For Fox Entertainment prexy Peter Liguori, conquering the fall reps his network’s final frontier.

Fox ended the season No. 1 among adults 18-49 for the second year in a row, but that success is due to the net’s midseason domination. Once hits such as “American Idol” and “24” return to the air in January, Fox is virtually unstoppable.

“Fox does an outstanding job from January through August,” Liguori says. “For us, the whole ball of wax is really about improving our fourth quarter.”

Fox’s fall woes are nothing new. The net has had to deal with a confusing launch schedule for years due to its baseball package, which forces preemptions for much of October while rival nets gain traction.

The net has made gains, however, in how it handles the fall.

“We’ve kind of figured out how to manage baseball,” Liguori says. “Last year, we premiered basically all of our shows before baseball. It worked. We were able to use baseball as a better platform for certain shows.”

As a result, Fox this year will once again launch much of its schedule early, allowing the net to get a jump on the competish.

“We made some tremendous inroads last year,” Liguori says. “We were up about 14% in our fourth quarter. But the task at hand is how to continue to build that and really set ourselves up for the spring to the end of the season.”

Fox entered the ring early this year with its Monday lineup, launching new skein “Vanished” behind returning hit “Prison Break” last week. Net will follow that up by bowing its Wednesday lineup (“Bones” and new drama “Justice”) tomorrow, and its Tuesday, Thursday and Friday lineups next week.

Net, meanwhile, is banking on going against the conventional wisdom: While this fall is chockful of serialized dramas and single-camera comedies, Fox eschewed the trends, scheduling more procedural-style dramas (“Justice”) and multicam laffers (“‘Til Death”). The strategy has some critics even noting how Fox’s new shows could have just as easily aired on CBS.

NEW SHOWS

VANISHED
When: 9, Mondays
The plot: The kidnapping of a politician’s wife is shrouded in mystery.
Exec producers: Josh Berman, Mimi Leder, Paul Redford
What works: The mystery is consuming and tells the story from several angles (including through the media, the FBI and the family).
What doesn’t: Show may get too bogged down in the “how” — the forensics of it — rather than the more interesting “why” and “who.”
Bottom line: Paired with “Prison Break,” could make for an adrenaline-fueled night.

STANDOFF
When: 9, Tuesdays
The plot: FBI negotiators are also romantically linked.
Exec producers: Craig Silverstein, Tim Story, Glen Mazzara
What works: Ron Livingston is always likable, while Gina Torres is strong as Livingston’s boss.
What doesn’t: Show’s formula may be a little too trite.
Bottom line: Despite the strong “House” lead-in, viewers may opt to stand down.

JUSTICE
When: 9, Wednesdays
The plot: Los Angeles defense attorneys tackle high-profile cases.
Exec producers: David McNally, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Jonathan Shapiro
What works: Another solid, well-done procedural from the Jerry Bruckheimer TV factory.
What doesn’t: Another solid, well-done procedural from the Jerry Bruckheimer TV factory. C’mon, Jerry, what else you got?
Bottom line: Decent show … for CBS. Not exactly in Fox’s brand.

‘TIL DEATH
When: 8, Thursdays
The plot: Newlyweds move in next door to a couple who’ve been married for two decades.
Exec producers: Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa
What works: Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher play the older married couple so convincingly, you might believe Garrett and Fisher themselves have been married for 20 years.
What doesn’t: The newlywed characters are less developed and not wholly believable.
Bottom line: Decent show … for CBS. What is this, a trend?

HAPPY HOUR
When: 8:30, Thursdays
The plot: Man loses his girlfriend, job and apartment in one day, but finds a new roommate.
Exec producers: Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Tom Werner, Eric Gold, Jimmy Miller
What works: Advocates the return of partying before dinner.
What doesn’t: Just about everything else.
Bottom line: “Happy Hour” won’t be happy for long.

RETURNING SHOWS

AMERICA’S MOST WANTED: AMERICA FIGHTS BACK
Premiere: Sept. 9 (season 20)
Timeslot: 9, Saturdays
Cast changes: None
Storyline: First episode highlights the show’s history, including some of the 900 fugitives it has helped to capture, and the impact this unique crime-fighting series has had on the nation and the world.

AMERICAN DAD
Premiere: Sept. 10 (season 2)
Timeslot: 8:30 Sunday (new)
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Stan’s plans are nearly upended when the “camp” he tricks Steve into going to is really a refugee camp in Africa.

BONES
Premiere: Aug. 30 (season 2)
Timeslot: 8, Wednesdays
Cast changes: Tamara Taylor joins the cast.
Storyline: Things get complicated when the Jeffersonian’s new head of forensics turns out to be someone from Booth’s past.

COPS
Premiere: Sept. 9 (season 19)
Timeslot: 8 and 8:30, Saturdays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Bad guys on the run.

FAMILY GUY
Premiere: Sept. 10 (season 5)
Timeslot: 9, Sundays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Brian and Stewie hit the road in search of Rupert after he’s accidentally sold at a garage sale. Then Brian and Stewie enlist in the Army and try to get an honorable discharge.

HOUSE
Premiere: Sept. 5 (season 3)
Timeslot: 9, Tuesdays (first four weeks it will air at 8)
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: House is back at work after recovering from multiple gunshot wounds and takes on two cases simultaneously — one of which he pushes to the edge of medical treatment, prompting Cuddy and his team to question House’s motives.

NANNY 911
Premiere: Sept. 8 (season 3)
Timeslot: 8, Fridays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: An experienced nanny and her team of specialist nannies armed with the do’s and don’ts of child rearing.

THE OC
Premiere: Nov. 2 (season 4)
Timeslot: 9, Thursdays
Cast changes: Mischa Barton departs; Willa Holland and Autumn Reeser become series regulars.
Storyline: Marissa’s death thrusts the recent high school graduates into adulthood. Will Ryan fall back to his old ways, or will the Cohens be able to keep him focused on his future?

PRISON BREAK
Premiere: Aug. 21 (season 2)
Timeslot: 8, Mondays
Cast changes: William Fichtner joins the cast.
Storyline: The escapees search for Westmoreland’s secret $5 million stash while being pursued by authorities and those seeking to cover up a government conspiracy.

THE SIMPSONS
Premiere: Sept. 10 (season 18)
Timeslot: 8, Sundays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: When Lisa befriends Fat Tony’s son, Fat Tony invites the Simpsons over for dinner, and Homer winds up as head of the “family.”

TRADING SPOUSES: MEET YOUR NEW MOMMY
Premiere: Oct. 6 (season 3)
Timeslot: 9, Wednesdays
Cast changes: New contestants
Storyline: Moms and dads switch families, sometimes for better, often worse.

THE WAR AT HOME
Premiere: Sept. 10 (season 2)
Timeslot: 9:30, Sundays
Cast changes: None.
Storyline: Teenagers Hillary, Mike and Larry continue to try the patience of their parents, who simply hope to survive until the kids are out of the house.

– returning show capsules compiled by Paula Hendrickson

Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!
Post A Comment 0