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Fox Schedule Analysis: Net Delivers on Necessary Changes

Coming off a rough spring, Fox was expected to make some major changes to its schedule — and it didn’t disappoint.

The net’s fall schedule makes the most of what it has to work with, adding five new series (comprising more than a third of its schedule) and making changes to every night that it airs series programming— including adding live-action comedy to Sunday as suggested in our spitball sked of a few days ago. New series air across the week, but each is skedded alongside proven shows.

And to help compensate for the loss of “The X Factor,” which gobbled up three hours (or 20%) of the net’s schedule last fall, the network’s turning to new reality series “Utopia,” which will air twice weekly.

Fox’s best move is making Monday a signature drama night, with last year’s breakout hit “Sleepy Hollow” preceded by the much-anticipated Batman origin series “Gotham.” The net should be the top choice among men, at least outside of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

After seeing disastrous results for its four-comedy block on Tuesday this season, the net has wisely pared down the night to “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.”  Social-experiment reality series “Utopia,” which serves as their lead-in, is a big swing for Fox and could/should provide the down-trending “New Girl” with a better lead-in than it’s had down the stretch of this season with “Glee.”

Fox is adding a new drama to both Wednesday and Thursday, and using vets “Hell’s Kitchen” (Wednesday) and “Bones” (Thursday) as their lead-ins. Wednesday’s “Red Band Society” (pictured) might have been a good fit with “Glee” on the night, but the veteran musical comedy’s ratings tumble this season may have scared the net from starting its season with it. “Red Band,” about a group of teens who meet in a pediatric ward, is one of the more intriguing series on any net this fall, and it’s slotted well here opposite older-skewing crime dramas on CBS and NBC.

Thursday’s new hour, “Gracepoint,” a 10-episode mystery drama about the police investigation of a boy’s death, is well scheduled too with “Bones” as its lead-in. (And in this case, it’s smart to go with these kinds of shows in timeslots where CBS doesn’t have crime dramas.)

On Sunday, Fox is abandoning its all-animated comedy lineup and will feature two live-action half-hours: newcomer “Mulaney” and the second season of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The net has a new animated comedy, “Bordertown,” coming in the second half of the season, but it makes sense to experiment in the fall with live-action laffers on a night that’s otherwise dominating by drama (including of the NFL variety).

Despite so many new hours on its fall schedule, Fox is saving more than half of its scripted programming — including Rainn Wilson in drama “Backstrom,” hip-hop drama “Empire,” single thirtysomethings comedy “Weird Loners” and M. Night Shyamalan’s event series “Wayward Pines” — for 2015 as it looks to fulfill its promise of more original fare throughout the year. There’s also “Glee,” which has a full-season order (though that may get reduced) and will plug a hole somewhere.

The net seems to realize it’s in a transitionary stage and is wisely investing more heavily in scripted programming to find new hits. It’s a very diverse slate, and one with numerous intriguing projects. Hopefully for Fox, quality can match quantity.

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