Fox’s Comedy-Heavy Schedule Makes Most of Few Available Hours (Analysis)

Monday rollout makes sense, giving the net two shots at finding a much-needed fall drama hit

With its two-hour format most nights, an entrenched Sunday animation lineup and music contests that eat up much of the midweek sked, Fox is limited as it seeks a strategy to rebound from its ratings funk. It made the most of what it has, though, with a schedule that is heavier on comedy than the net has seen in years and a group of distinct new dramas that seem more on brand than Fox dramas of recent falls including “Mob Doctor” and “Lone Star.”

Fox is smartly attacking the early-week hours with new, male-skewing programs against female-skewing programs on the competition like reality shows “The Biggest Loser” and “The Voice” on NBC and perhaps “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC.

One of the best scheduling moves comes on Monday where the net has been faring decently with vet “Bones” but also realizes that the night represents its best — and only, really — opportunity to find a new drama hit. “Bones” will start the season on Monday, to help launch new drama “Sleepy Hollow,” and will then be deployed on Friday, which not only helps that night but also opens up an hour on Monday to try something new. J.J. Abrams drama “Almost Human” will take over the “Bones” spot on Monday, launching after the net’s coverage of the World Series and thus benefiting from its promotional platform.

Joining “Bones” on Friday after baseball wraps will be a family comedy hour of newbie “Enlisted” and third-year “Raising Hope.” While this may seem like an odd choice, there is certainly an audience available on the night, and this is a low-key hour that could serve these softer comedies well. These Friday comedies could also piggyback off ABC, which is expected to again air an hour of family comedy in the night’s opening hour.

Wednesday and Thursday don’t offer any real growth potential with “The X Factor” and “Glee,” but they will provide a solid-enough numbers as the net tries to shore up other nights.

Like NBC, Fox is also saving a good amount of new product for 2014, as both have major sporting events at the season’s midpoint. The limited-run series from M. Night Shyamalan, “Wayward Pines,” figures to start in February after the Super Bowl, and the net will probably also use post-season football to launch the male-friendly drama “Gang-Related” and animated comedy “Murder Police.”

Fox clearly invested a lot in comedy this season, and the six live-action half-hours will be the most it has had in the fall since 2005. Also, the net will be airing “New Girl” and choose one of its new comedies (likely the male-friendly “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” or “Dads”) following the Super Bowl.

“New Girl” is a good choice because more than 40% of its audience is male, and the show could use a ratings jolt after declining sharply since a strong start in the fall of 2011.

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