Fox

For once, network would like to be the fall guys

This could be the year Fox finally enters fall with a swagger instead of a limp.

For starters, the net no longer faces quite as many October baseball games, a momentum killer that left Fox practically dark until January.

What’s more, Fox is launching only two scripted skeins in the fall — “K-Ville” and “Back to You” — in order to avoid the fourth-quarter crunch.

Fox execs believe that those moves, along with potential reality hits like “Kitchen Nightmares,” should at least keep the lights on until January when steamroller “American Idol” returns.

“We have to do better,” says Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori. “We don’t enjoy holding back and not coming out in the fourth quarter with all of our arms. But I think we’ve got a schedule that plays to all of our strengths.”

Meanwhile, the defending adults 18-49 champs won’t have much else to worry about this year — it’s Fox’s turn to air the Super Bowl. Between that and “Idol,” the May 2008 story is already a foregone conclusion.

SPOTLIGHT: BACK TO YOU

No one’s found a way to solve the comedy crisis, but Fox’s “Back to You” is taking one approach: Marrying sitcom superstars Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton with half-hour hitmakers Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd.

The result is solidly funny — and a show that would have fit in nicely during the comedy boom of the mid-1990s. Now, its traditional four-camera, studio audience (complete with laughter) formula feels downright fresh among a sea of single-camera skeins.

“We think it’s a funny show — that simple,” Fox Entertainment chair Peter Liguori says. “The auspices are great. Steve and Chris are seasoned vets of the form. Needless to say, Kelsey and Patty are fantastic actors within the form. We were fortunate enough to get it, and we’re really proud of it.”

The laffer faces some stiff competition in the Wednesday 8 p.m. hour, from both ABC’s hyped “Pushing Daisies” and CBS’ controversial “Kid Nation.” But viewers looking for laughs in the timeslot (and not the “America’s Next Top Model” unintentional kind) may gravitate toward the show.

NEW FOR 2007-08

K-Ville

Initially a dark take on life in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, “K-Ville” is taking a slightly lighter, more procedural-driven look at two cops (one with a secret). Producers hope the changes will make the show more inviting to viewers.

Kitchen Nightmares

Tough-talking chef Gordon Ramsay could have another hit on his hands, if early interest in “Kitchen Nightmares” is any indication. Show is scoring high on “intent-to-view” studies, perhaps basking in the glow of summer hit “Hell’s Kitchen.”

The Next Great American Band

Reality shows centering on bands are a notoriously difficult sell to viewers. CBS failed to make noise with “Rock Star,” while bands haven’t made it too far on “America’s Got Talent.” But with the power of the “American Idol” team behind “American Band,” the show could be an appetizer for hungry “Idol” fans looking for a fall fix.

Nashville

It’s “Laguna Beach” but in Nashville and starring people with some sort of actual, discernable talent. Can a docusoap work on broadcast TV in primetime? Given Fox’s dismal track record on Friday nights, it’s at least worth a shot.

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