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Upfronts: Fox going beyond the “Fringe”?

Houseguitar_2And now our attention turns to Fox, which wraps up upfront week on Thursday with its 4 p.m. presentation at Gotham’s City Center.

Come to think of it, I wonder why Fox didn’t go first this year? It’s been the No. 1 network in 18-49 for the past four seasons, and in this strike-jumbled year it’s going to close out the 2007-08 campaign as No. 1 in total viewers too.

So with NBC sitting out its usual Monday midday slot in this year in favor of the Jimi Hendrix version, Fox might’ve moved in and made a statement about how far its come since the days of “Mr. President” and “The Wilton North Report.” What’s the expression Rupert Murdoch is fond of citing — “Fortune favors the brave” Oh well, maybe next year.

The time has come to get in touch with our inner Preston Beckman and figure out what moves Fox is going to make in the fall and in its January season. It doesn’t take a Ph.D in skedding to figure out that the net is going to shine a spotlight on J.J. Abrams’ drama “Fringe” as its hot new prospect for the fall and Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” for midseason.

Speculation is that “Fringe” will land on Monday in the fall in tandem with “Prison Break” or “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” The betting is that Fox won’t want to mess with success on Tuesday and thus will keep its drama combo of “Bones” and “House” intact on the night for the fall.

Wednesday seems likely to remain Fox’s live-action comedy night, though the net may shuffle things in Bones1_2 light of CBS’ decision to sked laffers in the 8-9 p.m. hour next season. Newcomer “The Inn,” starring Niecy Nash and Jerry O’Connell, is likely destined for a pairing with third-year sitcom “Til Death.” Wednesday 9 p.m. could go to “Sarah Connor” if “Fringe” winds up mated with “Prison Break on Monday.

In the fall, Thursday and Friday are expected to remain some combination of unscripted skeins. As ever, Fox has a strong reality bench that includes “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Moment of Truth” and “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader.”

Sunday is set to remain status quo with a stack of animated comedies. Newcomers “Class Dismissed” and “Family Guy” spinoff “Cleveland” won’t be ready to bow until first quarter at the earliest.

Meanwhile, given how much 20th Century Fox TV is investing in Whedon’s latest TV effort, “Dollhouse” is sure to land a plum spot in January when “24” and “American Idol,” return to the lineup.

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