Saturday TV: Rating the fall skeds

For the second year running, KidScreen turns to a panel of international kids programming experts to determine which U.S. kidnet has the best fall lineup. Once again, Nickelodeon nabbed the top spot in our survey ranks, joined this year by PBS.
September 1, 2001

For the second year running, KidScreen turns to a panel of international kids programming experts to determine which U.S. kidnet has the best fall lineup. Once again, Nickelodeon nabbed the top spot in our survey ranks, joined this year by PBS.

The process: Our panelists were directed to a secret website where they had access to the Saturday morning fall skeds of eight major U.S. kidnets. The diligent participants selected the best show airing in each peak viewing timeslot and rated each net’s sked on a scale of one to five (five being the best). The show with the highest number of votes in each slot earned slot winner status (marked in bold on skeds), and the overall network ratings were averaged and converted to star ratings.

Our virtual judging circle included:

Dganit Atias-Gigi, children’s channel programmer, Noga Communications Israel

Annika Cederborg, acquisitions executive children’s and youth, Sveriges Television

Francois DePlanck, managing director, Teletoon France

Rick Dulock, development associate, KVCR TV

Casey Garvey, broadcast programming coordinator, KCET

Gerard Hausmann, channel director, Media Park

Frances James, children’s acquisitions programmer, TVOntario

Karen Lee, programming manager, Singapore Cable Vision

Diane Lucas, director of programming, UNC-TV

Natalie Neu, head of children’s programs, RTL Television

Nick Wilson, controller of children’s and religious programs, Channel 5 UK

John Wright, commissioning editor, TVNZ

Nickelodeon (Four and a half stars)

Saturday morning sked

7:00 a.m. The Angry Beavers

7:30 a.m. The Angry Beavers

8:00 a.m. The Wild Thornberrys**

8:30 a.m. The Wild Thornberrys**

9:00 a.m. Rugrats (winner)

9:30 a.m. Rugrats (winner)

10:00 a.m. SpongeBob SquarePants

10:30 a.m. SpongeBob SquarePants

11:00 a.m. CatDog**

11:30 a.m. CatDog**

12:00 p.m. Rocket Power**

12:30 p.m. Rocket Power**

**the sked shown differs slightly from the one panelists voted on due to last-minute changes. Hey Arnold! (previously in the 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. slots and replaced by CatDog) was voted the best show in both time slots by our panelists. The Wild Thornberrys (previously in the 12:00 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. slots and replaced by Rocket Power) was voted the best show in the 12:30 p.m. slot.

All skeds are subject to change

In keeping with its strategy of recent years, Nickelodeon won’t try for a splashy fall preview of new shows.’I don’t think you’re going to see any significant shifts in programming because we have been introducing our new stuff all year long,’ notes Cyma Zarghami, executive VP and GM. ‘Fall is not necessarily where we focus all of our resources. We launched two new shows at the beginning of the year, we had our big Rugrats celebration in July, and we’ll cycle in new episodes’ during the fall season. That said, Nick’s sked is never completely status quo or static, according to Zarghami. ‘I think you always have to be changing it because kids are always changing, so business-as-usual for us is ‘keep it fresh.”

Zarghami says that strategy is borne out of several factors. ‘It’s hard for us to get noticed in the midst of everybody else trying to get noticed, so we’ve always tried to zig when they’ve zagged. When everyone else was going after Saturday morning, we went after Sunday morning. It’s also always been very related to what’s actually going on in kids’ lives. Big kids go to school during the day, so we program for the little kids during those hours,’ she says. ‘And kids are available to watch a lot more television during the summer, so it’s a great time to be programming to them.

‘What we’ve tried to do is turn Nickelodeon’s year-long planning process into a mirror of kids’ life adventures. If they’re going back to school, we try to make a big deal about going back to school and then shift the schedule so they get something new when they’re available,’ which is why Slimetime Live will air Monday through Friday in the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. block this fall. ‘We have a big portion of the tween audience watching, so we created a block called TEENick that’s dedicated to them and their lifestyle.’

