More Messages: A Novella Approach

It's official. On July 13, a press release sent out under the auspices of Channel 9 president and general manager Mark Cornetta confirmed that the station's new acquisition, Channel 20, will become an affiliate of My Network TV, a fledgling Fox service, as of September 5. The release offers little additional info, though. Cornetta calls the net's concept "exciting" and "compelling," but beyond noting that the programming targets "adults 18-49," he doesn't bother describing the content.

Does this coyness speak to what Channel 9 reps really think of My Network TV's offerings? Hard to say -- but there's no mystery about what the operation has in store. As noted in a June 29 More Messages blog item, My Network TV plans to launch "a slate of de facto soap operas" -- and a small slate it is. Two productions, "Fashion House" and "Desire," will debut in September, and based upon lengthy promo reels viewable at, the TV novella format that's popular on Spanish-language systems has been followed to the letter. "Fashion House" features a recognizable face -- aging sexpot Bo Derek, who appears to be in over her head -- as a hard-driving fashion maven desperate to rule the couture universe and prevent her hunky son from trading her empire for a willowy beauty she dismisses as a "golddigger." Looks derivative and uninspired. "Desire" seems more promising, however, thanks to its silly mash-up of violence and other emotionally cheesy elements: brothers on the run from the mob and in love with the same woman. My guess is that complications will ensue.

The My Network TV site promises that these shows will be on view "SIX NIGHTS A WEEK!" That still leaves a lot of hours to fill, and Channel 20 will do so with the usual array of old sitcoms and so on, plus a half-hour nightly newscast staffed by Channel 9 personnel. It's unlikely that powerhouse ratings will result. Then again, Channel 9 will probably be satisfied with the numbers generated by Channel 20 back in its UPN days. Why? Since the station is using its current staff to sell Channel 20, expenses should be minimal, thereby substantially increasing the profit margin.

The only way this plan could fail would be if "Fashion House" and "Desire" tank in an epic way. If that happens, the drama behind the scenes will almost certainly surpass the heavy-breathing action on the screen. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts