Friday, July 14, 2000

'Freaks' too pricey for cable




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        PASADENA, Calif. — There's good news and bad news for fans of Freaks and Geeks, the touching coming-of-age drama canceled in May by NBC.

        Fox Family Channel will showcase all 18 episodes, including three not broadcast by NBC last season — but not make any more. The $1-million-plus price tag per episode is too steep, as it was for My So-Called Life on MTV and Action on FX.

        “We would be unable, as a cable network, to produce a one-hour show of the quality of this hour financially,” said Rob Sorcher, Fox Family Channel executive vice president, to the Television Critics Association's summer press tour here.

        “When NBC makes a show, it's a big fat number. We would have to figure out another way to do it,” he said.

        The cable channel will air two episodes (8-10 p.m.) on Tuesday, in chronological order, starting Aug. 29.

        Judd Apatow, series creator and executive producer, does not expect to make any new episodes of the show, which was bounced around NBC's Saturday and Monday schedules.

        “We've always assumed that we would be a one-season show, just based on the way things were going over there (at NBC),” Mr. Apatow said. “So we designed the show like it was an 18-hour miniseries, and we really feel like we have closure in the work and the way we told the stories. And now . . . we want to get it out there so people can see it.”

        Actually, millions of people did watch Freaks and Geeks, but not enough for NBC.

        “Twice as many people watched Freaks and Geeks as watched 95 percent of the WB lineup,” Mr. Apatow said. “A lot of their shows get 2.3s and 2.5s (ratings) on the WB, and we were getting about a 6 rating most nights.”

        Wayne's world: Wayne Godwin, former WCET-TV general manager, says hello to his friends in the Tristate. PBS' new executive vice president for member services attended the TV critics press tour this week.

        Mr. Godwin was hired by new PBS President Pat Mitchell in May, three months after he co-chaired the selection committee that recommended hiring Ms. Mitchell, a former Turner Broadcasting executive.

        Lion's roar: A University of Kansas study this spring revealed that PBS' new Between the Lions show (weekdays at 4:30 p.m. on Channel 48, 3 p.m. on Channel 16), which debuted in April, has helped prepare kindergarten students to read.

        Kanas City children shown 17 episodes over a four-week period had “significantly improved reading skills,” says John F. Wilson, PBS senior vice president.

        On a test that measures children's knowledge of word sounds, kids who were tested before and after watching Between the Lions saw their scores rise by 64 percent — compared with only 25 percent gains for similar children who did not watch the show.

        “Kids who watch the most television tend to become the poorest readers. And therein lies the genius of WGBH-TV's Between the Lions. Why not teach kids to read while they're watching television?” he says.

       



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