Network takes aim at core audience with action-dramas, edgy laffers
Fox, coming off a rough season, is returning to its roots this fall by making a more overt attempt at attracting men.
And this may be the opening the net needs, especially in drama, where it’s planning two new testosterone-tilting hours on Monday, a night where its rivals have increasingly gone female.
After wearing the demo crown for eight years, it took a tumble last season and settled for second — down 18% in regular-program 18-49 averages (though still tied with CBS for first).
Of course, Fox’s fall fate hinges mostly on how “The X Factor” returns in season three. The music competition, which comprises all of the net’s Wednesday sked and half of Thursday, was down 20% in 18-49 last season (and “American Idol” followed with even steeper declines).
Fox still won Wednesday in 18-49 and was second to CBS on Thursday, but another year of declines could have it questioning whether it wants to devote so much sked space to both shows — something that limits its options.
Though it’s launching two dramas on Monday, Fox is smartly using “Bones” as a lead-in to “Sleepy Hollow” before it asks the vet to anchor Friday in November. Around the same time, after Fox’s coverage of the World Series, “Almost Human” will join “Sleepy Hollow” on Monday.
Fox has had a couple of spectacular Monday-at-9 fall failures in recent years — “Lone Star” and “The Mob Doctor” — but has scored with male shows there. “24” was a mainstay in the second half of the season, and “The Following” shined earlier this year — the net’s only real bright spot in the 2012-13 season.
Fox shied away in the past from going more male in the fall because it faces “Monday Night Football,” but other rivals have ceded the fi eld. ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” is roughly 70% female, NBC’s “The Voice” nearly 65%, and CBS has two comedies with female leads.
Of the two Monday newbies, “Sleepy Hollow” appears most promising.
In live-action comedy, Fox has momentum for the first time in years, and last season’s “The Mindy Project” could grow in season two. The Tuesday block looks improved with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Dads,” even if critics have already piled on the latter.
One to watch is midseason’s Chris Meloni-fronted “Surviving Jack,” which Fox may be eyeing to join “New Girl” after the Super Bowl.
With Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday largely staying pat, that leaves Friday, where Fox tumbled 24% last season.
Fox has flirted with moving “Bones” to Friday in the past, but this really is the right place for it — especially opposite reality and comedy shows on rival nets — and it helps Fox by opening up Monday.
Going forward, Fox has made it clear its intention to program year-round, with shorter-order series to help spice up quiet stretches, and some shows flowing in and out of summer.