Fox Bosses Talk ‘X-Files,’ ‘Pitch’ and Lessons Learned From ‘This Is Us’

Fox TCA Executive Session
Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup

Fox broadcasting executives Gary Newman and David Madden updated reporters Wednesday on several key elements of their programming strategy, including the futures of “The X-Files” and “Pitch,” as well as the status of their next live musical.

Speaking at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, entertainment president David Madden confirmed that Fox is exploring another installment of “The X-Files,” the long-running science-fiction drama that was brought back last season for a limited-series run that proved a ratings success. That miniseries reunited series creator Chris Carter with original lead actors Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.

“We hope so,” Madden said when asked if the franchise would be returning with more episodes. “There are a lot of conversations going on. Those conversations are complex, but we hope to be able to announce something very shortly.”

Madden also said that the network has not yet solidified plans for its next live musical event. Fox’s first venture into live musicals, “Grease Live,” drew 12.2 million total viewers in Nielsen live-plus-same day numbers last year. Madden said that the network is “so close” to announcing what its next live show will be.

Fox Television Group CEO Newman said that no decision has yet been made on “Pitch,” the baseball drama from executive producer Dan Fogelman that the network had significant hopes for, but which yielded disappointing ratings.

“We were very proud of ‘Pitch’,” Newman said, adding, “We would have loved to have a bigger audience.” Any decision on the show’s future, as well as fellow freshman drama “The Exorcist,” won’t come until later this year, as Fox begins to look at scheduling possibilities for the 2017-18 season. “I don’t think the performance level enabled us to make an early decision about it, but as we get to May, we certainly will make a decision.” The same is true for “Scream Queens,” Newman said, which is wrapped its second season.

In prepared remarks before taking questions, Newman, who with fellow group CEO Dana Walden also heads 20th Century Fox Television studio, emphasized the studio’s recent success. He noted that 20th produces the top-rated programs at six broadcast and cable networks: “Empire” at Fox, “Modern Family” at ABC, “American Horror Story” at FX, “Homeland” at Showtime, “American Dad” at TBS, and “This Is Us” at NBC.

Newman said that “This Is Us” — the top-rated new broadcast series of the season, also produced by Fogelman — would be a longstanding success for Fox’s overall television business, even as it airs on rival NBC. He acknowledged that executives did consider the show for Fox Broadcasting’s air. “We had made a commitment to our writers that we’re going to give them the best chance to succeed, and it just felt like it was consistent with “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights” tonally, and we felt that NBC would be a pretty good home for it,” Newman said. He added, “‘This Is Us’ is going to be a lucrative show for us and live in our library for the rest of time.”

Newman fielded several questions about president-elect Donald Trump and the recent presidential election, and how the latter informs the network going forward as a broadcaster. That question has been a recurring theme at the tour.

“When we look at our lineup, I think we’ve done a good job of appealing to different parts of our country,” Newman said. He pointed to a range of Fox series, from “The Simpsons” to “New Girl” to upcoming limited series “Shots Fired.” “These are all tonally different shows that address different segments of our country,” he said. “We take seriously our role as a broadcaster. The election was a great lesson in our country is very diverse, you can live in a bubble. Are we doing a show that has a broad enough canvas that we’re going to be able to attract lots of viewers?”

Regarding upcoming drama “APB,” about a tech billionaire who privatizes a municipal police department and introduces transformational technology to its day-to-day operations, Newman said that “it’s an interesting correlation to draw,” when asked if Trump’s election changes the context in which the show’s main character will be viewed. “We have a presidential-elect who doesn’t meet all our expectations of a way a president talks and acts.”

When asked whether the network’s upcoming revival of “Love Connection,” announced Wednesday morning, would feature same-sex couples, Madden answered, “Absolutely. It will have all versions of couples.”

Speaking to reporters after his executive session, Newman left open the status of series “Sleepy Hollow” and “Wayward Pines.” On “Sleepy Hollow,” which debuted its fourth season last week, Newman said, “Our hope is that with the really compelling storyline that they pitched to us that we’re going to bring people back to it.” On “Wayward Pines,” Newman said that casting discussions for a third season are ongoing. “It’s not impossible that you’ll see ‘Wayward’ at some point back on Fox.”