2013 TV upfronts: Fox overhauls schedule
NEW YORK -- Coming off a television season that saw its ratings fall by 20%, Fox unveiled a new schedule heavy on big names both in front of and behind the camera in hopes of rejuvenating its prime-time lineup.
“We’re making the biggest investment in original programming in our history to ensure that Fox continues to engage viewers and move the culture more than any other entertainment brand,” said Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly of the new schedule.
With “American Idol” finally starting to show its age and “The X Factor” failing to generate the big numbers Fox was hoping for, the network is taking a more traditional approach to television with nine new sitcoms and dramas for the 2013-14 fall and mid-season schedules.
But when it comes to scheduling those shows, Fox is being anything but traditional. As part of its efforts to boost ratings, Fox will launch new shows throughout the year including some high-profile projects for the summer, which is traditionally a time the broadcast networks have ceded to cable.
“This season we’re going to take one step forward and really try to break out of the confines of the broadcast season,” Reilly said.
Among the stars Fox signed up for new shows are ex-"Saturday Night Live” cast member Andy Samberg and Academy Award nominees Greg Kinnear and Matt Dillon. Acclaimed director and producer J.J. Abrams, whose credits include “Lost” and the new “Star Trek” movie and “Family Guy” creator and “Ted” director Seth MacFarlane also have new shows for the network.
Fox is also bringing one of its most popular shows ever out of retirement with “24,” the thriller that starred Kiefer Sutherland as anti-terrorist agent Jack Bauer set to return in late spring and run into the summer.
“There has not been a week since I’ve been in this job that someone hasn’t asked me, ‘Would you ever bring back “24?”’ " Reilly said. “There is still a lot of love for it.”
Returning shows include “Glee,” “The Following,” “Bones,” “The Mindy Project” and “New Girl,” which will also get the coveted post-Super Bowl slot in February.
While Fox was making news about its new programs, Reilly kept quiet about the network’s two talent shows — “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” both of which had tough seasons.
There is talk of a complete overhaul at “American Idol.” Randy Jackson, the last original judge, has already said this will be his last season, and speculation continues to swirl that judges Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are also expected to be gone when the show returns next January.
Asked on a conference call with reporters about the fate of Urban, Carey and Minaj, Reilly declined to say if they would return but did stress that the show itself is in need of revamping.
“The format, more than anything will have a few fresh twists, a nice little jolt for next season,” Reilly said, adding that there would likely only be three judges next season instead of four.
Reilly also didn’t talk about potential changes to “The X Factor,” the singing show featuring ex-"American Idol” judge Simon Cowell that has not delivered the big ratings Fox had expected.
In the fall, Fox will premiere new dramas “Almost Human” and “Sleepy Hollow” on Monday, both of which are set in the future. “Almost Human,” from Abrams, is a crime drama about robots working in law enforcement. “Sleepy Hollow” is a modern take on Ichabod Crane.
On the comedy front, Fox is adding two new sitcoms — “Dads” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” to its Tuesday night lineup and bringing back “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.” “Dads,” produced by MacFarlane, is about two video game entrepreneurs whose cool lives come crashing to a halt when their fathers move in with them. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine, starring Samberg and Andre Baugher, is about a quirky squad of detectives.
Fox’s big midseason shows include “Rake,” a legal drama starring Kinnear and executive produced by Peter Tolan, whose credits include FX’s “Rescue Me.” Also coming in midseason is “Gang Related,” a police drama.
In the summer, besides the return of “24,” Fox will roll out “Wayward Pines,” a miniseries thriller produced by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Dillon.
Although TV shows on cable television continue to take audience away from the broadcast networks, Reilly noted that most shows on cable that critics fawn over do not have big enough ratings to survive in his world.
“We live by a different standards,” Reilly said. “We cancel shows that most cable networks would declare a success.”
With more viewers watching programs via their digital video recorders or via on-demand and online platforms, all the networks are pushing to get their content available on all outlets. “The Following,” Reilly noted, often adds several million viewers when ratings from platforms other than the Fox broadcast are factored into the equation.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
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