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`MELROSE’ MOVING TO A NEW NEIGHBORHOOD

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Fox's "Melrose Place" is a campy, trashy prime-time soap that's a lot of fun to watch.

For adults, that is.The plot lines and steamy scenes are nothing you'd want the kids to tune in to, however. Which makes Fox's decision to move the show to Mondays at 7 p.m. all the more difficult to understand.

And, despite all the explanations that Fox executives could come up with, the real reason was the same refrain that runs through all the networks' tunes - ratings and money.

"We've debated this endlessly," said Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of both Fox and its parent company, News Corp. "And we've decided to do it. This is the way to open a new night. And it will deliver a strong audience right through. . . . And I think the show will do tremendously well there."

"We are sensitive to the concern . . . about the appropriateness of `Melrose Place' in the o'clock time period of the new season," said Sandy Grushow, president of Fox Entertainment. "The shift to o'clock was not made capriciously. It was made after considerable internal discussion and debate."

That concern about the show's appropriateness does not extend to making any changes in the show's content to accommodate the earlier time slot.

"We would not have moved the show to o'clock on Monday night if we believed that we were going to have to impact the show creatively," Grushow said. And Fox will not run any kind of advisory on the program warning viewers of the possibility of adult-oriented content.

"At the end of the day, we all agreed that, while `Melrose' is certainly not a traditional family show, nor is it by any means anti-social," Grushow said.

("Melrose" not the "traditional family show"? That was the understatement of the Television Critics Association press tour.)

"When people tune in to watch it, they'll know precisely what they're going to get," Grushow said. "And what they get, frankly, are themes that can be seen in soap operas all day long.

"Another factor that we considered is the trend in this business to schedule adult fare earlier in the evening. I think that the best example `Mad About You' at o'clock Thursday night on NBC."

When it was pointed out to Grushow that his excuse for scheduling "Melrose" so early in the evening amounted to "Everybody else is doing it, too," he got a bit defensive.

"I think that you were reasonably selective in terms of your take-away from our sort of rationale about doing this," he said. "The fact of the matter is, there is a trend in this business toward programming adult fare at o'clock. And that was one of several variables which led us to conclude that this would be an appropriate move."

Whereas Grushow discounts the possibility that the content of "Melrose Place" could cause difficulties, Murdoch at least acknowledges it.

"The question of content is a problem," Murdoch said. "And if it becomes a bigger problem, and we find that we need to change it, then we'll have to change the time period.

"But at the moment, we're going with it firmly. And we think it will launch our Monday night very strongly."

And strong ratings are the name of the game.

TIME ZONES: The discussion about the appropriateness of an earlier time slot for "Melrose Place" was both somewhat amusing and rather distressing.

A number of critics from the Eastern and Pacific time zones have expressed varying degrees of unhappiness over the fact that "Melrose" will air at the unheard of hour of 8 o'clock.

What they fail to realize is that "Melrose" has always aired at 8 o'clock in the Mountain and Central time zones - and that soon we'll be seeing it at 7 o'clock.

BUSINESS BEATS KISS: When Fox stirred up somewhat of a fuss by editing a kiss between two gay characters out of an episode of "Melrose Place" earlier this year, that decision had nothing to do with a question of taste.

"Look, the bottom line is that we're in a business," Grushow said. "Yes, it's show business, but ultimately we're responsible to the bottom line."

And Fox's revenues would have been seriously affected by advertiser pullouts if the kiss had made it into the episode.

"Bottom line, we'd have lost up to a million dollars by airing that kiss," Grushow said. "We couldn't afford to take the financial hit."

ACTOR'S VIEW: To the actor involved, Doug Savant, the whole controversy over the kiss is rather annoying.

"I have the only character on the show without a sex life," said Savant, who plays Matt Fielding. "Everybody else is hopping in and out of bed all the time."

And as to this specific kiss, "It was really no big deal," he said. "It was like a little kiss good night - nothing more."

Savant had the rather unusual experience of having his own sexuality revealed earlier this year.

"I've been outed as a heterosexual," he said with a laugh. (Savant is married and the father of two young children.)

"I always gave sort of vague answers when people would ask me if I was gay because I didn't think it was important," he said. "Then People magazine got hold of the story and outed me."

BIG SURPRISE: Although for most of its first season "Melrose Place" was a dismal failure in the ratings, Grushow was he isn't surprised at what a hit it has become.

"Actually, the biggest surprise for us wasn't the explosive popularity of `Melrose,' it was the fact that so many of you came out of the closet this past season and publicly confessed that you loved it, too," he told the critics.

TIME FOR PATIENCE: "Models Inc.," the prime-time soap that took over "Melrose Place's" old time slot (Wednesdays at 8 p.m.) isn't setting the ratings on fire.

But Grushow said he's going to give the show time to build an audience.

"The history of this network has shown us that it takes time to make ensemble dramas work," he said. "That was certainly the case with `90210' and `Melrose Place.' "

Grushow said he won't make any decisions about the fate of "Models" before December at the earliest.

TO TELL THE TRUTH, PART 1: Melissa Gilbert, who's starring in the new drama "Sweet Justice" this fall on NBC, is looking forward to her life calming down a bit. She starred in five - count 'em, five - TV movies last season.

"One was irresistible because of the role," Gilbert said. "One was irresistible because of the location. One was irresistible because of the cast. One was a chance to work with my fiance.

"One was strictly for money."

Now there's an admission actors rarely make.

"I'm totally honest," Gilbert said. "Hey! They paid me a lot. I bought a house. I'm very happy. And my son's going to go to private school."

This movie she did only for the money was indeed dreadful - "Baby Maker: The Dr. Cecil Jacobson Story," the fact-based teleflick based on the case of the fertility specialist who fathered all those children (and, for a time, practiced in Provo).

You could almost respect Gilbert for admitting she only did that one for the money. But then she added, "I actually like the way it turned out."

So much for honesty.

TO TELL THE TRUTH, PART 2: Ronny Cox, who co-stars as Gilbert's father in "Sweet Justice," said there was a rather simple reason why he didn't reprise his role from the first two "Beverly Hills Cop" movies in the recent third installment in the series.

"They wanted me to be in it," he said. "I basically read the script and - need I say more?"

QUOTABLE: "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel said that while he might have liked to have seen the three major broadcast networks rotate coverage of the preliminary hearing in the O.J. Simpson case, it really didn't bother him that ABC, CBS and NBC pre-empted so much of their regular daytime schedules.

"One thing that nobody ever seems to talk about is - what was it that the American public was deprived of? The soaps?" Koppel said. "I mean, is that what we're in this sort of righteous snit about here that the networks covered it? I don't know what everyone is so concerned about."