New Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Rice met the press for the first time as a TV exec Thursday — and was immediately smacked by Hurricane Paula.
Seated next to entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly at Fox’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour, Rice noted that the net’s executive session had promised to be a rather low-key affair until Tuesday night, when “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul announced her exit.
“I’ve really been looking forward to (the press tour) and to getting to know you all,” Rice told reporters. “And I guess that all changed about 36 hours ago, and then I wasn’t looking forward to it much in the last 24 hours.”
With that, Rice and Reilly got into the Abdul brouhaha, discussing her departure and the net’s contingency plans for “Idol” (see separate story).
Separate from the “Idol” chatter, Fox announced it had just picked up an eighth season of “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Also, execs said the one-hour special “Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live” would air on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 9 p.m.
Not returning to their airwaves, however, is reality series “Moment of Truth,” which had been slated to return this summer. Fox alternative topper Mike Darnell blamed that cancellation on the tough ad climate.
“It works for us, it gave us a good number, but in this economic environment it made it a difficult show to sell,” Darnell said.
Reilly also cited the rough advertising marketplace in the net’s decision not to run an abortion-themed episode of “Family Guy” last spring.
“It was a business decision,” Reilly said. “It’s an extremely fragile subject matter at an extremely fragile economic time. We felt like it could cause trouble.”
Besides the sales issue, Fox Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra said he also had some problems with the episode’s content.
“It’s not a show you want to put on a broadcast network,” he said. “We love Seth (MacFarlane), but it didn’t make sense from a lot of different directions, including advertisers.”
Fox did agree to help fund an event next week, with 20th Century Fox TV, in which MacFarlane and the “Family Guy” cast will perform a table read of the abortion episode (Daily Variety, Aug. 6).
Also not returning to the network: Fox’s stab at a variety franchise, “The Osbournes: Reloaded.” Not only was the initial special pre-empted by a number of affiliates, but it flopped in the ratings.
Although the net still has six episodes of “King of the Hill” in the can, Reilly said he had no plans to run those remaining episodes, including one that had been produced as a possible series finale. Instead, those segs will simply go into the syndicated run of the show.
On the animated front, Reilly said he was high on the pilot presentation “Bob’s Burgers,” from Loren Bouchard (“Dr. Katz”) and Jim Dauterive (“King of the Hill”), who created and will also exec produce and showrun.
20th Century Fox TV is behind the project, which has not been officially ordered yet, although a pickup appears to be imminent. Net has recently ordered more scripts of the half-hour, which could be the next Sunday night franchise for the net.
Reilly also didn’t rule out the possibility of picking up the broadcast window of “Futurama,” which was recently revived by 20th and Comedy Central. “If we see a renaissance with the show, it’s not out of the equation,” Reilly said.
Competitively, Reilly said he wouldn’t count out NBC’s five-night “The Jay Leno Show” strip, which he believes will perform decently.
“Jay is not going to flatline,” Reilly said. “He’s got a built-in fanbase. He’s going to put on a good show. There’s not a ‘Mentalist’ on (at 10 p.m.) five nights a week, so there are some ratings points up for grabs.”
Nonetheless, Reilly said NBC as a whole may take a hit from the show, noting how talkshows generally lose ratings throughout the hour.
“They struggle at 8, and there are not a lot of powerhouses at 9,” Reilly said of the Peacock. “You have got to look at the whole picture.”
CBS, meanwhile, “will be very competitive this year,” Reilly said, noting that they’ve “traded up on Tuesday, have ‘Mentalist’ on Thursday and have the Super Bowl.” And ABC has “a few to watch,” Reilly said, expressing belief that “Flash Forward” will open strong.
As for his own net, Reilly said he believes Fox will be “stable and competitive” this season.
Meanwhile, Reilly mostly passed on an opportunity to take a dig at former NBC exec Ben Silverman.
Asked to comment on Silverman’s recent departure announcement, Reilly asked, “Which time, the official announcement or the six-month pre-announcement?” But beyond that, Silverman’s job status “hasn’t affected Fox for the last two years and I assume it won’t affect it for the next two.”
A. Smith and Co. and ITV Studios are behind “Hell’s Kitchen.” Arthur Smith and Kent Weed exec produce.
On one final “Idol” note, Rice sought to correct reports that said “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest had received a pay bump to $15 million per year.
“Ryan is still in his old contract on ‘Idol,’ and Ryan made a deal with (19 Entertainment owner) CKX, which encompasses much more than ‘Idol,’ ” Rice said. “Ryan is not being paid $15 million a year to be on ‘Idol.’ “