'New Girl' should have been hyped over new comedies

After a rough fall, Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly says he wished he had a restart button for the net’s underperforming Tuesday comedy block.

Achieving traction on Tuesday nights after new laffers “Ben & Kate” and “The Mindy Project” were added to established skeins “Raising Hope” and “New Girl” has been difficult for the network, Reilly admitted during his exec session Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. In hindsight, he acknowledged that the net should have taken a different approach in marketing the changes.

“I still would have gone with those comedies, but I would have really promoted ‘New Girl’ solely rather than as part of a block,” Reilly said. “Nobody knew those new shows, and we needed ‘New Girl’ to be even stronger and a destination. I think we suffered getting it lumped in with shows that they didn’t quite know.”

There’s not much Reilly can do to change the equation in the months ahead. “For the first part of the year, we have to play through,” he said. “We’ll look at the spring to see if there’s anything we can do it protect it a little bit. But I’m going to stick with the shows.”

Reilly said it wasn’t just comedies on Fox that have had it rough. CBS’ “Partners” and NBC’s “Animal Practice” were among laffers that made quick exits. The difficulty in launching comedies, Reilly said, is that with so many viewers watching series on DVR and not live in their original timeslots, many shows draw little sampling during those critical first few weeks.

“The biggest challenge for the business is comedy,” he said. “Our shows weren’t rejected; they weren’t sampled. It wasn’t that they were sampled and sloughed off.”

Reilly said it was difficult for Fox to quickly regroup after fall started off slowly — both on the comedy and drama side.

“We made enough pilots but felt too confident about the amount we ordered. Even if we had more on the bench, there was nothing we could have done,” he explained. “When we stumbled out of the gate on ‘The Mob Doctor,’ which by the way was the worst title in the history of the world, we were trapped and couldn’t bring something else in at that point. Baseball finished and then we were into November and could only bring in a fraction of a series before ‘The Following’ came in January.”

When asked whether NBC’s strategy to air “The Voice” opposite the season debut of “The X Factor” was an underhanded scheduling move, Reilly slyly replied: “It went in the file for later reference. The score will be settled at some point. I don’t know when. It was slightly on the cheesy side.”

Fox is making progress on its plans, unveiled last year, to develop miniseries and limited series. Net said Tuesday it is working on miniseries projects from M. Night Shyamalan and “Band of Brothers” scribe Bruce McKenna. Reilly said the projects will run eight to 12 episodes and possibly extend beyond one season. Shyamalan’s project or McKenna’s “Blood Brothers” could be greenlit later this year for a 2014 debut.

“We’re going to emulate the HBO model, which will be high-end, big in scope and epic productions,” Reilly said. “They will have movie stars and topnotch talent.”

“Twin Peaks”-like drama “Wayward Pines,” based on the novel “Pines” by Blake Crouch, follows a Secret Service agent who uncovers many mysteries in a small town. The project came to Fox based on the strength of a spec script by Chad Hodge. Shyamalan will exec produce with Hodge, Donald De Line and Ashwin Rajan.

“Blood Brothers” is the true story of the West Point class of 1861, as the Civil War is about to begin and friends are often on opposite sides of the conflict.

McKenna, who also wrote HBO’s “Band of Brothers” sequel “The Pacific,” exec produces with Timothy Scott Bogart and Gary Randall.

In other programming news, Reilly said he didn’t anticipate a “Glee” spinoff and that the pilot of the revamped version of “In Living Color” was not going forward. And to no one’s surprise, veteran drama “Bones” has been renewed for a ninth season.

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