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Outtakes: Rich Cronin, Private Citizen

Rich Cronin -- the man who glorified being a couch potato,and who unashamedly 'really loves the TV business' -- will get no closer to thebusiness over the next five months than the Museum of TV and Radio in Los Angeles.

Brushing aside suggestions that MTV Networks might pursueits breach-of-contract case against him and keep him away from running Fox Family and FoxKids even longer, Cronin last week chatted about going cold turkey on the TV business,after 14 years at Viacom, running Nick at Nite and Nick at Nite's TV Land.

'Now I have a sabbatical. I'm going surfing,' hesaid, laughing from his Brentwood home. Judging by the fuss made over his tiff with Viacom-- and Cronin's affection for the spotlight -- we wondered if the camera crews chasingMonica Lewinsky might have caught his attention.

He chuckled again. Cronin, a big favorite with cableoperators, laughs readily at himself and his bizarre situation. 'I'm Rich Cronin,private citizen,' he said. That's a fitting moniker, since it sounds like the type ofTV show that he might be developing, if New York Supreme Court Judge Herman Cahn hadn'texiled him to the sidelines until at least July 1.

'I can't talk with anyone' about cable, Croninsaid. The absurdity of the situation appealed to him. Cronin ran into his old MTV Networksbuddy, Howard Handler, now at NFL Properties, who suggested a Super Bowl get-together.'If you want to invite me,' Cronin told Handler, 'it can't be for businessreasons. It has to be as a friend.'

Freedom of association is a right denied Cronin. 'Mylawyer has not allowed me to talk with anyone in the industry,' he said. Will he now?'I'm trying to figure that out now. It's very frustrating. I have a lot of friends inthe industry. When it happened, I wanted to pick up the phone and say, 'This iswhat's going on. You know me, and I'm going to be fine.''

Cronin, of course, will be more than fine. He's stillcollecting his $375,000 salary from Viacom, and a $400,000 bonus is due him, as well. Hespeaks of hanging out with his wife and four kids, while he has time.

Cronin chuckled over a recent PTA meeting. 'I had someideas for raising money, a T-shirt campaign,' he said. 'I can coach soccer now.But I have to get a book about it first.'

When the conversation turns to Viacom, Cronin gets serious-- sort of -- and some of the hurt shows through.

Passed over for several rungs up the ladder -- the headjobs at Comedy Central and Nickelodeon -- he noted how his bosses, Michael Fuchs (who washelping to oversee Comedy Central) and Sumner Redstone, didn't think that he had enoughexperience overseeing original-programming networks after helming rerun channels.

'I understood that. I tried to get that programmingexperience at Viacom,' he said about his catch-22 situation.

So he had no choice but to leave for Haim Saban's sweetnothings.

Asked about Redstone's much-quoted testimony last year thatCronin was merely a 'lower-middle to lower-management person,' you could feelhim wince. 'That certainly hurt,' he said, but he quickly moved on to insistthat there was nothing personal in his decision to leave. 'This was just a careermove.'

The court case lost -- despite Saban's transparent spinattempt -- Cronin still defended his decision to remain at MTVN even after accepting theFox job.

'It happens all the time. At the end of my contract, Icould have worked for a direct competitor, anyway. Most people at MTV Networks ... coulddo that,' he said. And he pointed to MTVN president Mark Rosenthal, who turned down ajob running FX while at MTVN.

So what's in store at Fox? He had to be cagey. 'I canthink about things,' he said. 'The thought police can't get me.' He talkedof the 'unique brand' that he would bring to Fox Kids and Fox Family to'break the mold, do something that hasn't done before' within the confines ofFamily's wholesomeness, and he spoke of giving the network of The 700 Club and CarolBurnett reruns 'a sense of humor' and 'hipness.'

But for now, 'I want to make it the best fivemonths,' spending time with his family and reading about the kids business.

And Cronin said he is working, kind of. Between hiskids and their friends, he has a working focus group going. 'I'm taking the kids toKnotts Berry Farm and kids' movies -- something to help me learn so that I'll be achildren's TV executive.'

But that can wait. Now, Rich Cronin -- man of leisure,private citizen -- was off to Spago's for lunch.