As far as trends go, Zarghami says anime seems to be winding down across the channels and hopes to see other casters follow Nick’s lead with its focus on Hispanic programming, like preschool series Dora the Explorer.

Fall debuts


(HIT Entertainment/Nickelodeon, 26 x 30 minutes, launched in prime time on August 20 at 8 p.m. and then moved to its regular Nick Jr. timeslot at 10:30 a.m. on August 21)

Based on characters designed and created by author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino, this animated preschool series follows the Big City adventures of a blue octopus named Oswald and his friends–Weenie the dog, Henry the penguin and Daisy the flower. Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) lends his voice.

PBS (Four and a half stars)

Saturday morning sked

7:00 a.m. Caillou (winner-tie)

7:30 a.m. Arthur (winner)

8:00 a.m. Jay Jay the Jetplane (winner)

9:00 a.m. Barney & Friends

9:30 a.m. PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch**

10:00 a.m. PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch**

10:30 a.m. PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch** (winner-tie)

11:00 a.m. PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch** (winner)

11:30 a.m. PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch**

12:00 p.m. Anne of Green Gables: The Animated

Series* (winner)

12:30 p.m. Zoom

*fall debut

**PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch (9 a.m. to noon) includes: Elliot Moose, Corduroy, Timothy Goes to School, George Shrinks, Marvin the Tap Dancing Horse and Seven Little Monsters.

Note: This PBS sked is for main feed only; affiliate programming may vary. Check local listings.

All skeds are subject to change Having successfully launched a new Saturday morning franchise last season with Bookworm Bunch, PBS is now looking to broaden the block’s horizons. PBS senior VP John Wilson says in addition to ‘freshening all the series with new episodes,’ the public broadcaster is ‘using the Bookworm Bunch franchise to build a library of book-based shows that will be stripped [daily] in the fall of 2002.’

The Bookworm Bunch has already helped PBS to increase its ratings; season-to-date (October 7, 2000 to August 4, 2001) ratings for the Bookworm Bunch daypart (7 a.m. to noon) are up 40% with kids two to five and 33% with kids two to 11 over last year. (Note: Ratings gains are in age groups, not gains against prior kids programming.)

While the primary strategy remains ‘playing to our strengths and programming for preschoolers,’ Wilson says more emphasis will be placed this coming season on programming for young elementary school students than has been the case in recent years. ‘We’re broadening out to include shows aimed at first and second graders, whose school curriculum is more structured.’ Cyberchase, an animated show for kids eight to 11, is one such 2002 entry. ‘It has math as the curriculum, but if we do it right, kids won’t notice.’

Asked whether this increased focus on an older kid demo is a strategic move to balance the scales of a waning preschool audience, Wilson is firm. ‘We’re in a better place with [our preschool audience] than we’ve ever been in our history. What we want to do is ensure that we continue to offer programming for kids as they grow older so they don’t grow out of us–we want them to have a place to go after they leave Barney and Sesame Street.’

Teaching social skills and promoting diversity is also high on the PBS agenda, as reflected by new animated series Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, which also aims for the elementary school set. ‘There’s always room for improvement–not just with simple diversity, but also in teaching kids how to resolve conflict in age-appropriate settings. That, for us, is where we can further our public service mission.’

Interactivity remains a PBS Kids mandate. Indeed, all PBS shows have on-line components, reflecting the net’s belief that Internet drives broadcast and vice versa. ‘As we develop programming, we need to make sure that it works in different platforms. The ability for kids to go to the PBS website and practise what they’ve just learned–that experiential part of it–drives interest’ in both the website and programming.

Fall debuts

Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series

(Sullivan Entertainment, 26 x 30 minutes, debuts September 2 at noon)

This animated series follows the adventures of the irrepressible Anne Shirley and the beloved Avonlea characters.

Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat

(Sesame Workshop/CinéGroupe, 40 x 30 minutes, debuts September 3 at 7 p.m.)

An animated series inspired by Amy Tan’s kids book The Chinese Siamese Cat, Sagwa follows the escapades of a spunky young cat amidst the culture of long-ago China.

CBS/Nick (Four stars)

Saturday morning sked

7:00 a.m. Oswald* (winner-tie)

7:30 a.m. Dora the Explorer

8:00 a.m. Blue’s Clues

8:30 a.m. Little Bill (winner)

11:00 a.m. Franklin

11:30 a.m. Bob the Builder* (winner-tie)

*fall debut

All skeds are subject to change

Since ‘Nick Jr. on CBS’ debuted last September, the preschool-targeted programming block has increased CBS’s Saturday morning ratings by 267% over last year. The network finished the season trailing only Nickelodeon, with a 3.3 rating and 15 market share among kids two to five and leading all broadcast networks in that target demo. Cross-promotion is likely the driver behind this increase. Thanks to corporate synergy, Nickelodeon can promote CBS’s Saturday morning lineup throughout the week, while CBS promotes Nickelodeon on weekends.

‘Obviously, we are filling a need because kids and parents have totally embraced it,’ says Nick Jr. VP Janice Burgess. ‘We’ve been able to significantly–if not astonishingly–improve the ratings in that block, and it’s certainly been a wonderful platform for our shows to be introduced to a wider audience.’

Prior to adopting the Nick Jr. strategy, CBS’s Saturday morning kids block had all but fallen off the radar. But Burgess says, ‘I think it was just a case of, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ That will be our strategy this year as well. We’re introducing two new shows to that block, Oswald and Bob the Builder.’ Oswald premiered August 20 on Nick Jr. and will join the CBS block for the new season on September 15.

An added bonus for CBS is that the gender-targeting issues that nets like Kids’ WB!, Fox Kids and Fox Family have to work into programming strategies are irrelevant because the Saturday morning target is preschoolers. ‘Young children have fewer gender issues than older children, so you don’t have to appeal so much to one or the other. Boys like Dora the Explorer just as much as girls do, and girls are just as interested in Bob the Builder as boys are.’

Kids’ WB! (Four stars)

Saturday morning sked

8:00 a.m. Pokémon: Johto League Champions

8:30 a.m. Cubix*

9:00 a.m. Jackie Chan Adventures

9:30 a.m. The Mummy*

10:00 a.m. Pokémon: Johto League Champions (winner-tie)

10:30 a.m. Yu-gi-oh!*

11:00 a.m. X-Men: Evolution

11:30 a.m. The Nightmare Room*

*fall debut

Note: The sked shown varies slightly from the one panelists voted on due to last-minute changes.

All skeds are subject to change

Despite the recent merger of WB with Turner, uniting Kids’ WB! and Cartoon Network under the same corporate banner, senior VP Donna Friedman says her kidnet’s identity as a destination for boys six to 11 is holding firm. ‘We know who we are. We have developed an identity and an audience that is very specific. And there is more flexibility on the Cartoon side to get out of our way,’ muses Friedman, adding that ‘nothing it puts on Saturday morning is going to compete with what we have.’

While affirming the net’s commitment to boys, Friedman says, ‘I’m really proud we managed to deliver for our loyal boy audience, but through good stories, real heart and humor, we’ve broadened our girl audience as well. For the season, we have seven of the top 10 shows with girls six to 11. That’s our gravy. When I inherited the network, [the ratio] was 80:20. The latest numbers were about 65:35, and that was a goal of ours this season.’ In the 2000-2001 season, Kids’ WB! ousted the Saturday morning competition, securing the number one spot in ratings and market share among kids two to 11 (3.0/13), kids six to 11 (3.6/15), boys two to 11 (4.0/16) and boys six to 11 (4.8/20).

