Television

Fox plans lots of sports and a big send-off for ‘Empire’ this fall

EMPIRE: L-R: Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in the “The Roughest Day” Season Five finale episo
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in “Empire,” which has been canceled.
(Chuck Hodes )

Fox is betting big on sports.

Ahead of its upfront presentation for advertisers Monday in New York, the network unveiled its fall schedule, which includes three nights of sporting events along with three new scripted series. Notably, “Empire” has been canceled by the network.

The sports-heavy lineup features NFL football on Thursdays, “WWE Smackdown Live” on Fridays and college football on Saturdays.

The fall season will be the first to follow Disney’s acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox, meaning the broadcast network is no longer tied to a studio. In a call with reporters , newly appointed Fox Entertainment Chief Executive Charlie Collier said this independence presented creative opportunity.

“We wanted to partner with a wide array of studios in order to get the best content and the most authentic voices,” Collier said. “We wanted to let you guys know and the creative community know that Fox is now only open for business. We feel like we’re stronger than ever.”

New scripted series include the animated comedy “Bless the Harts,” created by former “Saturday Night Live” writer Emily Spivey, airing Sundays; crime drama “Prodigal Son,” from executive producer Greg Berlanti and starring Michael Sheen, on Mondays; and family drama “Not Just Me” on Wednesdays.

The network also has seven scripted shows planned for midseason, including the “9-1-1” spinoff “9-1-1: Lone Star,” starring Rob Lowe, and the Southern Gothic drama “Filthy Rich,” starring Kim Cattrall.

The upcoming season will be the last for “Empire,” the hip-hop-flavored soap opera that was once a ratings sensation. “We are turning the final season of ‘Empire’ into a large television event,” Collier said. “We are trying to go out guns blazing.”

He was reluctant to address questions about the show’s star, Jussie Smollett, who has been accused of falsely claiming to be the victim of a a racist and homophobic attack. But when pressed, he said the show’s writers had not yet assembled to work out Smollett’s possible involvement in the show.

“We have the option to do it,” he said, “but there are no plans at this point.”

Fox also canceled “Star,” which like “Empire” came from producer Lee Daniels. Both shows showcased the network’s traditional leadership in promoting cultural diversity.

With the cancellation of “Star” and “Lethal Weapon” and the end of “Empire” in sight, the network will have only one series next season with an African American lead: the ensemble drama “9-1-1,” which features Angela Bassett.

Collier insisted that cultural inclusion remained “important” to Fox and that there was “an ongoing effort for us to make sure we’re best in class.”

Going into Monday’s upfront presentation, Fox also canceled “The Cool Kids,” “The Passage” and “Proven Innocent.”

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