Exclusive: Fox Not Renewing Spike Feresten

Upfronts 2009: Complete coverage from B&C

Fox has decided not to bring back its Saturday late night franchise Talk Show With Spike Feresten for a fourth season, meaning the network will start fresh on Saturday nights this fall.

The network had already announced the end of the long-running sketch comedy show MadTV, which ran from 11pm-midnight Saturdays before Talk Show aired for a half-hour at midnight.

Fox's Saturday late night lineup this fall will lead off with a new hour-long show at 11 featuring Wanda Sykes, as first reported by B&C in March. Plans for the 30-minute slot at midnight are still being formulated, with a comedy repeat one possibility.

Scheduling Saturday late night shows like Sykes follows in the strategy the network has pursued of trying to grow its own late night talent on Saturdays with the eventual hope of getting back into the daypart on weeknights. That was the original hope for Feresten's show.

The network also would have been interested in returning to weekday late night had a major talent like Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien come available as a result of the Tonight Show switch-over, but that never came to pass as NBC locked up Leno for its 10pm strip.

Feresten's show ran largely under the radar screen at the network, which gave it little promotional backing during its three-year run that concludes this spring. However, network execs were always willing to heap praise on Feresten, even giving it a trial run at 11 earlier this season.

Feresten, a very successful writer with credits ranging from feature films to Seinfeld, was making his on-camera debut when the show launched, much like fellow late-night host Conan O'Brien when he began. Despite the low profile at Fox, the show did create some buzz with viral videos, including spoofs on DTV public service announcements and a "Li'l Bill O'Reilly" character.

Sykes' new Saturday show will mix commentary and panel discussions in the mold of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, along with segments from the field.

The show also marks a return to Fox for Sykes, who starred in and served as a writer and producer for the short-lived sitcom, Wanda At Large.

Upon making the announcement in April, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly noted, "Wanda is a great alternative voice to the current late-night landscape. She has the perfect personality for Fox, and we look forward to reinvigorating Saturday night TV with her."