Fox’s top programming team Tuesday delivered a state of the web address which, if it were a movie, might carry the title “That Was Yesterday, This Is Now.”
In their first joint appearance before the press, new Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow and Fox Entertainment prexy Doug Herzog — speaking at Fox’s portion of the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour — admitted that “mistakes were made” this season.
“This has been a pretty challenging and dissatisfying year at FBC,” said Grushow, who gained oversight over the network in November. “Most of what’s been written so far has been pretty well deserved.”
Herzog agreed with Grushow’s assessment, using even more colorful language. “We had a bad fall. Not like Sofia Coppola in ‘The Godfather III’ bad, but like really bad,” he said. “Bad like one of those movies, you know, where the train’s barreling toward the crossroads and they keep cutting back and forth to the kids in the car and they’re listening to music and drinking beer and having a great time. … We should have seen it coming.”
Grushow said he believed that Fox’s decline had been several years in the making, due to aging primetime shows, few new hits and a saturation of shock reality series.
“We can’t kid ourselves into thinking that we’re out of the woods yet,” Grushow said. “We’ve met the enemy of the last several years, and the enemy is us.”
Herzog blamed Fox’s fall woes on the lack of any promotional circulation in the summer and the late debuts of key series, which handicapped the net’s marketing power in the fall.
Moving forward, Herzog and Grushow said the net would not seek to remedy its ratings woes with ultra-voyeuristic reality specs, a drug on which Fox has relied in the past. Indeed, Grushow specifically promised that two franchise spec series — “When Animals Attack” and “When Good Pets Go Bad” — would no longer be skedded.
“We’re on the methadone program,” Grushow said. “We’re going to do anything we can to get out of this business.”
In its place, the web hopes to develop more “entertainment reality” series a la “Greed.” But first, the network said it needs to burn off the few hours of shock reality programs that remain on the shelf — mostly episodes of “Guinness World Records: Primetime,” according to Herzog.
Meanwhile, amid continued rumors of further shuffling in the exec ranks at Fox Broadcasting, Grushow and Herzog admitted they were still feeling out their new relationship.
“We could have come out here today arm-in-arm, skipping to the Turtles tune ‘Happy Together,’ ” quipped Grushow, referring to an infamous ABC press tour appearance by short-lived partners Ted Harbert and Jamie Tarses in January 1997. “But we all know where that relationship wound up.”
“I would characterize my relationship with Doug as positive and growing,” Grushow added, admitting that he and Herzog were more or less “thrown together” but that they were “getting to know one another as partners in this endeavor.”
“Where it all winds up is for the future to tell,” Grushow said.
For his part, Herzog — marking his one-year anniversary with Fox –quipped that it has only taken 365 days for him to experience an upbeat moment on the job, with the successful premiere of “Malcolm in the Middle.”
“Despite reports to the contrary, ‘beleaguered’ is not part of my official title,” he joked.
The duo also said they hope to strike a deal with David Duchovny and Chris Carter to return for an eighth season of “The X-Files.” But at this point, Grushow said the odds that the skein will return next year are 50-50.
The exec said the decision rests with Carter as to whether “The X-Files” would continue without Duchovny. Co-star Gillian Anderson is still contractually obligated to appear in another year of the series, and Grushow said he expected Anderson would honor that deal.
Given the necessary script deadlines to wrap up the series if necessary, a decision on “The X-Files” will have to be made in the next month.
“I believe Chris in his heart wants to come back and do this,” Grushow said.
Regarding the NAACP, Herzog said the network was continuing negotiations with the group and expected to announce a diversity agreement within the next few weeks.