Better for 'Idol' to stay put

Times Staff Writer

Oh, how tempting it is for Fox, a true Thursday prime-time underdog, to come in and schedule that little talent show known to mankind as "American Idol" against those other monsters, CBS' "CSI" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," this fall.

But as fond as Entertainment President Peter Liguori is of "zigging" while the other networks are "zagging," "American Idol" will remain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays mostly because "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"We're all very competitive," Liguori told reporters gathered Monday for the industry's press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa. "The idea of potentially going into a Thursday night and really taking a chunk of flesh out of the competition is enticing, but I think that the single most important thing we have to do is take care of our own knitting and then worry about what we do with the competition."

Explaining that he is a little "superstitious," Liguori said that moving "Idol" to a new night after its phenomenal growth in its fifth season seems like "a huge gamble" that wasn't worth taking.

"We stuck to Tuesday and Wednesday nights last year, with the No.1 TV show, and grew it," he said. "There's no sign that says we should be moving it to Thursday."To that end, Fox is creating its Thursday night slate from the ground up, starting with two new multi-camera comedies, " 'Til Death" and "Happy Hour." " 'Til Death" stars Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher as a couple who have been married 20 years and find themselves living alongside newly married neighbors. "Happy Hour" is a buddy comedy about a young guy who moves to Chicago and learns how to rebuild his life from his new roommate over a round of drinks. Those shows will be followed by the new Simon Cowell-produced singing competition, "Duets," which pairs established singing stars with celebrities outside the music industry to make music together for charity.

Ironically, Fox, known for its rebelliousness in programming, is taking its biggest chance yet this year by launching traditional multi-camera comedies at a time when most of his competitors are going for the fancier footwork of single-camera productions. Formerly the head of FX, Liguori took over the reins of Fox last year, but this season's development slate is the first under his watch.

"We have a lot of confidence in ' 'Til Death,' " he said. "We think it's a funny show. It's got a big comedic star at its core. We think it's going to chip our way in.... It's kind of fun to enter the gun fight of Thursday night, and let's just see how the season goes."

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