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This article was originally published on February 10, 1992. It is posted without permission.

FOX TO DOUBLE HOURS FOR CHILDREN’S NETWORK
By Steve McClellan

The Fox Children’s Network (FCN) will almost double the number of hours it airs per week next season, to 19 hours, spanning three dayparts (Saturdays, weekday mornings and afternoons). In addition, the network has plans to expand to Sunday mornings as early as fall 1993, according to FCN President Margaret Loesch.

The Fox kids network will launch four new shows on Saturday mornings next fall (starting Sept. 5) and two new weekday afternoon programs (starting Sept. 7), including the much anticipated Batman: The Animated Series. The show will receive a big promotional boost this summer when Warner Bros. releases the theatrical sequel, “The Return of Batman.”

The company is also expanding its weekday morning block from a half-hour to one hour. Peter Pan, the first FCN show, which currently airs on weekday mornings, is being shelved to make room for Merrie Melodies and Muppet Babies.

The network also has a number of projects in development, including a new Steven Spielberg cartoon series, Animaniacs, a strip targeted for fall 1993. The network has also secured the rights to produce a remake of Jay Ward’s Crusader Rabbit, generally credited as the first cartoon series made for television (1949).

Last year, FCN reversed strategy somewhat, switching Peter Pan to weekday mornings as the sole entry in the daypart, and replacing it in the afternoons with Beetlejuice. Next season, Beetlejuice will be joined by three half-hour shows, including an afternoon edition of Tom & Jerry Kids Show, Tiny Toon Adventures, which moves from first-run syndication, and Batman.

On Saturday mornings, FCN will expand one hour, to four hours, from 8 a.m. to noon (ET). The four new shows making their debut next season include: Eek the Cat, from independent producer Savage Steve Holland; Dog City, a Jim Henson Productions program combining muppetry and animation; X-Men, based on the best-selling series of Marvel Comics, and Super Dave, featuring the stunt comedian in live action wrap-arounds to his new cartoon series.

Returning to Saturday morning will be Tom & Jerry Kids Show, Bobby’s World and Taz-Mania. In addition, there will be a Saturday run of Tiny Toon Adventures. Leaving the Saturday schedule will be Killer Tomatoes, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Little Shop of Horrors.

If any program on the Fox Children’s slate could be called controversial, it is Batman. Critics charge that producer Warner Bros. and Fox have been too faithful to the 1989 theatrical film’s violence and overall dark mood. “It’s a difficult and delicate line,” FCN’s Loesch told reporters last week. “We are conscious of the violence issue. But it also has humor. It is what it is.” Loesch said the program was being scheduled as the last show in the kids block, at 4:30 p.m., because it is targeted to older children and teens. “We are trying to be responsible here,” she said.

Another potential controversy is Fox’s development of a Frito-Lay mascot, Chester Cheetah, into a full-blown cartoon character. Some critics have expressed concern that the show would be a 30-minute commercial. But last week, Loesch said FCN had not closed the rights deal for the property. “When we do it, it must be a terrific show,” she said. “It’s not there yet.”

Other FCN shows in development include WishKid, on NBC’s Saturday schedule this season, but the network is dropping Saturday cartoons starting next season. Also on FCN’s development slate: National Lampoon’s High School, Sheer-Luck and Holmes, Bobcat, Monster Matinee, two shows about dinosaurs and a project from producer Phil Mendez.

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