Rice_ontheair Fox Networks Group entertainment chairman Peter Rice and Fox entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly took their turn on the Television Critics Assn. stage today, mostly deflecting questions on the future of the “American Idol” judging panel until official announcements were ready. Here are some highlights:

–Rice, on Ellen DeGeneres’ departure from “Idol”: “In early June, I met with Ellen, and we talked about the season and her feelings about the season, and really about the feeling that she wasn’t comfortable, that she didn’t feel it was a good fit for her. I tried to persuade her it would be different in the future, but ultimately we agreed … we would (tell her) we can’t replace you, or we would feel we can move on without you. And that’s sort of where we got to last week.

“We felt comfortable we could come up with a panel that would work without Ellen as a judge. … And we felt it would be disingenuous to talk about Ellen as a judge (at TCA) when we knew that wouldn’t be the case.”

Foxlogo_ontheair –Rice, on the new judges: “The one thing I can tell you with certainty is that no one, in front of or behind the camera, has signed a deal to join ‘American Idol’ next year that wasn’t on it last year. … We start auditions with the judges in mid-September. We certainly plan to have a judges panel in place by then, and when we have that, we’ll announce that.

“We have met with a tremendous amount of people and discussed (them as potential judges). We never thought it was hard, we just haven’t been able to close it in time for TCA.”

–Rice, on judge Kara DioGuardi: “I’m not going to get into the speculation about her.”

–Rice, on the future of “Idol” in general: “I think we have to put on a great TV show. I think the central conceit of the show, which is someone literally stands in a line in Nashville and can have a No. 1 album eight months later because the American public has connected with them in such an intense way, I think that’s great television. It’s interactive television, it draws a huge audience and people have a connection with the show.

“I think that is something we have to evolve without looking at what we’ve done in the past and disregarding that. It’s going to be in its 10th season. Simon’s departure meant there was going to be a natural evolution. We would like to be celebrating its 20th season in 10 more years.”

–Reilly, providing an overview of Fox’s scripted pickups for 2010-11: “A lot of times in television you’re trying to find resonance in the ordinary by putting them through extraordinary filter.”

–Reilly, on how “Lone Star” fits onto the network. “I think it is a Fox show, because I think it is a noisy conceit. Although many of our hits have had an action component, there have been plenty of shows (that haven’t, such as ‘Party of Five,’ ‘Ally McBeal’). … If you’re talking about a level of octane, I think there is a lot of octane in this concept because of the central conceit. And I think they said it very well, they are going to walk the line; it’s not going to be black and white.”

–Reilly, on the move of “Fringe” to Thursday last year: “The show has been going great. It’s got a very passionate core audience. … That was the only four-way scripted race on television, four appointment shows. We told them we were not going to have an itchy trigger figure. We didn’t … and it did a job for us. We renewed our Thursday night for the first time in our history.”

–Reilly, on scheduling the launch of sci-fi epic “Terra Nova” next year, with a May pilot airing and a fall 2011 series premiere: “It was mainly due to the scope of what this show is going to take. We got into it knowing it was going to be ambitious, knowing we had some groundbreaking digital effects we were bringing to it. … It really became apparent that to do this show right, we were going to need some time.

“(We’ll) hopefully recreate the same thing we did with ‘Glee,’ let people understand the show.”

–Reilly, on not signing Conan O’Brien and Fox’s latenight future: “Conan’s made his choice, and I think he’s going to great over (at TBS).

“This season, , we want to remain focused on prime time. … We’re going to keep our eye on the ball in prime, and when we find the right piece of talent, latenight is never off the table.”

–Reilly, on “Glee” maintaining its hot start: “I think this year, the audience can’t wait to have it go on. We’re looking to do a great year of television, and maybe some of the hoopla will die down and I think that will be healthy.”

–Reilly, on the shelving of a “Glee”-related reality show: “By the time that had finished a season that had slid back into the summer, and a live tour was mounted that was a success but took up more time … it seemed like it was going to be logistically very, very difficult and probably not worth it.”

–Rice, on onscreen diversity: “ We picked up the shows based upon how we felt about the writing and the casting. … ‘Glee’ is perhaps the most diverse show on televison right now. We are always looking for more diverse business.”

–Reilly, on Steve McPherson’s departure as ABC Entertainment topper: “All I will say is that Steve is a very close friend of mine. Almost 30 years we’ve been friends. All I can speak to is the depth of his character. … He’s a very loyal and good friend. As professional, he’s not been afraid to have the courage of his convictions.

“Honestly, it’s been upsetting to me, so honestly my focus is being a friend to him and a friend to his family. I don’t know what his professional plans are, but the door will always be open to him at Fox.”

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