NEW YORK — The bold Fox Broadcasting Co. is back. When Fox announces its fall schedule today, the web is expected to take a chance and move its animated Sunday hit “King of the Hill” to Tuesday night at 8 p.m., scrapping the weekly movie.
Much speculation this week has centered on whether Fox would shift “King of the Hill” to Thursday in order to launch a challenge to NBC’s most dominant night. The Peacock web bolstered its Thursday lineup, though, by moving “Frasier” from Tuesday, so Fox decided to go after the night “Frasier” left behind.
Last year at this time, the Big Three webs all made huge scheduling changes, while Fox emphasized stability. That strategy of stability paid off for Fox, and the other webs took a more conservative scheduling approach this year. Always the counter-programmer, Fox this year decided to take its own shot at some big moves.
Most of Fox’s scheduling shakeup is clearly designed to open up new timeslots to launch comedies — a persistent problem area. The web has had tremendous success with its dramas, but only two animated Sunday comedies, “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” have worked well the past few years.
Fox felt it had to break up those two successful comedies in order to launch new ones. The web will air a new comedy block from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. both Tuesday and Friday nights — its two biggest trouble spots this season.
A new comedy also will be launched Sunday at 7:30 p.m., while Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights, which are working, are expected to return next season intact.
In total, Fox has ordered four new comedies and two new dramas for its fall sked. Of the six new series (up from five last year), 20th Century Fox is producing two of the sitcoms.
“King of the Hill,” which is already being sold into syndication, will face tough comedy competition Tuesday at 8 p.m. against NBC’s “Mad About You” and ABC’s “Home Improvement.” But both of those series are likely to end after next season, so Fox feels it is a good time to plant its comedy flag. One result of the move to Tuesday, though, is that “King of the Hill” will compete against another 20th Century Fox series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on the WB.
Fox will likely start airing repeats of “King of the Hill” Tuesdays this summer to get viewers ready, and originals will likely launch before the season starts, in August.
Following “King if the Hill” Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. is expected to be a new comedy, “Costello,” from Wind Dancer and Touchstone TV, which stars comedian Sue Costello as a waitress in the Boston area trying to better her life. “Costello” will face the new Nathan Lane sitcom “Encore! Encore!” on NBC and “The Hughleys” on ABC.
At 9 p.m., Fox is expected to launch the new Warner Bros. drama “Brimstone,” which stars Peter Horton as a tortured cop sent to capture escapees from hell. “Brimstone” will go up against “Just Shoot Me” on NBC, “Spin City” on ABC, a movie on CBS and new dramas “Felicity” on the WB and “Mercy Point” on UPN.
‘90210’ vs. ‘Creek’
Wednesday will keep “Beverly Hills, 90210” at 8 p.m., where it will face a strong challenge from the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek.” “Party of Five” also stays put at 9 p.m., where it will face off against Shannen Doherty’s new drama “Charmed” on the WB.
On Thursday, Fox is expected to keep its successful police reality series, “World’s Wildest Police Videos,” at 8 p.m., followed by a new drama from Studios USA called “Hollyweird,” which is from Shaun Cassidy and Wes Craven and looks at the macabre side of Hollywood.
Fox will launch a new comedy block Fridays, too, with the new Diane English and 20th Century Fox sitcom “Living in Captivity” airing at 8 p.m., followed by the returning 20th sitcom “Getting Personal,” which debuted midseason on Monday night. Its Monday partner, the Carsey-Werner midseason sitcom “Damon” with Damon Wayans, did not make the fall cut.
The mini-ethnic comedy block on Friday will serve as counter-programming to ABC’s “TGIF,” CBS’ reality shows and a John Wells drama on NBC. The Friday 9 p.m. drama “Millennium” from Chris Carter will stay put despite marginal ratings.
The decision to launch “Hollyweird” on Thursday and an ethnic comedy block Friday is a bit surprising because Fox Entertainment president Peter Roth had always said “Hollyweird” was developed for Friday as a companion to “Millennium.”
Thursday also has traditionally been the web’s night for ethnic comedies, but Fox may have changed its plans after the WB announced intentions to launch its own ethnic comedy nights Thursdays this fall.
Saturday will return unchanged with “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” next season, and even though Sunday is Fox’s most successful night, the web is shaking up that hit lineup. The “World’s Funniest…” video franchise will be trimmed to a half-hour so Fox can launch another 20th Century Fox/Granada comedy, “Holding the Baby,” about a single father of a 2-year-old living with his younger brother and a grad student.
Now that the WB has scrapped its 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday comedies in favor of “7th Heaven” repeats, Fox has the comedy field to itself.
“The Simpsons” will stay put at 8 p.m., and moving into “King of the Hill’s” old 8:30 p.m. slot is a new Carsey-Werner comedy from the creators of “3rd Rock From the Sun,” tentatively titled “Teenage Wasteland.” It’s a nostalgic show set in the 1970s focusing on Wisconsin teens.
“The X-Files” remains Sunday at 9 p.m., while “Melrose Place” and Fox’s frosh hit “Ally McBeal” stay Mondays at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively.
Series from last fall that won’t be back on the Fox schedule include “Rewind,” “Between Brothers,” “413 Hope Street,” “The Visitor,” “Ask Harriet,” “Living Single” and “New York Undercover.”