("Dallas") as the head of a modeling agency. It's is a spinoff of "Melrose Place." More new ideas.

"Party of Five" stars more unknowns as a family of five orphans trying to stay together after their parents die. This is not to be confused with ABC's upcoming "On Our Own," which has a family of seven orphans trying to stay together after their parents die.

There's more, but you get the idea.

Fox is like a dog that chases cars, and finally catches one, but doesn't know what to do with it.