Network preps for lengthy strike
With no resolution in sight, Fox is bracing for a lengthy Writers Guild strike by tweaking its midseason schedule.
Newcomers “New Amsterdam” and “Canterbury’s Law,” which had initially been given berths on Friday night — arguably Fox’s weakest — will now bow in safer Monday-night slots in spring.
Fox has also added several Thursday-night installments of “American Idol” and will hold back the new reality entry “When Women Rule the World,” most likely until summer.
Fox was the first net out with a strike-adjusted midseason sked back in November, announcing a revised lineup just a week after the work stoppage began.
But now that the strike has entered its third month — and it’s looking less likely that scripted shows without any new segs will be back before the end of the season — Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman said the net decided to make some more adjustments.
“The world has changed from Nov. 1 to Jan. 1,” Beckman said. “We reassessed our schedule in light of the fact that the strike was going to continue for a while.”
Increasing the urgency to make shows like “Amsterdam” and Julianna Margulies starrer “Canterbury’s Law” succeed is the possibility of a scrapped pilot season. Nets want their newcomers to succeed, but there are always shows waiting in the wings to fill the void if they don’t. That may not be the case for fall 2008, however — putting even more pressure on midseason entries.
Besides “Amsterdam” and “Canterbury’s Law,” Fox is bowing frosh scripted skeins “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Unhitched” and “The Return of Jezebel James” in midseason.
“It became clear to us we wanted to give every one of these shows the best chance to succeed,” Beckman said. “If we can’t have a pilot season, to get one of two of these to work would be valuable going into next season.”
As scheduled, Mondays will consist of “Prison Break” and “Terminator” until the end of February; both “Terminator” and the second half of “Prison Break’s” third season premiere Jan. 14. “Prison Break” airs its final seg on Feb. 18, a special “Moment of Truth” runs on Feb. 25, and the two-hour “Terminator” finale airs on March 3.
Then, on March 10, “House” begins a run of repeats Mondays at 8, followed by “New Amsterdam’s” regular timeslot debut at 9. “New Amsterdam” actually gets two previews beforehand, on Tuesday, March 4, and Thursday, March 6, at 9 p.m., behind two “Idol” editions. “New Amsterdam” finishes its run on April 7 with a two-hour finale; then, on April 14, “Canterbury’s Law” bows at 9.
Fox is also shuffling its comedies around, scheduling original episodes of “Back to You” behind 90-minute “Idol” editions on Tuesday, Feb. 26, Wednesday, Feb. 27, and then again on Tuesday, March 25. Show moves to its regular spot, behind “Idol” results shows, on Wednesday, March 19.
“‘Til Death,” meanwhile, returns with new episodes on Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m., followed by newbie “Jezebel James” (which also gets a one-time post-“Idol” preview on Wednesday, March 12) at 8:30 p.m.
On Thursdays, Fox will run “Idol” at 8 p.m. on Feb. 21, 28 and March 6; after that, starting March 13, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” runs at 8 p.m., with “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” at 9.
“Bones” repeats will air Fridays at 9 p.m. starting March 14 (after a few weeks at 8 p.m.).
The decision to bench “When Women Rule the World” could have come down to a sales issue. On the surface, “When Women Rule the World” — which follows a group of women who control a group of men — does not sound like something advertisers would be keen on.