Net banks on Cowell show to deliver in the fall

Fox is counting on “The X Factor” to work the same ratings magic in fall that “American Idol” delivers midseason by placing Simon Cowell’s new venture in “Idol’s” Wednesday-Thursday timeslot.

The scheduling of “X Factor” was one of the big questions hanging over the Fox’s upfront presentation, held Monday afternoon at the New Beacon Theater. The network is also betting big on its dino drama “Terra Nova” with a Monday 8 p.m. slot for the fall, and it hopes Zooey Deschanel is its new “it” girl, handing her laffer “The New Girl” the plum post-“Glee” spot on Tuesday.

Though Fox had largely let its new series pickups be known last week, Fox entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly saved one big reveal for the Beacon stage: “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane will oversee a new version of Hanna-Barbera chestnut “The Flintstones,” targeted for a 2013 debut.

“We can’t wait for Seth and his team to reimagine them for a new generation,” said Reilly.

In his on-stage remarks, Reilly was also candid about the stress that came with the effort to rejuvenate “Idol” following Cowell’s departure. It was worth the agita, as “Idol” is up year over year in total viewers for the first time in five years.

“I’d be lying if I said the launch of the new season wasn’t one of the most daunting challenges we were faced with as a network,” Reilly acknowledged.

Fox’s big show Monday opened with a perf from the “Glee” cast and some pointed humor from star Jane Lynch.

But in stark contrast to NBC, which made a presentation earlier in the day, Fox pitched its digital bona fides, citing everything from its network-leading 113 million “likes” on Facebook to having four of the top 10 shows on Hulu.

“X Factor” was introduced to considerable pomp, with an overcaffeinated sizzle reel ending with Cowell walking out along with his fellow judges, hosts and, strangely, former “Idol” mate Randy Jackson.

“Randy, wrong show,” said Cowell, ushering him offstage. “This is the new one.”

Perhaps the biggest crowd reaction to Fox’s new series clips came for “New Girl,” which Reilly touted as the perfect matchup of writer (Liz Meriwether) and star (Zooey Deschanel).

“Every once in a while you find an actor and writer that just bond together,” said Reilly.

On “Terra Nova,” Reilly and his boss, Fox Networks Group entertainment chairman Peter Rice, made it clear the network sees major promise in the show that has long been gestating and dogged by reports of difficulties behind the scenes thanks to its ambitious fx requirements.

“A big tent show is not something we see on television now and that’s something we want on our air,” Rice said during a conference call earlier in the day with reporters.

Fox’s two other new dramas will premiere in midseason, when they can benefit from cross-promotion with “Idol.” J.J. Abrams time-travel hour “Alcatraz” will take over Mondays in January after the 13-episode “Nova” run and “Bones” spinoff “The Finder” will take over its predecessor’s 9 p.m. slot on Thursdays. “House,” which will move to 9 p.m. in the fall to make room for “Terra Nova,” will slide back to 8 p.m. in midseason to support “Alcatraz.”

Media buyers were generally positive about Fox’s lineup.

” ‘Alcatraz’ has real potential with the way it manages to blend genres,” said Lyle Schwartz, head of programming research and analysis at GroupM. ” ‘Terra Nova’ is going to generate strong interest, too.”

Fox plans a fall start for its other new sitcom, Jaime Pressly laffer “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” to air at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday following a 90-minute edition of “Factor.”

One of two animated half-hours joining Fox’s schedule this season, “Allen Gregory,” will take over the 8:30 p.m. timeslot on Sundays following “The Simpsons.”

Reilly said he could have put more comedies on the schedule because he was happy with what’s in his development pipeline, but emphasized how important it is to nurture new entries from this fragile genre.

“I personally would not want to be starting nights with it or throwing it against vulnerable time periods,” said Reilly, in a not-so-veiled reference to his former network, NBC, scheduling two comedy pilots on Wednesdays at 8. “That doesn’t work well.”

