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Fox goes hyperbolic

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Fox will be airing some original series this summer, and you'd think the network reinvented television itself.

The announcement came with more hyperbole than usual: "Summer 2004: Fox Changes the Face of Network Television."

Sorry, Fox folks, but, you're putting six new shows on the air. Well, five new shows and more of "The Simple Life." It's not like you're present-day Philo T. Farnsworths.

But don't let that stop the hyperbole.

"Fox has, once again, started a television revolution," gushed network entertainment president Gail Berman in a prepared statement. "This time we are creating a real year-round schedule. This is no longer a bold experiment; Fox is redefining the television season. Beginning in June, within days of this season ending, we will introduce a schedule designed to keep our offerings fresh and compelling, and our viewers engaged continually throughout the year."

I'm all for as much new programming throughout the summer as we can get. If it's good.

But summer series are as old as television itself. And some of them — including everything from "Sonny & Cher" to "Northern Exposure" to "Survivor" to "Melrose Place" to "Fear Factor" — went on to become big regular-season hits.

And, in recent years, all the broadcast networks have increasingly aired new programming in the summer months to try to keep viewers from migrating to cable. NBC will have as many new shows — or new episodes of old shows — this summer as Fox will.

As to Berman's contention that Fox's summer programming will be "fresh and compelling," well, that remains to be seen. I can tell you that at least three of these shows have been hanging around for months looking for a time slot.

"Freshness" is a relative term, of course. And Fox will be airing its new shows twice a week — the same episode, that is.

Before anybody at Fox spends time researching this, no, you didn't invent the rerun.

And we'll be getting unaired episodes of the dreadful "Oliver Beene" — a ratings bomb — back on the Sunday schedule (at 6 p.m.) on June 6.

Don't tell the folks at Fox, but that's called "burning off" a failed series.

At any rate, here's what to expect from Fox come June:

The Jury (debuts Tuesday, June 8, at 8 p.m.) is an hourlong drama that goes inside the jury room. It comes to us from the producers of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (and, frankly, the pilot episode screened for critics several months ago was underwhelming).

Episodes will be repeated Fridays at 8 p.m.

North Shore (debuts Monday, June 14, at 7 p.m.) is basically a twentysomething "Hotel" set in Hawaii, with the luxury hotel's staff interacting with each other and the guests.

Episodes will be repeated Fridays at 7 p.m.

The Casino (debuts Monday, June 14, at 8 p.m.) is basically "The Restaurant" set in Las Vegas. Mark Burnett's latest reality series goes behind the scenes to "look at the real-life dramas unfolding at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino as its new owners . . . take over the business and attempt to bring back the glory of the hotel's 'Rat Pack' heyday."

Episodes will be repeated Thursdays at 8 p.m.

The Simple Life 2 (debuts Wednesday, June 16, at 7 p.m.) sends bratty "celebutantes" Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie on a cross-country expedition.

As of June 23, "Simple" will be seen Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

Quintuplets (debuts Wednesday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m.) casts Andy Richter as the father of 15-year-old quintuplets "who are no longer the precious little tykes they were as infants" in this sitcom (which has been around for a while without making it on the air).

Episodes will be repeated Sundays at 7:30 p.m.

Method & Red (debuts Wednesday, June 16, at 8:30 p.m.) casts real-life hip-hop stars Method Man and Redman as "unlikely residents of a ritzy gated community."

Episodes will be repeated Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

Frankly, the most promising thing in this "big announcement" is that original episodes of "Bernie Mac" will air Tuesdays at 7 p.m. beginning June 8. Although that means yet another new time slot for the much-moved show.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com