Friedman says the emphasis remains on ‘high adventure, humor and heart,’ as reflected in this year’s new shows, which include R.L. Stine’s The Nightmare Room, The Mummy and Yu-gi-oh!

Identity aside, Friedman acknowledges the Turner/WB merger will affect future programming and promotional strategies. ‘We have started looking at ways we can compliment and promote each other,’ she says. ‘Cartoon is a 24-7 network with a huge promotional platform. And being a 14-hours-a-week network, it’s much harder for us to compete against the Nickelodeons of the world. So I think you’ll see various kinds of promotional stunts where we will work together to broaden both of our audiences.’ While fall promo plans had yet to be finalized at press time, promotional synergy already exists between the two nets: A special one-week stunt airing of Cartoon Network’s Dragon Ball Z preceded Kids’ WB!’s debut of its own branded version of Toonami on July 30.

‘There are specific kids who love Kids’ WB!–adventurous, sophisticated kids. But there are other kinds of kids, comedy kids, who don’t necessarily come to Kids’ WB! If you look at Cartoon Network, because it airs 24-7, it reaches, by number, more kids than we do over the course of a month. So if we expose those kids to a show that they know they can really only get on Kids’ WB!, hopefully that will bring them over.’

Fall debuts


(4Kids Productions, 13 x 30 minutes, debuted August 11 at 10:30 a.m.)

This 3-D toon follows the adventures of 13-year-old robo whiz Connor, who brings a discarded robot named Cubix to life through the power of friendship. Cubix and the gang take on mad scientist Dr. K when he begins to steal robots in search of a mysterious power source.

The Mummy

(Universal Television, 13 x 30 minutes, debuts September 15 at 9:30 a.m.)

Based on Universal’s feature film The Mummy and this spring’s sequel The Mummy Returns, this animated series is set in the 1930s and follows the adventures of 11-year-old Alex O’Connell, who travels the globe with his parents excavating ancient ruins. When the ‘Manacle of Osiris’ locks onto his wrist, Alex’s family is sent on a race around the world to find the sacred Scrolls of Thebes–the Manacle’s instruction manual–before they are found by Imhotep, the mummified spirit of an evil Egyptian high priest.

The Nightmare Room

(Tollin/Robbins Productions/Warner Bros. Television, 13 x 30 minutes, debuts September 15 at 11:30 a.m.)

Based on the same-titled book series by children’s author R.L. Stine, this live-action anthology series explores a surreal world in which nightmares just might be real.


(Nihon Ad Systems, 26 x 30 minutes, debuts on September 15 at 10:30 a.m.)

Based on the Japanese comic series by author Kazuki Takahashi, this anime series follows the adventures of high schooler Yugi, who’s small for his age and a target for bullies. When Yugi pieces together an ancient Egyptian riddle given to him by his grandfather (a local game shop manager), Yugi assumes a powerful alter ego as the Game King.

Fox Family Channel (Four stars)

Saturday morning sked

7:00 a.m. Two of a Kind

7:30 a.m. The Kids From Room 402

8:00 a.m. Angela Anaconda

8:30 a.m. Totally Spies* (November debut)

9:00 a.m. Braceface*

9:30 a.m. Great Pretenders

10:00 a.m. Highschool Countdown

10:30 a.m. Braceface*

11:00 a.m. S Club 7

11:30 a.m. So Little Time

12:00 p.m. Moolah Beach* (one hour until Oct. 27)

12:30 p.m. Da Mob* (Oct. 27 debut)

*fall debut

All skeds are subject to change

While Disney’s recent US$3-billion acquisition of Fox Family Worldwide is not likely to affect the fall season, there has been much industry speculation over how Fox Family programming will be used in Disney’s plan to create a new channel dubbed ABC Family.