The network’s other new toon, “Napoleon Dynamite,” will step into the same timeslot in midseason. “Bob’s Burgers,” the returning animated series, will be back for another 13 episodes, but at 9:30.

“Idol” returns on Jan. 22, with Fox making the unprecedented move of scheduling it after the NFC championship game on a Sunday. Rice revealed that judge Jennifer Lopez needs to be re-signed if she’s to return next season.

“We’re talking to her now about her schedule next year,” he said. “Our hope and expectation is that she’ll return.”

Another highly anticipated Fox drama, the Kiefer Sutherland hour “Touch,” is expected to shoot its pilot in June, after the actor returns from a theater project. “Touch” will likely be added to the schedule in the midseason.

With two more comedies still in contention for pickups — “Little in Common” and “Family Album” — Fox is looking to launch a four-comedy block on Tuesdays in March for a trial period between flights of original episodes of “Glee.”

“If it goes like gangbusters, it will return in the fall,” said Reilly, who cited the formation of a comedy night as a high priority for the network.

Long-running Saturday staple “America’s Most Wanted” will no longer be in weekly mode, transitioning to quarterly two-hour specials this season. Reilly believes “Wanted” host and executive producer John Walsh is shopping the show elsewhere.

“It’s been no secret to John that we haven’t made money on the show for quite a while,” he said. “Economically, it’s getting to the point where it was not particularly viable but we wanted to keep the franchise alive.”

In another Fox first, the network has skedded a special to mark its 25th anniversary on April 1, 2012. Details were skimpy but Fox said it would feature appearances by the net’s “biggest stars from both past and present.”

Reporters were quick to note that Fox Broadcasting Co. technically bowed in 1986 with Joan Rivers’ latenight yakker. But its first lineup of primetime programming rolled out in April 1987.

Click here for full coverage the fall TV season

FOX FALL 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE (All Times ET/PT)New shows are upper case


MONDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: TERRA NOVA (new)
9:00-10:00 PM: House

TUESDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: Glee
9:00-9:30 PM: NEW GIRL (wt) (new)
9:30-10:00 PM: Raising Hope

WEDNESDAY
8:00-9:30 PM: THE X FACTOR (new)
9:30-10:00 PM: I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (wt) (new)

THURSDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: THE X FACTOR Results Show (new)
9:00-10:00 PM: Bones

FRIDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: Kitchen Nightmares
9:00-10:00 PM: Fringe

SATURDAY
8:00-8:30 PM: Cops
8:30-9:00 PM: Cops
9:00-10:00 PM: Encores / America’s Most Wanted (specials)

SUNDAY
7:00-7:30 PM: THE OT (NFL post-game)
7:30-8:00 PM: The Cleveland Show
8:00-8:30 PM: The Simpsons
8:30-9:00 PM: ALLEN GREGORY (new)
9:00-9:30 PM: Family Guy
9:30-10:00 PM: American Dad

FOX MIDSEASON 2012 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE (All Times ET/PT)

MONDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: House
9:00-10:00 PM: ALCATRAZ (new)

TUESDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: Glee
9:00-9:30 PM: NEW GIRL (wt) (new)
9:30-10:00 PM: Raising Hope

WEDNESDAY
8:00-9:30 PM: American Idol Performance Show
9:30-10:00 PM: I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (wt) (new)

THURSDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: American Idol Results Show
9:00-10:00 PM: THE FINDER (new) / Bones (Spring)

FRIDAY
8:00-9:00 PM: Kitchen Nightmares
9:00-10:00 PM: Fringe

SATURDAY
8:00-8:30 PM: Cops
8:30-9:00 PM: Cops
9:00-10:00 PM: Encores / America’S Most Wanted (Specials)

SUNDAY
7:00-7:30 PM: Animation Domination (Encores)
7:30-8:00 PM: The Cleveland Show
8:00-8:30 PM: The Simpsons
8:30-9:00 PM: NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (new)
9:00-9:30 PM: Family Guy
9:30-10:00 PM: Bob’s Burgers

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more
Post A Comment 0