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Fox at the Summer Press Tour

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THE PROGRAMMING INSIDER

Friday, August 7, 2009

 

LIVE FROM THE SUMMER TELEVISION CRITICS ASSOCIATION PRESS TOUR IN PASADENA, CA

 
Fox Executive Session:
Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly
 

On the Fox Panel Front:

-Brothers
-Glee

-Human Target

 

Fox Series Premiere Dates:

Mark Your Calendars

 

Press Tour Tidbits:

Notes of Interest

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Fox Executive Session:
Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly
 

She did it again, and that was dominate the opening session at the Fox executive session with Peter Rice, Chairman of Entertainment and Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment as the hungry members of the press pondered how American Idol will fare without Paula Abdul, and whether or not departed Abdul will land on So You Think You Can Dance.

 

Said Peter Rice:

Paula is the only member of Idol whose contract was up this year, we have been talking to her about it for most of the season — certainly since before I arrived at the company four months ago — and we very much wanted her to return. In the past few weeks, the negotiation has sort of come to a conclusion. We made an offer that we feel was very fair to Paula. It was a substantial raise on the money she’s been paid in the past, and Paula has decided not to return. It happened only 36 hours ago, so we don’t have big announcements to make on what we’re going to do.

We have been focused in the past 24 hours on the auditioning process, which takes place over the next seven weeks, and our intention is to have guest judges at each one of those auditions. We’re talking to people now. There are a couple of people who are confirmed. There are other people that we’re talking about dates with. But that’s our plan for the audition process. Our intention is to have the guest judges be female pop stars, female performers and female artists. Between now and January, we will come up with a more permanent solution on what we’ll do. The live telecasts start in January, so we feel between now and then, we will come up with a solution and a replacement for Paula. I think obviously there’s going to be a different dynamic, and there’s going to be a change this year. There’s also something exciting about that, and we’ll be looking to bring a different element and a different energy to this season.”

Although rumors are flying that foolish Paula Abdul may end up as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, there is absolutely no confirmation of that (See Nigel Lythgoe’s comments in Press Tour Tidbits).

As for finding another judge, since three worked well enough for seven seasons, why not go back to the original formula with just Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi?

About 90 percent of the Fox executive session focused on American Idol, with the only other questions pertaining to musical drama Glee, which just completed its 13-episode order (and is about to go on tour to promote them); and sophomore Dollhouse, which according to Kevin Reilly:

“Joss Whedon
delivered, and that’s what gave us a very consistent cumulative 2 rating (among adults 18-49) week in and week out. That, for us, on a Friday night, felt like enough of a base to give it another shot.”

In other news from Fox, the return of animated Futurama could be an option if its revival performs well on Comedy Central; and there no plans at present to air the remaining original episodes of King of the Hill and game show The Moment of Truth (which was recently pulled for a second time.). As for the upcoming annual baseball season:

“Well, it’s been a long-term evolution on the network, and I feel like we’ve actually come to
a very mature place with how to construct it,”
said Reilly. “The baseball package is good and lean, as it was last year. It’s very manageable now. It does interrupt the shows a little, but it does not set a bomb off in the schedule. I think this year’s big step forward obviously is getting a fall that mirrors the second season with So You Think You Can Dance. If we can lock that in so we don’t have to completely re-jigger the schedule and throw everything up in the air, that will create a lot of stability.”

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On the Fox Panel Front:

 
Brothers
Friday 8 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

A retired NFL star (Michael Strahan) moves back to his hometown in Houston and is reunited with his brother (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), whose career in football was cut short because of a car accident. 

 

-Competition: Wife Swap (ABC), Ghost Whisperer (CBS), Law & Order (NBC), Smallville (CW)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Michael Strahan, Daryl Chill Mitchell, CCH Pounder, Carl Weathers, and executive producers Don Reo, Kim Tannenbaum and Eric Tannenbaum.

 
-The Scoop:

According to a question from one of the members of the press:

 

“The pilot contains, by my count, at least 17 jokes involving Michael Strahan’s gap between his teeth and Mr. Mitchell’s wheelchair, plus at least another five or six jokes about Carl Weathers’ maybe early onset of Alzheimer’s. Is that a pace that you guys hope to keep up in subsequent episodes?  

