Liguori's leery of genre overload

Fox Entertainment prexy Peter Liguori is sounding a note of caution about the proliferation of serialized dramas on broadcast TV.

Liguori, speaking to scribes at the semiannual TV Critics Assn. press tour, said he’s worried viewers could be burned on the genre if nets end up prematurely pulling too many of the serialized skeins skedded to bow next season.

“I think all of us have to ask the question, ‘What do we do if these shows don’t work?’ ” Liguori said. “If, in fact, some of these serialized shows are canceled and there’s no explanation, there’s no satisfaction, I’d have fear for next year (if) a bunch of serialized shows comes out. Will audiences now be really gun-shy about committing to these shows?

“This is going to be a really telling television season.”

While Liguori was careful not to criticize other nets on the matter, he hinted those concerns were one reason Fox’s fall sked features just one new show with continuing story arcs. It’s also part of the equation Fox used when deciding to go with two multicamera laffers this fall, avoiding the single-camera genre entirely.

“When we went into development this year, we did want to make sure we had some portfolio management,” he said. “The fact that we’re zigging while the other guys are zagging (is a) very Fox-like thing to do.”

Liguori also suggested nets may need to consider backup plans for serialized skeins that fail, whether it’s committing to a wrap-up episode or having showrunners post future storylines online. “The audience deserves some closure,” he said.

With Fox leading this summer in the ratings and coming off its second consecutive seasonlong win in adults 18-49, critics were mild in their questioning of Liguori. The closest the Fox topper came to a sharp comment was after his formal session, when one reporter asked for his take on the low ratings for ABC’s “American Idol”-like skein “The One: Making a Music Superstar.”

“I was surprised at how low the numbers were,” Liguori said. ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson “probably owes Mike Darnell an apology. He’s done a lot of dumping on Mike for copycatting, but he had a big stiff one there.”

Two years ago, McPherson criticized Fox for cloning ABC skeins such as “Supernanny” and “Trading Spouses.”

Liguori also grew a bit impassioned when asked about the FCC’s crackdown on “indecent” material, saying he was “quite concerned” about the vagaries of the government’s rules.

“The FCC rules create a chilling effect on creativity. It is very difficult to manage vague FCC rules,” he said. “None of our business plans are designed to take on such huge fines.”

As for “Idol,” Liguori partook in what’s become an annual tradition for Fox Entertainment presidents by expressing gratitude and disbelief over the show’s continuing ratings success. He called the show a “phenomenon” and said he had no idea how the show will perform in 2007.

“I can only predict a little bit of erosion, and then keep my fingers crossed and hope actually the opposite occurs,” he said.

Liguori also admitted it’s “tempting” and “enticing” to consider the idea of moving “Idol” to Thursday nights, particularly since Fox has struggled on the night.

“But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

Elsewhere during his session:

  • Liguori announced third-season pickups for “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”

  • Midseason pilots “Drive” and “Beyond” could be on the air as soon as March, possibly replacing “The OC” on Thursdays, Liguori said.

  • Net has recruited a star-studded list of singers to take part in next month’s “Celebrity Duets,” including Smokey Robinson, Cyndi Lauper, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Clint Black and Aaron Neville.

  • Natalie Portman, Dr. Phil McGraw, Eric Idle, Michael Imperioli, Betty White and Kiefer Sutherland are among guest voices set for the upcoming season of “The Simpsons.”
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