Fall TV Preview 2012: Fox

Fox is preparing for a step backward this coming TV season, though that doesn’t mean the mood at the corner of the Pico and Avenue of the Stars is grim.

After eight seasons on “The Office” as a performer, writer and producer, Mindy Kaling branches off into her own endeavor about an ob-gyn in the throes of a Bridget Jones-style personal life.

Kevin Reilly, the network’s entertainment chairman, concedes that Fox’s eight-year reign atop the 18-49 demo might come to an end, but gives little ground elsewhere.

“I like the way we’re teed up this year,” Reilly says. “It’s gonna be a competitive year.

“I’ll tell you right now that CBS has been our main competitor. CBS plays their game. We play ours. There’s really not a lot of overlap. We’ve been competing neck and neck for many years. They’ve got the Super Bowl this year. They’ve got the AFC playoff game. I think it’s going to be a very close year.”

Fox’s changes for 2012-13 would fall under the category of tinkering rather than renovating. “Glee” is moving to Thursdays and taking on a two-location structure in its storytelling. Wednesday reality series “The X Factor” has recruited the likes of Demi Lovato and Britney Spears to try to boost its less-than-ideal freshman ratings. Midseason drama “Touch” will settle in on Fridays ahead of the final season of veteran “Fringe.”

Even what is arguably Fox’s most significant change, doubling down on four halfhour comedies on Tuesday, has a comfortable feel. The offbeat family on 8:30 p.m. freshman “Ben and Kate” pairs with a different offbeat family on lead-in “Raising Hope,” while Mindy Kaling’s “The Mindy Project” offers another idiosyncratic female lead to follow Zooey Deschanel in “New Girl.”

The hold-your-breath spot on Fox’s fall schedule might be at 9 p.m. Mondays with new drama “The Mob Doctor,” which will try to make headway against potent rivals including ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” NBC’s “The Voice” and CBS’ “2 Broke Girls” and “Mike & Molly.” Kevin Bacon starrer “The Following” could make a big impact for Fox at midseason.

“This year, we were No. 1 or No. 2 seven nights of the week,” Reilly says, “and we’ll be that way next year. Whether we end up getting nudged out of the title or not … that’s where we’ll be.”

SPOTLIGHT

“The Mindy Project”

Like “New Girl,” the show it will follow on Tuesdays, the focus at “Mindy” will begin on its star but should shift into an appreciation of an ensemble — in this case, a rather large one that includes the increasingly ubiquitous Chris Messina and character actor extraordinaire Stephen Tobolowsky.

But there’s no doubt that Kaling’s profile in the TV world brings more of the spotlight to “Project” than it would otherwise have. It also says something about her presence that her becoming the first American of Indian descent to serve as the lead performer of a primetime program has largely gone unnoticed in a nation typically obsessed with milestones.

“Ben and Kate”

Fresh off sharing Oscar adapted screenwriting honors for “The Descendants” with Jim Rash of “Community,” Nat Faxon joins the single-cam sitcom world co-starring opposite third-generation actress Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) in this Dana Fox-created sitcom. The pair play the brother-sister title characters, who at once embrace and repel dreams and responsibilities.

“The Mob Doctor”

In her first series role since starring in TBS sitcom “My Boys,” Jordana Spiro takes on the duties of doc to the Chicago underworld. She projects the requisite toughness, with her charisma key to the success of a show seeking a TV audience whose mob thrills don’t come from “Boardwalk Empire” or fond memories of “The Sopranos.”

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