‘Generally speaking, the programming that’s [on Fox Family] is compatible [with Disney's brand],’ says Robert Iger, Walt Disney Company president and COO. ‘But we’re going to study it carefully, working closely with [Fox Family] to determine what’s best, so that we can maintain the Family name and have consistency across the program service.’

And according to Michael Eisner, Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO, the Fox Family management team–including executive VP Maureen Smith, Fox Kids Europe chairman and CEO Ynon Kreiz, and Fox Family Worldwide president and CEO Mel Woods–will remain intact.

Thus, Fox Family will forge ahead with the tween programming strategy that allowed the channel to pick up the demo slack created by Fox Kids. ‘The plan from the beginning was, let’s make Fox Family more girl,’ says Smith, who served as both GM for Fox Kids and executive VP for Fox Family at press time. ‘We always had envisioned there would be an opportunity with tweens nine to 14–particularly girls, who had outgrown Nickelodeon but weren’t quite ready for MTV.’

In addition to girl-skewing programs such as So Little Time, starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Braceface, which Smith says has posted ’20+ shares in female tweens with 5.0 ratings,’ Fox Family’s strategy also includes music-centric programming.

Based on the ratings growth over last season, Smith says: ‘I think the biggest thing to come out of this past year was the validation of tween targeting. And not only has it worked in terms of ratings–(Fox Family is up 31% with girls nine to 14 and 18% with kids nine to 14 in season-to-date ratings)–and serving an audience that had not been really targeted, but it’s a hot advertiser demo right now. I don’t think the industry realized tweens’ incredible buying power and influence on how much their parents spend.’

Smith believes future trends will include ‘bigger live action for kids with more special effects, but I think comedies–really crazy comedies–are going to be something kids will go for.’

Fall debuts


(Nelvana, 26 x 30 minutes, premiered June 2)

Amidst the typical trials and tribulations of middle school, eighth grader Sharon Spitz must learn to deal with the mysterious mishaps caused by her braces. Alicia Silverstone acts as executive producer and lends her voice to the lead character.

Da Mob

(Happy Life Entertainment, 26 x 30 minutes, debuts September 15 at 12:30 p.m.)

This animated series follows the struggles of ultimate wannabe teen rock band Da Mob on the road to fame, fortune and chicks.

So Little Time

(Dualstar Productions, 26 x 30 minutes, premiered June 2)

This live-action comedy casts Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as two teen sisters grappling with the challenges of adolescence and straddling the two very different worlds of their separated parents–a high-powered fashion exec and a laid-back bohemian.

Totally Spies

(Marathon, 26 x 30 minutes, slated for debut in October, date and time to be determined)

This animated action-comedy follows the adventures of Beverly Hills teens-turned-international spies Alex, Clover and Sam as they learn to balance normal teen life with their world-saving efforts for WOOHP (World Organization Of Human Protection).

ABC/Disney (Four stars)

Saturday morning sked

8:00 a.m. Disney’s Teacher’s Pet

8:30 a.m. Disney’s Lloyd in Space

9:00 a.m. Disney’s Recess

9:30 a.m. Disney’s Recess

10:00 a.m. Lizzie McGuire*

10:30 a.m. Even Stevens*

11:00 a.m. Sabrina the Animated Series

11:30 a.m. Disney’s the Weekenders

12:00 p.m. The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

12:30 p.m. Disney’s House of Mouse

*fall debut

All skeds are subject to change

Returning for its fifth season, ABC’s One Saturday Morning lineup remains committed to ‘staying on course with shows that are built on characters who are meaningful to kids,’ affirms Jonathan Barzilay, senior VP and GM for ABC Kids and Toon Disney. ‘That’s where we’ve had the greatest success, and that’s where we’re headed in the future as well.’

