Fox banks on ‘young, smart’ laffers

Kevin Reilly touts 'New Girl' gains,' chides NBC for '200 comedies'

Smart, young and upscale — that’s how Kevin Reilly bills the four comedies bound for its Tuesday lineup in the fall.

Fox is shifting “Glee” to Thursday in order to stack Tuesday with half-hours, including newbies “The Mindy Project and “Ben and Kate,” which will air in the 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. half-hours following “Raising Hope” and “New Girl,” respectively.

“That night feels like a very smart, young, upscale night of comedy that we’re going to be proud of,” Reilly, Fox’s prexy of entertainment, told reporters in a conference call Monday ayem in advance of the net’s afternoon presentation at the Beacon Theater.

Fox touted its frosh success “New Girl” right off the bat and opened with a pretaped segment featuring the sitcom’s cast interviewing various Fox personalities from “Fringe” to “So You Think You Can Dance” to be their new roommate, including “Bones” star Emily Deschanel, the real-life sister of “New Girl” star Zooey Deschanel. But they were beaten out by the leather-suited figure from FX’s “American Horror Story,” who whips off his mask to reveal the animated mug of “Family Guy” weirdo Glenn Quagmire.

While Reilly has been trying to build a four-comedy block since he first got to Fox, making it happen is not without risk given Fox’s experiments with the format this season weren’t ratings winners.

But network brass are also encouraged by the success of rookie comedy hits like “New Girl,” CBS’ “2 Broke Girls” and ABC’s “Suburgatory” while dramas are becoming a tougher road to hoe given the volume of competition across the broadcast and cable landscape.

Comedy blocks tend to get top dollar from advertisers, not to mention high value in syndication should the half-hours last long enough. NBC announced a comedy-heavy schedule Sunday with four different blocks, and ABC and CBS are poised to add more laffers.

Reilly didn’t mention NBC by name during the conference call but seemed to be pointing his finger at the network when touting Fox’s ability to focus its marketing efforts on just a few comedies. “A high volume of comedies with limited orders is going to be very confusing to the audience on some of the competitors,” he said.

He took it further from the stage at the Beacon Theater, chiding NBC for introducing “200 comedies” (the Peacock has ordered seven new half-hours). He held his own network to a higher standard. “At Fox, we’re not just filling holes (in the schedule),” he said. “We’re driving culture.”

Reilly’s boss, Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Rice, cited the network’s recent 25th anniversary celebration, which highlighted Fox’s influence on TV and pop culture. Rice emphasized that the network hasn’t lost the irreverence that enlivened past hits including “Married…With Children.” “That renegade spirit hasn’t left the building,” he said.

Staying in place on Fox’s Wednesday and Thursday lineup next season is the one-two punch of “The X Factor” in fall and “American Idol” in winter/spring. Fox unveiled the worst kept secret in Hollywood when Britney Spears and Demi Lovato came out on stage with fellow “X Factor” judges L.A. Reid and Simon Cowell, who promised a new and improved “Factor.” Spears and Lovato gushed their respective excitement for their new jobs and Reid promised the show would be the “Rolls Royce” of TV.

The hope is that “Glee” will get a lift from having “Factor” as a lead-in on Thursday. While the hourlong comedy continues to be a buzz magnet and do well among the 12-34 crowd, its overall ratings have softened in its third season.

Reilly indicated “Glee” is “poised for a creative renaissance” given the coming addition of new cast members while some of its existing players are being shifted to a different storyline involving attending a school for performing arts in New York. In addition, Kate Hudson is slated to appear in a seven-episode arc while Sarah Jessica Parker is on tap for an arc as well.

Although “Idol” ratings dropped rather sharply this season and “Factor” didn’t quite match the hype that preceded it, both remain potent pieces of Fox’s schedule.

However, Reilly acknowledged the level of ratings decline for “Idol” surprised the network, which will do some “creative invigoration” to “Idol.” He wouldn’t say whether new judges could be a part of that re-evaluation.

While the network used the Wednesday “Factor” last season to launch a new comedy at 9:30 p.m., the now-defunct “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” this season it is slated for two-hour episodes. Fox execs said they learned that “Factor” needed the entire night of primetime to sufficiently tell the show’s stories, and pointed out that the final half-hour is typically its highest rated.

On the drama side, new series “The Mob Doctor,” starring Jordana Spiro as a femme doctor for the Mafia, is taking over the Monday 9 p.m. timeslot vacated by departing series “House.” “Bones” will remain at 8 p.m. after the veteran series proved its mettle late this season by performing respectably on what has become a tough night for Fox; high-profile drama launches “Terra Nova” and “Alcatraz” both struggled on Monday.

Another drama that didn’t perform especially well in its rookie season, “Touch,” will start its second season on Friday at 8 p.m., where “Kitchen Nightmares” started last season. “Fringe” will close its final season at 9.

Serial killer thriller “The Following” is being held for midseason, and is expected to launch on Monday as well. The Kevin Bacon starrer will air 15 episodes over consecutive weeks with no reruns. Clips from the show during the presentation got a good reaction from attendees for its intensity and provocative premise.

Also slated for midseason is comedy “The Goodwin Games.” In all, Fox ordered three comedies and two dramas for 2012-13 — the fewest among the Big Four, reflecting a schedule strong enough to lead the Big Four in adults 18-49.

Reilly indicated he may still put a script or two into development out of cycle.

Rice echoed concerns aired Sunday by NBC Broadcasting chief Ted Harbert over a new ad-skipping technology being deployed by Dish Network called Auto Hop, but said News Corp. is still evaluating it.

Rice also welcomed NBC’s decision to move “The Voice” to fall, which he saw as less of a competitive threat to “Factor.” “We’re thrilled ‘The Voice’ is moving there and we think there’s going to be a big spotlight on ‘X Factor’ vs. ‘The Voice,’ ” he said.