Fox first out of gate in fall

Net launches full sked by Sept. 10

Fall will come earlier than ever for Fox, which will launch virtually its entire sked before the season officially begins.

It’s a continuation of the net’s successful 2005 strategy, in which most shows bowed early. But this year, Fox is taking things a bit further by bowing no less than three nights of programming — Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — before Labor Day rolls around.

Net’s entire sked will be in originals by Sept. 10 — a full week before the official start of the 2006-07 season. Early launch means all shows will get to air at least four — and as many as seven — episodes before Fox starts its coverage of baseball playoffs in October.

“This is pretty much the model for how we hope to proceed in the future if baseball is part of our (schedule),” said Fox scheduling maestro Preston Beckman. “And even if it isn’t, this might be how we proceed.”

Even the timing of Fox’s announcement of its premiere dates was ahead of schedule. Most nets keep a lid on fall premiere dates until at least mid to late July, generally saving the news for the semiannual TV Critics Assn. press tour.

“We’re showing our hand earlier,” Beckman admitted. “Why (mess) around? There’s no reason not to go out with them. It allows (Fox’s marketing and publicity departments) to do their jobs.”

Execs believe Fox will be better positioned to land magazine covers and newspaper features now that it can give editors premiere dates.

Fox sked rollout starts Monday, Aug. 21, with the return of “Prison Break” and the launch of drama “Vanished.”

A week later, on Aug. 30, net unveils its Wednesday lineup of “Bones” and “Justice.” Talent competish “Duets” gets a two-hour premiere on Thursday, Aug. 31.

Net’s biggest fall gun, “House,” returns for its third season Sept. 5, paired with the premiere of hostage skein “Standoff.” Two nights later, on Sept. 7, laffers ” ‘Til Death” and “Happy Hour” fill the 8-9 Thursday slot, with “Duets” shifting to 9 p.m.

“Nanny 911” is back on Friday, Sept. 8, paired with the first “Duets” results show. Saturday stalwarts “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back” resume their crimebusting ways Sept. 9.

Fox’s primetime rollout finishes up Sunday, Sept. 10, with returning laffers “The Simpsons,” “American Dad,” “Family Guy” and “The War at Home.”

Once baseball wraps, Fox will bring back Thursday sudser “The OC” at 9 p.m. Nov. 2, replacing limited-run “Duets.”

Returning in January: “American Idol” and “24.” If Fox holds true to pattern, latter skein likely will launch with a Sunday-Monday four-hour, two-night event on either Jan. 7-8 or Jan. 14-15.

Meanwhile, in other sked news, CBS Wednesday pulled the plug on summer docusoap “Tuesday Night Book Club” after just two airings. Skein tried to push the envelope in blending the unscripted format with the storytelling techniques of scripted skeins, but auds never came to the show.

Eye will air “48 Hours” repeats in the 10 p.m. Tuesday slot for at least the next two weeks.

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