Fox learned lessons of reality TV

Net makes daring changes to Thursdays, Fridays

Advertisers don’t hate reality TV, according to Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow — they just hate poorly executed, low-rated reality TV.

Announcing a fall schedule Thursday that includes “American Idol” spinoff “American Juniors,” as well as the return of “Joe Millionaire,” Grushow told reporters he believes the network learned a few lessons this season from the reality genre’s successes and failures.

“We intend to continue to develop in these areas,” he said. “However, we intend to be much more discriminating (in which projects we choose) and how we bring them to our schedule.”

Reality TV has been on the lips of virtually every network exec this week, as the webs took pains during their upfront presentations to promise advertisers they wouldn’t rely too heavily on nonscripted series this season.

Viewers getting picky

Pointing in particular to ABC’s struggles with some of its midseason nonscripted fare, Grushow noted that viewers have become more discerning with the genre. That will be even more apparent this summer, when the webs plan to debut an avalanche of new reality shows.

“The key is not to become derivative,” he said. “Advertisers would be delighted (with) another ‘American Idol’-type show or ‘Survivor’-type show.”

Grushow and Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said the net will make its boldest moves on Thursday, where the net will combat NBC’s and CBS’ dominance with young-skewing dramas, and Fridays, where the net will slot two comedies leading into “Boston Public.”

Both nights have been problematic for Fox in recent years.

“We see Thursday as a real opportunity this season,” Berman said. “Our two scripted dramas speak directly to the 12-34 audience.”

And after years of trying to duplicate the success of “The X-Files” (which launched on the night) by scheduling testosterone actioners, Berman says the net hopes to turn “broad appeal” on Fridays.

‘Skin’ draws attention

Then there’s “Skin,” the Monday-night drama that’s destined to garner the most press attention for the net this fall. The Jerry Bruckheimer series takes a “Romeo and Juliet”-style concept and sets it in the world of the adult film industry.

Berman played down the porn aspect, however.

“We’re a broadcast network, so we know that we are not going to have this show live in that world,” she said. “First and foremost, this is a character drama.”

As for airing a second edition of “American Juniors” so soon after its initial summer run, Grushow and Berman said they didn’t think the show would dilute the success of the “Idol” mothership.

“We think the shows are unique and different, but they also have compatibility,” Berman said of the “Juniors”-“Idol” relationship. “We wanted to keep that time period available for a compatible show.”

And if “Juniors” doesn’t perform this summer, Berman said the net will know early enough to tweak its fall lineup.

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