Broadcast TV: Fox

Second half of year reinvigorates net

Follow the hopping Fox.

The network entered the year bruised after a tough fall 2002, only to come back in the second half of the season to nearly steal the adults 18-49 crown from crosstown rival NBC. “Joe Millionaire” and “American Idol” reinvigorated the entire network, also helping to solidify such scripted shows as “24” and “That ’70s Show.”

The streak continued in the summer, as Fox made good on its promise to launch a scripted drama out of the September glare. “The O.C.” started slowly, but quickly became a young adult phenomenon.

The Major League Baseball playoffs, usually a sore point for Fox Entertainment execs, became an asset as dream seasons from the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox led to boffo numbers.

Then came the curse. First, the Cubs and Red Sox failed to make it to the World Series. Fox — expected to lap up the huge promo push — stumbled.

“The Next Joe Millionaire” did worse than anyone expected. Frosh entries such as “Skin” and “Luis” were quickly yanked. Critically acclaimed newcomer “Arrested Development” couldn’t get, um, arrested.

In the end, November was not a sweep to remember for Fox. But the net picked itself up, and even got a nice December present from hit reality series “The Simple Life.” And come January, “American Idol” returns.

At that point, it’s a whole new ballgame for Fox — TV’s comeback kids.

“We’ll continue to learn the November lessons until we get it right,” says Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman. “We don’t have all the answers, but we won’t do it the same way again. To change anything in a business that’s been doing things one way for many years is not easy. It does take time. But that’s our process. It’s not like we’re headed back in another direction.”

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