 
And, Don Reo in response:
 

“You’ve got to go with what’s funny.”

 

Needless to say, the cancellation will be clicking after the pilot airs on Sept. 18.

 
-The Reality:

From a counter-programming standpoint, Brothers is an alternative. It is the only comedy in the Friday 8 p.m. half-hour. But Fox has never had a hit show leading off Friday, the premise is just plain depressing, and the humor in the pilot was dated. Plus, it is paired with a comedy that should have been axed two years ago -- ‘Til Death. While I still think CBS medical drama Three Rivers will be the first new series cancellation of the season, Brothers could be next. This has absolutely no chance of succeeding.

 

-Chance of Survival for Brothers (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

10-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Daryl “Chill” Mitchell has also been a series regular in Veronica’s Closet and Ed, both on NBC.

 
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Glee
Wednesday 9 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

An optimistic thirtysomething new teacher (Matthew Morrison) attempts to transform a group of misfits and outcasts in the high school glee club into serious competitors. The cast includes Lea Michele, Jayma Mays, Cory Monteith and Dianna Agron. 

 

-Lead-in: So You Think You Can Dance

-Competition: Modern Family and Cougar Town (ABC), Criminal Minds (CBS), Law & Order: SVU (NBC), The Beautiful Life (CW)

 

-Who Was on the Panel:
Matthew Morrison, Cory Monteith, Lea Michele, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jayma Mays, Dianna Agron, Mark Salling; executive producers Dante Di Loreto and Brad Falchuk; and co-executive producer Ian Brennan.

 
-The Scoop:

Glee compared to Disney Channel’s wildly popular High School Musical franchise:

 

“Before coming with up the idea and breaking the pilot story, envisioning the pilot story, none of us had ever really seen High School Musical,” said Brad Falchuk. “And so obviously High School Musical is great, but this is a little bit edgier, a little more adult. Obviously it’s something you can watch with your kids, but the idea is to keep things a little more adult than High School Musical is. So I wouldn’t say we’re trying to cash in on it.”

 

“The form follows the content — it’s not like we’re throwing music onto a show,” explained Ian Brennan. “It’s about a glee club, the music comes out of it, which is great. We’re able to take advantage of the theatrical format. It’s not about lawyers singing or doctors singing. It’s like the music is in there. We just kind of let it breathe.”

 
-The Reality:

Previewing out of American Idol for one episode on Tuesday, May 19, Glee was sampled by 9.62 million viewers with a 3.9 rating/10 share among adults 18-49, according to the final nationals from Nielsen Media Research. But it finished third in the 9 p.m. time period in total viewers (behind the season finales of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and CBS’ The Mentalist) and second in the demo. And the retention out of American Idol was just 40 percent in total viewers and 45 percent among adults 18-49. In other words, the initial results were disappointing. 

 

Putting the initial ratings aside, Glee could work if lead-in So You Think You Can Dance holds up and the competing Criminal Minds and relocated Law & Order: SVU hurt each other competing for the same viewers. But given the lack of success historically of dramas with musical interludes (Fame was canceled on NBC after less than two seasons, then picked-up in first-run syndication) and no track record of So You Think You Can Dance working outside of the summer, Glee may face an uphill battle. Singing through life is uplifting, but viewers may find it hard to follow. 

 

-Chance of Survival for Glee (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

6-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Short-lived musical dramas historically includes Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (CBS: 1982), Rags to Riches (NBC: 1987), Cop Rock (ABC: 1990) and the recent Viva Laughlin on CBS in 2007.

 
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Human Target
Midseason
 
-The Premise:

Based on the DC Comics property, a private detective and bodyguard named Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) operates by impersonating his clients in order to eliminate threats to his boss. Jackie Earle Haley and Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies) also star.

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley and executive producers McG, Jonathan Steinberg and Brad Kern.

 
-The Scoop:

The content of the show according to Jonathan Steinberg:

 

“There certainly won’t be aliens or anything. I mean, I think there’s a bit of the action genre to it as we’re breaking stories going forward. I think in some sense there will be some liberties with the universe we live in, but hopefully within a pretty strict measure of reality.”