Barzilay feels the three new shows being added to the schedule, the animated Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action! and two live-action series from Disney Channel–Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens–not only fit into ABC’s strategy to create a gender-balanced lineup, but also offer the potential of broadening the demographic. Barzilay notes that the latter two shows ‘have proven to be magnets for kids nine to 14 in their runs on Disney Channel.’ Indeed, since its January premiere, Lizzie McGuire has won its key time period–Friday to Sunday at 6 p.m.–among all basic cable network programming with tweens (4.2 rating), kids six to 11 (4.2 rating), kids six to 14 (3.9 rating) and kids nine to 11 (4.9 rating). Even Stevens wins its key time period–Friday to Sunday at 7 p.m.–versus all basic cable with the nine to 14 demo (4.0 rating).

According to Barzilay, ABC’s goal is still to attract the kid audience to a once-a-week platform. However, whether or not the channel that will come out of Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox Family will be used to promote One Saturday Morning remains to be seen. ‘Certainly acquiring a multi-platform promotional and programming vehicle was a big driver behind the deal, but it’s just way too soon to know in detail how Family Channel assets will work together with ABC, Disney Channel or Toon Disney.’

Cartoon Network (Four stars)

Saturday morning sked

8:00 a.m. Looney Tunes

8:30 a.m. Looney Tunes

9:00 a.m. Looney Tunes

9:30 a.m. Looney Tunes

10:00 a.m. Looney Tunes

10:30 a.m. Looney Tunes

11:00 a.m. Looney Tunes

11:30 a.m. Looney Tunes

12:00 p.m. The Flintstones

12:30 p.m. The Jetsons

Note: As a 24-7 kids service, the focal point of Cartoon Network’s lineup is Monday to Friday prime time. Its Saturday sked is offered as alternative cartoon viewing for fans of classic animation.

All skeds are subject to change

Although Cartoon Network is considered one of the major kids channels, VP of programming Dea Connick Perez sees the network in much broader terms. ‘We don’t necessarily seek out a demographic–just the cartoon-lover. And it doesn’t matter whether that cartoon-lover is eight years old or 35 years old.’

This philosophy is reflected in the net’s sked, which relies less on the traditional Monday through Friday day slots and Saturday mornings to launch kids fare than it does its prime-time schedule, which became home to the new Samurai Jack cartoon in August.

While the net’s Saturday morning fare–a large block of Looney Tunes–would appear to be a bow to Kids’ WB!, Perez is adamant that Cartoon Network’s Saturday programming strategy precedes the Turner/WB merger. Says Perez: ‘We tried different things on Saturday mornings–originals, Toonami–and nothing quite worked. We can’t compete right now against Nickelodeon on Saturday mornings with our originals, so we decided to go with our second-best strength–Looney Tunes.’

That’s not to say that Kids’ WB! and its programming strategy hasn’t affected Cartoon Network. Indeed, the net changed the programming slot for its Toonami block–previously airing from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.–to 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. because Kids’ WB! adopted its own afternoon Toonami block airing from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. ‘We didn’t want that one hour of overlap,’ says Perez.

According to Perez, Cartoon Network averages a 60/40 boy-girl split, although it doesn’t specifically target a boy audience. Perez admits, however, that ‘boys are generally more drawn to cartoons anyway.’ That said, the net is hoping to introduce more action-adventure to its schedule. ‘To us, The Powerpuff Girls is more a comedy–the characters just happen to be superheroes–as opposed to Samurai Jack, which is an out-and-out adventure show,’ says Perez. ‘We’re trying to be as well-rounded as we possibly can, which is why we’re going into different genres and age groups–we’re trying to serve across the board.’

In terms of overall strategy, Perez claims ‘there really isn’t a huge shift. We’re still steady on as we always have been. We don’t seek out trends, we try to set our own.’

Fall debuts

Samurai Jack

(Cartoon Network, 26 x 30 minutes, premiered as a 90-minute movie on August 10 at 7 p.m. and then moved to its regular Monday night time slot at 8 p.m. on August 13)

This animated series follows the adventures of an ancient warrior displaced to the distant future by the shape-shifting evil warlord Aku. Samurai Jack travels the globe–a world of segregated tribes ruled by Aku’s evil robot warlords–in search of a time portal that will transport him back to his own time.

