Anticipating ‘Idol’ chatter


WHAT WORKED: Sweet, sweet baseball.

America’s pastime gave Fox some extraordinary numbers in October, which is why, technically, the network is up year-to-year among adults 18-49. And just think what the ratings would’ve been if the Red Sox and Cubs had made it to the World Series.

On the series front, Fox was rewarded for its decision to launch “The O.C.” in the summer. The show became instant must-see TV for the young set.

Fox also struck reality TV gold in socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The girls’ farm days, recounted in “The Simple Life,” made them stars and made viewers forget about “The Next Joe Millionaire.”

And while “Arrested Development” has yet to get noticed by viewers, the show quickly became this year’s critical comedy darling.

“It’s pretty extraordinary that ‘Arrested Development’ has gotten the accolades it has from everyone putting it in their top 10 to the (Golden Globe nomination for best comedy),” says Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman. “And the show has been on only six times.” WHAT DIDN’T: Somehow baseball didn’t bring eyeballs back to the network after the Marlins won the World Series. Fox had a difficult launch, as established series posted year-to-year drops and several new shows didn’t quite get off the ground. Network quickly shelved “Skin” and “Luis,” and later pulled the plug on sophomore laffer “Wanda at Large.”

Fall entry “The Ortegas” has yet to see air, and fellow frosh “Tru Calling” and “A Minute With Stan Hooper” struggle.

Then there was “The Next Joe Millionaire.” Viewers didn’t even tune in before telling Fox, “No thanks.” The international edition of last year’s megahit pulled only a tiny fraction of the original’s audience.

WHAT’S AHEAD: “American Idol” couldn’t return at a better time. The talent contest is sure to boost Fox’s fortunes dramatically.

Fox is counting on the halo effect, which Berman believes will eventually make “The O.C.” the year’s top-rated drama. (“The O.C.” will air Wednesdays after the “Idol” recap show.)

Fox also has several other entries in the works, including the laffer “Cracking Up” and drama “Wonderfalls,” as well as the return of “Oliver Beene.”

“We’re in better shape than last year at this time,” says Berman. “Last year we were not up the way we are now. We did not have a December hit the way we do now. We were going into January last year with a lot of unknowns.”

Looking ahead to next summer, Berman says Fox will continue to deliver more original programming in June, July and August.

“We’re not doing the same thing anymore,” she says. “And we’ll continue to learn the November lesson until we get it right.”

Top 3 Shows:
Simple Life – 5.8
Simpsons – 5.3That 70s Show – 4.3

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