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Times Up for USAs Happy Hour

9/19/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

Stephen Chao's first programming gamble at USA Network, Happy
Hour
,has flopped.

The Saturday primetime variety show was the first series
closely shepherded -- and put on USA's schedule -- by Chao, USA Networks Inc.'s president
of programming and marketing. But the network canceled the series, and its last episode
aired Sept. 11.

"It failed to find its audience," a USA
spokeswoman said, explaining Happy Hour's cancellation.

Chao, who was at a corporate conference last week, couldn't
be reached for comment.

Happy Hour,which was hosted by Ahmet and
Dweezil Zappa, debuted on USA April 3, and it aired in the 9 p.m. Saturday time slot. Its
premiere came about one year after Chao joined USA, which was in the spring of 1998.

When Happy Hour debuted, Chao said he was looking to
do a new spin on the once-popular variety-show format, and to counterprogram by offering
lighter fare than some of the "dark" shows that were airing on broadcast on
Saturday nights. Happy Hour was meant to be a hip, Anglo Sabado Gigante.

Happy Hour --one of a group of cable shows
targeting young men by serving up scantily clad women and outrageous antics -- was
averaging a 1.0 rating, according to the USA spokeswoman. Its time slot will basically be
taken over by a movie.

The second series Chao was directly involved in putting on
USA's lineup is GvsE, which runs during the network's Sunday-night
original-programming block.

That series -- a supernatural tongue-in-cheek comedy about
a corps of agents fighting evil beings -- has been averaging a 2.0 rating since its
premiere in July, the USA spokeswoman said.

"It's doing well," she added. The show has been
in repeats, but new episodes will start airing again Oct. 3.

Unlike Happy Hour, which was panned by most TV
critics, GvsE got some positive reviews for its edgy, funky style.

Other cable networks are faring better than USA with their
young-male-targeted shows.

Comedy Central has just renewed The Man Show,ordering
26 episodes for a second season of the Wednesday-night show, which airs after South
Park
.

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla, The Man Show revels
in its sexism, and it's paid off in strong ratings. The show premiered June 16 with the
highest rating ever for a Comedy series debut, a 2.8.

Another new show aimed at young men, The X Show on
FX, premiered June 2. The hour-long series is stripped nightly in late-night, from 11 p.m.
to midnight.

Its ratings have been increasing, and FX officials said
they are pleased and committed to keeping it on the air. In July, The X Show was
tallying a 0.4 rating, and it did a 0.44 in August. In September, it's been averaging just
over a 0.51, an FX spokesman said.

FX president Peter Liguori said he's pleased with The X
Show
'sperformance in a tough time period -- late-night -- as well as with its
steady ratings growth.

"Creatively, we are very happy with the direction of
the show," he said. "It's distinctively unique programming that's serving a
psychographic that's underserved. And the ratings are supporting our decision."

In addition, Liguori said, The X Show is attracting
female viewers. "This show is about guys being guys," he added. "It is not
about guys being chauvinistic."

 

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April