 
-The Reality:

I cannot handicap Life Unexpected without a confirmed time period. But the good news from the get-go is the right network airing Human Target…it has the look and feel of a youth-driven Fox drama. The producers had better hope, though, that the network does not decide to replace Dollhouse with Human Target in midseason. After an uneventful first season, there is no reason to think Dollhouse will pick-up steam on low-HUT level Friday. 

 
-Did You Know?:

Busy Jackie Earle Haley was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Little Children.

 
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Fox Series Premiere Dates:

Mark Your Calendars

 

To refresh your memory, what follows are the roll-out dates for the new and returning Fox series:

 

Cops: Saturday, Sept. 12, 8 p.m. ET
America's Most Wanted: Saturday, Sept. 12, 9 p.m. ET
So You Think You Can Dance: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 8 p.m. ET
Glee: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 9 p.m. ET (new)
Bones: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET
Fringe: Thursday, Sept. 17, 9 p.m. ET
Brothers: Friday, Sept. 18, 8 p.m. ET (new)
'Til Death: Friday, Sept. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET
Dollhouse: Friday, Sept. 18, 9 p.m. ET
House: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET (two hours)
The Simpsons: Sunday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m. ET
The Cleveland Show: Sunday, Sept. 27, 8:30 p.m. ET (new)
Family Guy: Sunday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m. ET
American Dad: Sunday, Sept. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET
Lie To Me: Monday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m. ET
The Wanda Sykes Show: Saturday, Nov. 7, 11 p.m. ET

 
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Press Tour Tidbits:

Notes of Interest

 

-Nigel Lythgoe on Paula Adbul:

At a session with the cast of So You Think You Can Dance (that features performances by this season’s contestants Ade, Jason, Phillip, Melissa and Caitlin), here is what series creator/judge Nigel Lythgoe had to say about Paula Abdul potentially participating on So You Think You Can Dance:

“There’s no question about that. I don’t know anybody that’s had her experience of being a performer, being a dancer, being a choreographer and being a judge. So absolutely, I mean, I’ve been trying to get her since season one. So, yeah, we’d certainly grab Paula Abdul. I spoke to her yesterday morning. I didn’t get into discussions regarding her negotiations, as I believe that’s a private issue. I certainly wouldn’t talk about mine. And I said, you know, we were going to Las Vegas for season six this weekend, what she was doing. Did she want a break? And she’s coming out to meet me, and we’re going to talk about what opportunities there are out there.

I still don’t know that she’s going to leave Idol. I mean, I know this is going on and the tweeting and the official statements and everything, but until Idol goes on the air, there’s always opportunities for renegotiations. Who knows? The impact on Idol, I mean, I’ve said it before – Idol is far bigger than any individual. It has been successful all over the world with different judges. You know, Simon Cowell is not a judge all over the world, and it’s been successful. Paula Abdul is not a judge all over the world, or Randy Jackson. They have their own judges, and the format is what is successful, and I believe it’s the young talent that goes on the show that makes the show such a great success, along with obviously Simon Fuller’s concept of the country getting behind and making the next star.”

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-The Cleveland Show Table Read:

Instead of a specific panel on new animated entry The Cleveland Show (a spin-off from Family Guy, of course), the network hosted a table read lunch session. Already picked-up for a second season, there is every reason to think The Cleveland Show will succeed in the Sunday 8:30 p.m. half-hour out of The Simpsons and into Family Guy. So, that’s even (1-1) odds from Mr. TV!

 

-Fringe Season Two:

Fox hosted a panel for sophomore drama, and according to executive producer Jeff Pinkner: 

 

“I think that one of the lessons that we learned in season one is we try to remind ourselves of all of the time that as much as we should be telling a show that’s intriguing and that makes you think and that is about these mysteries, that first and foremost, it should make you feel something. There needs to be a balance of good and bad. And if the choices we make create emotional responses, then I think we’ve done our job.”

 
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Coming Up On Monday: ABC