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Television’s upstart network is now Status Quo Central.
Of the four leading broadcast networks, Fox has the fewest new primetime hours this fall, and it’s not really close. NBC has 6 1/2, ABC has 5 1/2 and CBS has four, while Fox has but two: drama “Lone Star” and comedies “Raising Hope” and Running Wilde.”
Pretty much everything went right for Fox last year, from the buzzworthy debut of “Glee” to the less publicized but hardly insignificant relocation of “Fringe” to Thursdays, establishing a foundation where Fox had perennially struggled.
Fox did abandon its experiment of airing two-nighter “So You Think You Can Dance” in the fall, replacing it on Tuesdays (with “Glee” and the two new laffers) and on Wednesdays (with “Lie to Me”). And Fridays have been given over to dramas “Human Target” and “The Good Guys,” as Fox bid not-so-tearful farewells to “Brothers,” ” ‘Til Death” and “Dollhouse.”
There’s also that little matter of the revamped “American Idol” judging panel for that series’ 10th-season debut in January. But while the network might have a few issues, self-esteem isn’t one of them.
“This is the time of year where you can get either a pit in your stomach as the stuff starts to come in and feels like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re in trouble,’ Fox entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly says. “I actually have butterflies in a good way. I can’t wait to get started. I don’t think any of those (new shows) are necessarily going to be a shoe-in, but you guys are going to see some good work this year on Fox through the season.”
Indeed, series creator Kyle Killen seemed to have struck paydirt with his ” ‘Dallas’ without the cheese” concept for the show. Backed by “Party of Five” exec producers Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, with Peter Horton directing (following the Marc Webb-helmed pilot), there’s considerable optimism that “Lone Star” can bring an elite cable sensibility to a broadcast-caliber audience.
“Lone Star” gets a strong lead-in at 9 p.m. Mondays following “House.” The timeslot is anything but a cakewalk, with CBS’ top-rated sitcom “Two and a Half Men” and NBC’s freshman pride and joy “The Event” among the rivals, but all the elements are there for the launch of a long run.
Entering the fall season with the most top critical notices of any freshman series, “Lone Star” offers something for everyone: moral ambiguity in its protagonist for the “Mad Men”/”Breaking Bad” crowd, a lead (James Wolk) who is probably already growing tired of comparisons — however favorable — to Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights,” familiar faces like David Keith and Jon Voight, and big plotlines worthy of a primetime soap.
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“Raising Hope” comes from “My Name Is Earl” creator Greg Garcia, and you can see the bloodlines in its view askew of low-rent suburban life. But instead of a lottery ticket, a baby is the engine that propels Jimmy (newcomer Lucas Neff) into the next phase of his adulthood. Martha Plimpton steals scenes as the new grandmother, while Cloris Leachman will either make you cackle or cringe as the addled great-grand-matriarch.
Burdened with expectations from the fervent cult following of “Arrested Development,” the pilot of “Wilde” seemed destined to disappoint on some level. But beneath some rough edges in the Will Arnett-Keri Russell starrer were signs of the clever “Arrested” deadpan one-liners, and the creators spent the summer honing the show rather than resting on their greenlight. If expectations can be kept in check, “Wilde” might find some running room.