Fox bounces show, but 'Mad'-ness may go on

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Fox has canceled late-night sketch comedy veteran "MadTV," one of its longest-running shows.

The Saturday night mainstay's current 14th season will be its last on the network, Fox sources said. However, the show's co-creator, David Salzman, said he plans to shop "MadTV" to cable networks and other outlets.

"There's a long list of parties that have called us, including a few very recently, and we're going to start conversations with them very shortly," Salzman said.

Fox told Salzman that the show had become too expensive considering its time period and ratings. Unlike dramas and comedies that suffer the broadcast ax, however, Salzman believes his show's budget can be scaled back to suit a cable network.

"I think we can change it without it really being noticeable," he said. "We've learned over the years how to do things on an efficient basis."

Salzman called his show "the only success in the 21-year history of Fox's late-night" and gave credit to the network for giving him enough notice to potentially find another distributor without interrupting production.

"The fact that this Emmy Award-winning show has been a Fox mainstay in late-night for 14 years is a testament to the creativity and dedication put forth each week by the talented cast, writers and crew," said Kevin Reilly, Fox president of entertainment. "This was a very difficult decision, and we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to everyone at MadTV for making us laugh for over 300 irreverent episodes."

In one respect, the timing of the cancellation is fortuitous — the show's licensing deal with Comedy Central, which airs the show's first 11 seasons in repeats, is set to expire at year's end. Salzman can offer buyers the exclusive rights to air the show's library of content if they pick up the show, or sell the show and its library separately.

Salzman also praised competitor "Saturday Night Live," calling the show "the greatest of its type of all time." Still, Salzman noted his show — which embraces a hip-hop sensibility compared to the NBC program's 1970s rock 'n' roll roots — has faced an uphill battle for attention.

"SNL" is a heavily promoted and a legendary member of the NBC family. On Fox, "MadTV" has been like a distant cousin of the network's other programming, a holdover from the network's mid-1990s brand that, somehow, kept managing to draw an audience and survive despite several management turnovers.

"MadTV" is averaging a 1.1 adult demo rating and 2.6 million viewers this season, down 6% from last year — a relatively modest drop compared with the ratings hits endured by many shows this fall. Of Fox's programming, only "The Simpsons," "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" have been on the network longer. The final Fox episode — No. 326 — is scheduled to air in May.

"We're proud of what we've accomplished, we're appreciative of what Fox has done and we don't think it should be over yet," Salzman said. (partialdiff)
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