You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fox TV CEO Dana Walden Talks Drama Prospects, ‘Empire’ and Comedy Challenges

It’s been a bumpy fall for Fox Broadcasting Co., with rave reviews but weak ratings for its newcomer “Pitch,” a string of unavoidable preemptions for tentpole “Empire” and challenges in bringing younger viewers to linear screens for live-action comedies. On the plus side, frosh drama “Lethal Weapon” has lived up to expectations, the network hosted a once-in-a-generation World Series and is looking forward to the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

Dana Walden, who is Fox Television Group chairman-CEO alongside Gary Newman, spoke of the hurdles and opportunities faced so far this season in an interview Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

Walden stressed that Fox is gearing up for a super-charged second half that hopefully will restock the network’s drama bench. “24: Legacy” launches behind the Super Bowl and another high-octane drama, “APB” bowing the following night. The provocative “Shots Fired” bows March 22 in tandem with the midseason return of “Empire.” And “Prison Break” begins anew on April 4.

“Empire” has seen some erosion in its third season although it remains formidable. It had a stop-and-start schedule in the fall as it faced preemptions in October and early November presidential debate, two World Series games. Then it had the tough job of returning to the schedule on Nov. 9, the day after the presidential election shock, when “nobody in this country was thinking about scripted content,” Walden said.

“This has been a really good year creatively for the show,” Walden said. “No other show could have tolerated that schedule.” She added that “Empire” has plans to add some characters in the second half of its season “that will create a really interesting dynamic for (the Lyon) family.”

On the comedy front, Fox has been encouraged by the performance to date of “The Mick.” Walden is extremely high on the potential of star Kaitlin Olson, who she described as a comedian in the vein of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. “I think she’s a force of nature,” she said.

Fox is searching for “every opportunity to give it exposure” beyond the show’s Tuesday 8:30 p.m. slot. Fox’s Tuesday comedy block has been hit with ratings declines on a linear basis, and yet the multiplatform numbers add up to a healthy audience for “New Girl” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

“That is the challenge of having a show that is extremely popular with a younger demo. They’re not going backwards. They’re not going to watch it live,” Walden said. “But if you look at the viewership over time, any streaming service would die to have ‘Brooklyn’s’ numbers.”

Fox is already talking with producers about a pickup for a seventh season of “New Girl” (“they have such a fun, clever and original idea”) and she pointed to the renewed round of affection expressed by critics for “Brooklyn’s” latest batch of episodes. Fox is not giving up on live-action comedy — Walden has her eye on finding another workplace comedy — but sitcoms as a business proposition are in need of reinvention, she acknowledged.

“We just have to be patient and keep innovating in the way that we monetize our viewers,” she said.

(Pictured: Dana Walden, “Prison Break” star Dominic Purcell, Fox’s Gary Newman and “Prison Break’s” Wentworth Miller)

More TV

  • Us Television Writers and Producers Maria

    Mad Men’s’ Andre, Maria Jacquemetton Set for Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus

    MADRID — André and Maria Jacquemetton, the Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer-producers of AMC’s “Mad Men” and consulting producers on Amazon Studios’ “The Romanoffs,” will serve as Guests of Honor at Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus, a workshop whose participants include Denmark’s Christina Miller-Harris and Israel’s Noy Carmel. The Jacquemettons will deliver a masterclass and [...]

  • China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel

    China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel Cop Show ‘Life on Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    A Chinese “Life on Mars” is in the works after BBC Studios and Phoenix Entertainment inked a deal to create a Mandarin-language version of the time-travel cop series. BBC Studios will officially unveil the format deal at Showcase, its annual programming market for international buyers, which is now underway in Liverpool, England. “Life on Mars” [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content