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Fox pumps the comedy factor for 2012-13

Net builds Tues. sitcom block; 'Glee' shifts to Thurs.

Fox is shifting “Glee” away from Tuesday to fill the night entirely with half-hour comedies in the fall, the network announced Monday ahead of its upfront presentation.

“Glee” is bound for Thursday as the network attempts to build on the success of “New Girl” this season in the Tuesday 9 p.m. berth by surrounding it with two new comedies, “Ben & Kate” and “The Mindy Project.” “Raising Hope” will return to lead off Tuesday at 8 p.m.

“That night feels like a very smart, young, upscale night of comedy that we’re going to be proud of,” said Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment at Fox, in a conference call with reporters.

Staying in place on Wednesday and Thursday is the duo of “The X Factor” in fall and “American Idol” in spring. Fox is expected to name new judges for “Factor” on Monday, with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato rumored to join Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid.

Though “Idol” ratings dropped precipitously this season and “Factor” didn’t quite match the hype that preceded it, both remain potent pieces of Fox’s schedule.

However, Reilly acknowledged the level of decline surprised the network, which will do some “creative invigoration” to “Idol.” He wouldn’t say whether new judges could be a part of that re-evaluation.

While the network used the Wednesday “Factor” last season to launch a new comedy at 9:30 p.m., the now-defunct “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” this season it is slated for two-hour episodes. Fox execs explained they learned that “Factor” needed the entire night of primetime to sufficiently tell the show’s stories, and that the final half-hour is typically its highest rated.

On the drama side, new series “The Mob Doctor,” starring Jordana Spiro as a femme doctor for the Mafia, is taking over the Monday 9 p.m. time slot vacated by departing series “House.” “Bones” will remain at 8 p.m. after the veteran series proved its mettle late this season by performing respectably on a night that has proved difficult for Fox, which this season saw high-profile launches “Terra Nova” and “Alcatraz” fail on Monday.

Another drama that didn’t find its footing on Monday, “Touch,” will start its second season on Friday at 8 p.m., where “Kitchen Nightmares” started last season. “Fringe” will close its final season at 9 p.m.

Another new drama order, thriller “The Following,” is being held for midseason, and is expected to launch on Monday as well. The Kevin Bacon starrer will air all 15 of its episodes uninterrupted.

Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly had identified building a four-comedy block as a priority network for the last season though attempts to experiment during the 2011-12 season with other comedies including “Breaking In” didn’t gel in a way that made the move an obvious one.

Network execs are also encouraged by the success of series this laffers like Fox’s “Girl” and ABC’s “Suburgatory” while dramas are becoming a tougher road to hoe given the volume of competition across the broadcast and cable landscape.

Comedy blocks tend to get top dollar from advertisers, not to mention high value in syndication should the half-hours last long enough. NBC announced a comedy-heavy schedule Sunday with four different blocks, and CBS is expected to launch a four-comedy block on Thursdays next season as well.

Reilly didn’t mention NBC by name but seemed to be pointing his finger at the network when touting Fox’s ability to focus its marketing efforts on just a few comedies. “A high volume of comedies with limited orders is going to be very confusing to the audience on some of the competitors,” he said.

Helping Fox’s Tuesday efforts is the fact that the night will be the least disrupted among the weeknights by the combination of post-season baseball and presidential election coverage. “Girl” saw some ratings decline in its first season after the network yanked the series from the schedule for a month.

“Glee” could get a lift from having “Factor” as a lead-in. While the series continues to be a buzz magnet, its ratings have softened in its third season. Last season the series averaged a 3.4 rating among viewers 18-49 and 8.5 million total viewers, down to a 2.7/6.6 million for the season to date ending May 9.

Reilly indicated “Glee” is “poised for a creative renaissance” given the coming addition of new cast members while some of its existing players are being shifted to a different storyline involving attending a school for performing arts in New York. In addition, Kate Hudson is slated to appear in a seven-episode arc while Sarah Jessica Parker is on tap for a multi-episode arc as well.

A third comedy Fox ordered, “The Goodwin Games,” is being held for midseason. All in all, Fox ordered three comedies and two dramas for 2012-13–the fewest among the Big Four, reflecting a schedule strong enough to command the most 18-49 viewers.

Reilly indicated he may still put a script or two into development out of cycle.

Fox Networks Group chairman Peter Rice echoed concerns aired Sunday by NBC Broadcasting chief Ted Harbert over a new ad-skipping technology being deployed by Dish Network called Auto Hop, but said News Corp. is still evaluating it.

Rice also welcomed NBC’s decision to move “The Voice” to fall, which he saw as less of a competitive threat to “Factor.” “We’re thrilled ‘The Voice’ is moving there and we think there’s going to be a big spotlight on ‘X Factor’ vs. ‘The Voice,'” he said.

FOX 2012-2013 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE (all time ET/PT)

8:00-9:00 PM: “Bone”
9:00-10:00 PM: “The Mob Doctor” (new)

“The Following” (new) joins in midseason.

8:00-8:30 PM: “Raising Hope”
8:30-9:00 PM: “Ben and Kate” (new)
9:00-9:30 PM: “New Girl”
9:30-10:00 PM: “The Mindy Project”(new)

“The Goodwin Games” (new) joins in midseason.

8:00-10:00 PM: “The X Factor” (fall) / “American Idol” (midseason)

8:00-9:00 PM: “The X Factor” Results (fall) / “American Idol” Results (midseason)
9:00-10:00 PM: “Glee”

8:00-9:00 PM: “Touch”
9:00-10:00 PM: “Fringe” (fall)

“Hell’s Kitchen” returns in midseason.

7:00-10:30 PM: FOX Sports Saturday fall)

“Cops” returns in midseason.
Animation Domination High-Def (new) will join late-prime in 2013.

7:00-7:30 PM: NFL Game (fall) / Animation Domination(encores)
7:30-8:00 PM: “The OT” (fall) /”The Cleveland Show”
8:00-8:30 PM: “The Simpsons”
8:30-9:00 PM: “Bob’s Burgers”
9:00-9:30 PM: “Family Guy”
9:30-10:00 PM: “American Dad”

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