New York -- Looking to create edgy original programming in
keeping with the Fox brand, FX has started production on two new primetime series for the
summer, starring Penn & Teller and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, officials said last
FX has given the green light for 16 hour-long episodes of The
Penn & Teller Show, a weekly variety series that will originate from Las Vegas.
The magic-comedy duo of Penn Jillette and Teller will not only do their own magic acts on
the show, but they will also present comedy and musical talent.
FX has also started production on 65 half-hour episodes of Bobcat's
Big Ass Show, a comedy show starring wild-man comedian Bobcat Goldthwait. A large
component of the show will be the interaction of Goldthwait and his dancing sidekicks, The
Wing-Ding Dancers, with their studio audience.
"Our programming initiative is to find bold, edgy,
daring types of shows, and these fit nicely into that niche," said Bob Boden, vice
president of development and production for FX Networks. "And they both have
high-profile talent with outrageous styles."
As part of its original-programming push, FX has more than
one-dozen other shows in varied stages of development. The network will also venture into
producing made-for-TV movies, with a slate of quarterly television movies set to begin in
early 1999. And the network is planning to get into original specials and animation
series, according to officials.
FX's original movies -- like its original series, and
in keeping with its popular primetime reruns of The X-Files and NYPD Blue --
are meant "to tackle bold subjects," and they will have a fairly high budget for
the TV arena, according to Mark Sonnenberg, executive vice president of entertainment for
Shows such as X-Files and NYPD Blue gave FX
the platform to launch the new originals, Sonnenberg added.
Trying to refocus based on its new strategy, FX is stopping
production on one of its veteran live shows, Personal FX: The Collectible Show, and
it will no longer use its Manhattan-apartment set as a studio for its live programming. FX
has been using that residence-studio as its signature since the network launched and, at
one time, it was doing six shows out of that facility on Fifth Avenue. Collectibles
was the only show currently being done there.
"The apartment is no longer a signature for us,"
The first batch of original FX shows, including Collectibles,
were "slice-of-life," and they served the network well at the time, but now,
Sonnenberg said, FX is taking a different path.
"For the last two years, FX has been moving in this
new direction that embraces the Fox brand," he said.
The last live Collectibles show for this season,
before it goes on production hiatus, will air May 1, with FX then televising repeats of
the show. FX has 1,000 episodes of the series in its library.
"We're looking at bringing the show [Collectibles]
back in the fall, maybe in another venue," Sonnenberg said.
The Penn & Teller Show, produced by Paul Buccieri
and Rob Weiss, in association with Pearson-All American Television, will debut this
summer. Bobcat's Big Ass Show, produced by Stone-Stanley Productions, will
premiere June 1 at 10:30 p.m., and it will be stripped weeknights.
Aside from those two series, FX also has a batch of
programs in pilot stage or initial development. They include: The Groundlings
Insta-Show, featuring the improvisation of a Los Angeles-based comedy troupe; Fast
Food Films, where full-length films are condensed into three- to six-minute packages; Inside
Jokes, showcasing upcoming stand-up comics, armed with video cameras, who share their
viewpoints of their private lives; Rude Awakening, a reality show where a studio
audience participates in an offbeat popularity contest; and Filthy Liars --
produced by Mark Phillips Philms and Telephision, in association with C3 -- a competition
where stand-up comics spin tales, both truthful and not, about eclectic props, in hopes of
fooling the others.
"We'll try to add at least one of those shows by
the end of the year," Boden said.