Fox Shakes Up Sunday Animation Block in Major Schedule Overhaul

Network to run live-action comedy on animation-dominated Sunday nights for first time since 2005

Fox Shakes Up Sunday Animation Block

Fox will shake up its Sunday animation block for the first time in nearly a decade next fall, pairing live-action sitcoms “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and newcomer “Mulaney” on the night with “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”

Suffering ratings declines due to an over reliance on aging warhorse “American Idol” and the now-canceled singing contest “The X Factor,” Fox said it would introduce new shows on nearly every night of the week for the 2014-15 TV season. The network formally unveils its new lineup today at New York’s Beacon Theater. (FULL SCHEDULE POSTED BELOW)

Kevin Reilly, Fox’s chairman of entertainment, has articulated a strategy of being nimbler in the decision to order series, rather than relying solely on pilots produced in the traditional spring development season. And he has set in motion a year-round schedule of originals that calls for Fox to regularly air limited series that have big ideas and names at their center. A recent example: Fox’s decision to revive spy-serial favorite “24” this month as an “event” series with a 12-episode order.

In overhauling its schedule, Fox will break with many of its established conventions. Tuesday nights, devoted solely to comedies in recent seasons, will be split between comedy and an eyebrow-raising reality concept. The network will have two of its cooking-competition programs – “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Masterchef Junior” – on the air in the same part of the season. And Fox will run live-action series on Sunday nights, which has since 2005 been devoted only to animated programming.

Fox has canceled “Dads,” “Enlisted,” “Rake,” ‘Surviving Jack,” “Raising Hope” and “Almost Human,” while veteran animated comedy “American Dad:” is moving to Time Warner’s TBS. “Sleepy Hollow,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “The Following,” “American Idol,” “Bones,” “Hell’s Kitchen,”  “Glee,” “Masterchef Junior,” “The Simpsons, “Family Guy,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “So You Think You Can Dance” will all return to the schedule.

The network, owned by 21st Century Fox, will pair a new program with familiar fare on every night of the week, except Saturday, when it regularly airs sports programming.

Gotham’ To Launch Mondays

On Mondays, that means it will launch the much-anticipated Batman prequel “Gotham” with “Sleepy Hollow,” a drama introduced last season that has gained some traction. On Tuesdays, Fox will leave two comedies that have called that evening home – “New Girl” at 9 p.m. and “The Mindy Project” at 9:30 p.m. – in their old roosts. At 8 p.m., however, Fox will launch “Utopia,” an unscripted series that challenges 15 Americans to move to an isolated, undeveloped location for a year and carve out their own civilization. A new hour of “Utopia” will also air for several Friday nights at 9 p.m., so that viewers can get to know the contestants in the show more quickly, a Fox spokeswoman said.

Wednesdays in the fall once served as home to “The X Factor,” but now will play host to the long-running “Hell’s Kitchen” at 8 p.m,. and new entry “Red Band Society” at 9 p.m. The unconventional drama, from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, will focus on a group of teenagers who meet as patients in a Los Angeles pediatric ward.

Thursdays will kick off at 8 p.m. with another season of the reliable procedural drama “Bones.” At 9 p.m., the network will launch “Gracepoint,” one of the so-called shorter-run “event series” that are a cornerstone of Reilly’s programming strategy. The drama will run just 10 episodes and focus on a murder in a small seaside California town, where a media frenzy spurred by the homicide upends the lives of a sprawling cast of characters. Fox said “Masterchef Junior” would debut in the fall on Fridays at 8 p.m.

Radical Sunday Shift

The most radical reworking of the network’s schedule may well be found on Sunday nights. where Fox has for about eight years run only animated programs. The evening has been anchored by “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” but has also served as home to “The Cleveland Show,” “Allen Gregory,” “King of the Hill” and a cartoon version of the offbeat movie “Napoleon Dynamite.”

While “Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers” will all return to the evening, Fox will import “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a freshman comedy that launched on Tuesdays, to the evening at 8:30 p.m., following the wrap up of a late-afternoon football broadcast, “Bob’s Burgers” and “The Simpsons. A new sitcom, “Mulaney,” will air at 9:30 p.m. following an episode of “Family Guy” at 9 p.m.

“Mulaney” stars writer and performer John Mulaney as a comic trying to take his career to the next level. Executive produced by Mulaney and Lorne Michaels, the series will also star Martin Short, Elliott Gould and “Saturday Night Live’s” Nasim Pedrad.

Ambitious Midseason Slate

Fox also unveiled an ambitious slate of midseason replacements, which consist of three dramas, one limited series and three comedies.

Empire” will focus on the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne – all set to an original soundtrack written and produced by hip-hop hitmaker Timbaland. Terrence Howard and  Taraji P. Henson will star. In “Hieroglyph,” a thief in ancient Egypt is called upon to serve the Pharoh and help prevent the downfall of one of history’s great civilizations. In “Backstrom,” created  and executive-produced by “Bones'” Hart Hanson, Rainn Wilson plays an offensive but brilliant detective who is brought back from exile to run  the Portland Police Bureau’s Special Crimes Unit.

A new 10-episode limited series, “Wayward Pines” is from M. Night Shyamalan, and will star Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent trying to find two missing federal agents in the strange Idaho town of the title.

“Weird Loners” is a new comedy about four single 30-something underdogs who form an unlikely bond i a townhouse in the New York City borough of Queens.  “The Last Man on Earth” is created by Will Forte, who also stars. It is a comedic chronicle of the adventures of the last man on earth. “Bordertown” is a new animated comedy from Mark Hentemann and Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy,” and will take a satirical look at the cultural shifts in America by centering on two different families living in a fictional Southwest desert town on the border of the United States and Mexico.

The network’s initial primetime schedule follows:



(All Times ET/PT)



8:00-9:00 PM                          GOTHAM (new)

9:00-10:00 PM                        SLEEPY HOLLOW



8:00-9:00 PM                          UTOPIA (new)

9:00-9:30 PM                          NEW GIRL

9:30-10:00 PM                        THE MINDY PROJECT



8:00-9:00 PM                          HELL’S KITCHEN

9:00-10:00 PM                        RED BAND SOCIETY (new)



8:00-9:00 PM                          BONES

9:00-10:00 PM                        GRACEPOINT (new)



8:00-9:00 PM                          MASTERCHEF JUNIOR

9:00-10:00 PM                        UTOPIA (new)



7:00-10:30 PM                        FOX SPORTS SATURDAY



7:00-7:30 PM                          NFL Game

7:30-8:00 PM                          BOB’S BURGERS

8:00-8:30 PM                          THE SIMPSONS

8:30-9:00 PM                          BROOKLYN NINE-NINE

9:00-9:30 PM                          FAMILY GUY

9:30-10:00 PM                        MULANEY (new)