Will there too much bleepin' Action on Fox this fall?

That was the inevitable question this week at the annual Television Critics Association meeting, after Fox previewed its upcoming Action, a provocative, cameo-filled half-hour satire about Hollywood featuring bleeped-out cuss words.

Some critics worried it was too profane. Others worried the network might succumb to pressure from advertisers and watchdog groups and cut back on the outrageous wit of the pilot episode.

Already, one penis reference has been excised and will not be shown when the pilot premieres. But scenes which focus on the size of a major mogul's one-eyed general, and a urination joke, apparently will remain in this show, when it debuts September 16 in the 9:30 p.m. timeslot.

Fox's new Entertainment president, Doug Herzog, creator Chris Thompson and Action stars Jay Mohr and Illeana Douglas were feisty, funny, confident and, at times, defiant in the face of questions about the content of this one-camera, no-laugh track sitcom, in which Mohr plays a stop-at-nothing producer, Douglas a former child star turned production exec and part-time hooker.

Thompson, executive producer of The Larry Sanders Show, initially developed Action for HBO. But after a quibble over financing, he sent the script to Fox.

Herzog snapped it up because, he explained, "It's funny, but definitely pushing the line a little bit." It also fits into his announced strategy to "keep exploring and experimenting...I think that's what the audience demands in general right now from network television.

"I know Action is going to offend some people," added Herzog. But he'd rather viewers "watch somebody else's network for that half-hour" than subject Fox to indignant phone-calls, email and letters.

"We don't expect to become a bleep-out fest," Herzog assured. "We don't want to be gratuitous about it. When it makes sense and when it's done for real comedic effect, and we think a bleep-out will take the joke to another level, we'll do it."

Thompson vowed that he wouldn't compromise his show's content for network broadcast. He says the decision to bleep rather than use euphemisms avoids a phony way of talking, allowing the characters to speak like real Hollywood players.

After "auditioning" all variety of bleep sounds, Thompson said the selection was "a very traditional, million-dollar movie bleep," which he described as a "tinny, impotent sound." He also described the "specific lip flap that can't be shown while you're saying the F-words."

Mohr, a Saturday Night Live grad, who has no problem using the F-word while defending the show, said, "I think we are actually over-cautious.

"As far as pushing the envelope, I don't really think we're pushing as far as everyone seems to think we are," he continued. "And I think we're all getting a little caught up in the bleeps--let's not forget that we are bleeping, and we are on late at night. And we're entertaining people and selling soap and gasoline."

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