Fox tries year-round series debuts

— Fox will kick off new series in June, August, November and January, but none during the traditional September start of a new TV season.

Meanwhile, UPN -- the last of six broadcast networks to unveil new schedules to advertisers this week -- will have a new drama in the fall with Taye Diggs portraying a lawyer who inherits a baby.

Fox's unconventional announcement Thursday shows how serious it is about a year-round scheduling strategy. The network says this reflects the way people follow television today, but it's also done out of necessity: Fox series have gotten off to a terrible start the past two years because its schedule is pre-empted for baseball in October.

The network released three schedules -- one for June, another for November and a third for January.

"This is not an overnight thing," said Gail Berman, Fox entertainment president. "We have modest expectations about changing a 50-year history of the way television is done. It is going to require some patience on our part."

On the viewers' part, too.

Two of Fox's most popular comedies -- "The Bernie Mac Show" and "Malcolm in the Middle" -- were given three different time slots. At least "Malcolm" stays on the same night.

One of Fox's most critically acclaimed shows, "Arrested Development," was renewed despite poor ratings.

Two of its most popular dramas will be packing bags: "The O.C." moves to Thursday nights in November, and "24" will start its fourth year in January on Mondays.

Five new series will debut next month, the same time Fox's rivals essentially shut down for reruns. Rap stars Method Man and Redman will star in a comedy, and Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie hit the road for the second season of "The Simple Life."

In November, Fox will premiere "House," described as a medical mystery series.

Three reality series also will premiere in November, all of them familiar to fans of the genre. Mark Burnett, who is producing a boxing reality series for NBC, has grumbled about Fox nicking his idea with "The Next Great Champ," which has Oscar De La Hoya trying to spy boxing talent.

Virgin founder Richard Branson joins Donald Trump and Mark Cuban as rich guys looking to give away money on TV: "The Partner" is reminiscent of "The Apprentice" in matching a team of Ivy Leaguers against street-smart lawyers for a job in a major firm.

The network also has a home renovation competition set for August.

Three dramas and three comedies will premiere in January, including a sketch comedy show inspired by "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in" with "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer.

UPN has been on an upswing since the CBS management team began overseeing it two years ago. With Tyra Banks and "America's Top Model," it has a genuine hit that reaches its target audience of 18-to-34-year-olds, particularly women.

"Model" will shift from Tuesday to Wednesday night in the fall, with a weekly rerun airing on Fridays. UPN has renewed "Star Trek: Enterprise," a franchise thought to be on the edge for cancellation, but moved it to Fridays.

The network is banking on "Kevin Hill," which features Diggs as a hotshot New York lawyer whose life changes when his cousin dies and leaves him with his 6-month-old daughter.


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