Fox unveils fall schedule

Don’t tell Fox execs comedy is dead: the network is planning to unveil a fall schedule today boasting a whopping 12 comedies – and not a single new reality show. Industry insiders expect the net to spread its dozen comedies over four nights, with a three-hour Sunday sked and hourlong blocks at 8 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Overall, Fox will have more comedies than NBC (four) and CBS (six) combined, as well as far more than any other network. According to insiders familiar with the Fox gameplan, the net isn’t giving up on reality. Fox has renewed frosh successes “Nanny 911” and “Trading Spouses” for next season and will have both shows available in case any fall efforts stumble. Fox’s reality division is also working on a slate of other projects that could be ready for midseason, while some of the net’s summer reality shows could be continued if they break out. As for the schedule itself, it’s believed that critical darling “Arrested Development” will lead off Fox’s Monday comedy block at 8 p.m. in the fall, likely followed by Sony/New Line’s new Darren Star half-hour “Kitchen Confidential.” Fox is likely to slate buzzworthy serialized hour “Prison Break” at 9 p.m., probably launching it in late summer so it can wrap its first season by earlier January. That’s when Fox is expected to duplicate this season’s successful strategy of airing “24” from January until May without any repeats. On Tuesdays in the fall, look for new crime drama “Bones” at 8 p.m. followed by the second season of medical smash “House” at 9. Come January, “Idol” will almost certainly return to its normal 8 p.m. Tuesday slot, with “Bones” sliding to 9. Fox used this strategy last year to turn “House” into a hit, and the net no doubt hopes the same play will work for the Barry Josephson-produced “Bones.” It’s expected “House” will then shift to Mondays at 8 p.m. in January. As for Wednesdays, “That ’70s Show” begins its final season in its longtime 8 p.m. slot and will be followed this fall by the Pam Anderson comedy “Stacked,” insiders said. Comedic drama “Head Cases,” also from Josephson, will have the unenviable task of facing ABC’s mighty “Lost” at 9 p.m., at least until January, when “American Idol” reclaims the timeslot.Fox has made it clear that “The OC” is staying put Thursdays at 8 p.m. It will likely be followed at 9 by another soapy drama, the innovative “Reunion,” in which each episode reps a single year in the life of a group of high school grads. With ABC abandoning comedy on Friday nights, it seems a no-brainer for Fox to at least try a pair of established (if aging) comedies from 8-9 p.m., which explains the relocation of “Bernie Mac” and “Malcolm in the Middle” to 8 and 8:30, respectively. The comedy duo will likely be followed by the tentatively titled “Deviant Behavior,” a “CSI”-like drama created by “CSI” vet Josh Berman. As for Saturdays, TV’s longest-running two-hour block of programming – “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” – will return, with “Mad TV” back in latenight. Fox should also stay relatively stable on Sundays, with a couple of twists. “King of the Hill” will return for what will likely be its final season at 7:30, followed by “The Simpsons” at 8. Industry sources believe family comedy “The War at Home” will inherit the 8:30 p.m. timeslot, while resurrected hit “Family Guy” and solidly performing newbie “American Dad” will remain from 9-10 p.m. Experimental comedy “Freebirds” has also been ordered and will premiere sometime next season.

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