Fox Broadcasting on Sunday unveiled early September premiere dates for several shows that executives said would help build on the momentum established from the previously announced August launch of its fall season.
Fox, which had said last week that it would launch three new series and two returning series during the last 10 days of August, plans to introduce another newcomer and three other returning shows during the first week of September.
Sandy Grushow, president of Fox Entertainment Group, said the network hopes to have most of its prime-time schedule on the air by mid-September, while ABC, CBS and NBC are still gearing up for the new season.
"Our rollout schedule is early and it's aggressive," Grushow said during the first day of the Television Critics' Assn. summer convention.
The Labor Day weekend will be a major focus of Fox's plan. "Married . . . With Children" and "Daddy Dearest," a new comedy with Richard Lewis and Don Rickles, will begin that Sunday, Sept. 5. Chevy Chase will provide several "Weekend Updates" throughout the weekend, and his film "Fletch" will be shown Sept. 6 on "Fox Night at the Movies." His late-night talk show, "The Chevy Chase Show," premieres the following night, Sept. 7, at 11 p.m.
"Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place" will then begin their new seasons on Sept. 8. "The X Files," a drama about unsolved FBI cases about the supernatural, will premiere Sept. 10, and "Townsend Television," a variety show starring actor-director Robert Townsend, will debut Sept. 12.
The other three networks have not yet announced the launch dates of their fall schedules, although there have been rumblings that they might try to compete with Fox by putting some of their shows on in August.
Grushow expressed optimism about the coming season, admitting that Fox had hit a bumpy road when it added Tuesday and Wednesday nights to its schedule last season.
"The dynamic of that expansion has not been painless," he said, referring to the low ratings the Tuesday and Wednesday programming generated. "As a matter of fact, it's been extremely tough." But he added, "Frankly, I'd like to see any one of the other networks grow their schedules by 40% and virtually maintain audience share."
Both Grushow and Fox Broadcasting Chairman Lucie Salhany expressed regret about the failure of some of the shows to catch on, particularly "Tribeca," a one-hour anthology series that had Robert De Niro as one of its executive producers. Grushow said he liked "Tribeca" and wished it would have attracted more viewers, but that canceling it was "a business decision we had to make."
About the violence advisories that the networks will begin issuing this fall under a voluntary program to warn parents about programming that may be too graphic for children, Salhany said that Fox's "Cops" already carries an advisory and that "America's Most Wanted" portrays violent acts "in context." She called both shows "pro-social." She said she does not expect any other Fox series to require the warning.