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‘Martin’ Not Affected by Harassment Charge, Fox Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The turmoil surrounding “Martin” star Martin Lawrence and the sexual harassment accusations filed against him by the show’s female lead, Tisha Campbell, has not affected production of the series, Fox Entertainment President Peter Roth said Monday.

“The show has always been delivered on time and is on track creatively,” Roth told television writers gathered in Pasadena for the midseason Television Critics Assn. conference. “The show is called ‘Martin,’ and he has proved he is capable of handling the show. Whatever is happening off the set is not affecting the show.”

In a lawsuit filed this month, Campbell, who played Lawrence’s wife but has left the show, accused her co-star of waging an obsessive campaign of physical and emotional abuse against her, so volatile and unpredictable that she feared for her life. She charged Lawrence with “repeated and escalating” sexual harassment, sexual battery and violent threats.

He has denied the allegations, but the lawsuit is the latest in a series of incidents surrounding the actor, who is in the midst of a divorce. Lawrence was arrested last August as he carried a loaded gun in a suitcase at Burbank Airport and was detained by police last May after he had wandered screaming into a Sherman Oaks intersection. No charges were filed in either case.

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Refusing to comment on Lawrence’s personal difficulties, Roth said that writers are deciding now how to deal with the absence of Campbell’s character, Gina. Campbell, who enters a union arbitration today on her charges against Lawrence, left the show last November, and her associates said she is not expected to return.

A U.S. District Court judge on Friday ruled against HBO, which produces “Martin” and had filed a lawsuit against Campbell to order her back to work while the arbitration was pending.

In other Fox news, Roth repeated his commitment to finding edgy and alternative programming for the network, which got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the season, when all but one new series on its fall slate premiered to poor ratings. The shows were subsequently canceled.

At the top of the network’s development plans are a new half-hour comedy from comedian Damon Wayans, a spinoff of the recent film “The Nutty Professor” called “The Klumps” and a live-action version of the “Dilbert” comic strip. Roth said he was also very high on a new drama being developed by David E. Kelley, creator of “Chicago Hope” and “Picket Fences.”

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Fox also said that “Pacific Palisades,” a new drama from producer Aaron Spelling, will premiere in April on Wednesdays at 9 p.m., replacing “Party of Five,” which will have completed its original episodes for the season. The Spelling series will follow “young couples on the fast track to fame and fortune, romance and heartache and scandal and ruin,” Fox said.

In addition, Roth said he would soon announce air dates for midseason shows waiting in the wings, including “Pauly,” starring Pauly Shore; “Secret Service Guy,” with Judge Reinhold; and “Lawless,” with former football star Brian Bosworth.

Roth sad that he is still pleased with “Millennium,” Fox’s only survivor from its fall slate, even though the controversial and dark drama from “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter has fallen off in ratings and critical acclaim since its launch.

Saying that he expected the show to lose some viewership, Roth said its drop-off was comparable to the one that occurred in the first season of “The X-Files.”

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