Justice League

(Warner Bros. Animation, 26 x 30 minutes, debuts November 17 at 7 p.m. and falls into its regular Monday night slot at 8:30 p.m. beginning November 19)

Bringing together DC Comics superheroes including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter, this animated series follows the adventures of the Justice League, called upon to battle against allied villains and the forces of evil.

Fox Kids (Three and a half stars)

Saturday morning sked

8:00 a.m. Digimon: Digital Monsters

8:30 a.m. Medabot*

9:00 a.m. The Ripping Friends*

9:30 a.m. Alienators: Evolution Continues*

10:00 a.m. Moolah Beach*

10:30 a.m. Digimon: Digital Monsters

11:00 a.m. Power Rangers Time Force

11:30 a.m. Da Mob*

*fall debut

Note: The sked varies greatly from the one our panelists voted on due to last-minute changes

All skeds are subject to change

Holding with the ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ strategy, Fox Kids remains firmly committed to its boy audience. ‘Yes, I think we own it,’ says GM Maureen Smith. ‘TV today is all about owning a niche, so we’re going to stick with that. We like to say, ‘if Bart Simpson were real, he would be our target audience.’ So far, that’s worked really well for us as a litmus test to determine which shows should go on our air and which shows should not.’

Last season’s attempt to program more girl-friendly fare resulted in disappointment. ‘Girls don’t look to Fox Kids as a choice so it’s very hard to get them there, especially since we’re only on a few hours a week and the competition in some cases is on 24 hours a day.’

Returning to form, Fox Kids’ fall schedule is top-heavy with action-adventure programming, and this year the net is adding a comedic element to the lineup. ‘We’ve always put comedy in, but for a long time I’ve felt we really needed an over-the-top comedy that had a lot of action-adventure in it, just to flip it slightly,’ explains Smith, conceding that ‘it’s very tough to do really breakout comedy.’ The net is pinning its hopes on The Ripping Friends from Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi.

The biggest challenge facing Fox Kids will be in the Monday through Friday block, where the net has bowed its 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. slot to affiliates for adult-targeted programming. Now broadcasting from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., programs in the earlier half of the block will shift to the younger end of Fox Kids’ target demo. ‘Instead of focusing on the nine- to 11-year-old boy as we would on Saturday morning, it will be more the six- to eight-year-old boy. But it’s not a big change for us in terms of programming since–in a lot of cases–they like the same shows,’ says Smith.

Fall debuts

Alienators: Evolution Continues

(DIC Entertainment, 26 x 30 minutes, debuts September 15 at 11:30 a.m.)

Picking up where the feature film Evolution leaves off, this animated adventure series tells the tale of history repeating itself when a meteor carrying a single-cell organism from outer space crashes in the Arizona desert.


(Nelvana, 26 x 30 minutes, debuts September 8 at 9:30 a.m.)

In the tech-savvy year 2022, every kid owns a Medabot–a pet robot with artificial intelligence–and enters them in Robattles (à la BattleBots). When Ikki, a boy who dreams of entering a Medabot of his own, finds a ‘medal,’ he buys a Metabee (an inexpensive Medabot) and inserts the medal, which gives his Metabee super strength.

Moolah Beach

(Saban Entertainment, six x 30 minutes, debuts September 8 at 10:00 a.m.)

This teen reality series takes 13- and 14-year-olds from across the U.S. and flies them to Moolah Beach headquarters in Hawaii, where they take on outrageous dares and challenges to compete for cold, hard cash.

The Ripping Friends

(Spumco/Cambium Entertainment, 13 x 30 minutes, debuts September 8 at 8:00 a.m.)

This animated series from Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi follows the adventures of Crag, Rip, Slab and Chunk, four manly superheroes whose mission is to ‘rip’ anything standing in the way of freedom and good.

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