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Fox FX reaches for zaniness in new fall programming

Web posted on: Tuesday, August 18, 1998 5:53:23 PM

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Fox's FX is one of the cable networks that recycles broadcast network shows, and it has picked some winners. But like many others, the network must develop its own programming to survive -- and it has reached toward the zany for three of this fall's new shows.

Offbeat magicians Penn and Teller host "Sin City Spectacular"

Viva Variety

"Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular" is a full-blown variety show. Taped in Las Vegas, it comes complete with showgirls, dancers, singers and a few magic tricks. Alice Cooper, the heavy metal snake-handler, was called upon to be a celebrity assistant, but the show also includes musical guests like dark rocker Lou Reed. There's a juggler and even a ventriloquist who works with a dog.

"You have networks for people who bass fish, and another for people who trout fish," said Penn Jillette. He considers that splintering into specialties one of the problems with cable television.

"In the '60s, you know, you had this -- you'd have, you know, James Brown on the same show with Alan King, and that was -- that made perfect sense, and it still makes perfect sense," Jillette said. "We thought it was time to have that wonderful combination of an opera singer and a puppet and a band all in one show in a real statement that there was indeed one show business.

Comedy troupe the Groundlings brings improv to TV

'Instant comedy'

Fox FX is also trying "instant comedy" -- literally.

Improvisation -- improv for short -- means make it up as you go. While most comedians bring out their carefully thought-out routines before audiences, the cast of "Instant Comedy with the Groundlings" go at it in true improv style.

In 65 half-hour shows, the Groundlings, a comedy troupe from Los Angeles well-known for its history of feeding the ranks of "Saturday Night Live," will perform skits based on suggestions from the audience. Lisa Kudrow, Jon Lovitz, Kathy Griffin, Paul Reubens and the late Phil Hartman are among the performers who got their start with the group.

Goldthwait: "They can't even put the name in TV Guide"

A title too hot for TV?

Another offbeat FX comedy can't get its name in the paper. Bobcat Goldthwait steers contestants through a minefield of stunts on his new show. Think of it as a combination of Jerry Springer and the Gong Show. It is, naturally, called "Bobcat's Big Ass Show."

"They can't even put the name in TV Guide," Goldthwait said. "It's Bobcat's Big A** Show, so it looks like Bobcat's Big A-plus-plus Show. It's aces."

Correspondents Ron Tank and Dennis Michael contributed to this report.

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