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TCA: Fox looks to midseason

July 14, 2008 |  1:18 pm

Newseason_tourtalk_2

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly admitted today that the broadcast networks rushed to put a “smiley face” on the state of the industry when the strike ended, making it seem like little had been lost during the months-long labor stoppage. They were then proved wrong by viewers who did not return in the spring.

But, looking toward the future, Reilly said the strike also forced the hand of his network into moving faster toward year-round programming, which Fox has been dabbling in for several years.

As a result, Reilly explained the network will be “more focused” in the fall, strategically choosing to premiere only two new shows, “Fringe” and “Do Not Disturb,” in order to get a bigger bang out of midseason, when the network typically rouses with “American Idol” and “24.”

“Whether there was a strike or not, we would only be putting two new shows in the fall,” Reilly said. “If we can be stable and get one or two shows to work and not join in on all the noise … we’ve got the schedule covered.”

For midseason consideration, Fox has produced pilots of “Lie to Me,” starring Tim Roth as a former police officer who is a human lie detector, and “Courtroom K,” created by Paul Attanasio (“House”).  The network, which hasn’t launched a hit drama since “House,” has previously announced Joss Whedon’s new drama, “Dollhouse,” for midseason as well.

“The drama landscape seems pretty vital,” he said. “If you do a good show and you launch it, there’s still evidence that people want to watch these. It’s a healthy genre.”

Reilly also announced that Fox is splitting its development season in two and is holding eight pilot screenings in December as well as the traditional period in May.

“Coming out of that, I expect a couple of early series orders and things to queue up,” Reilly said. “That’s going to be the next step toward year-round, which we’ve been experimenting with for quite some time.”

Although Fox has become the No. 1 network in large part because of the boost the network gets from “American Idol” in January, Reilly said he realizes he faces more competition next year as strike delays force his competitors to roll out more new shows than ever.

“By default, it seems like a lot of stuff got pushed off,” Reilly said. “But it I think our fall will be relatively stronger than it’s been too.”

In November, the network is counting on hitting big with a “24” prequel that will set the stage for the next season, which premieres in January.  The prequel will cover the day of the new president’s swearing-in ceremony, Reilly said.

“I’m really glad to say that ‘24’ is going to come back rocking and rolling,” Reilly said.  “The two-hour prequel is going to be a pretty cool piece of business for us.”

As usual, “American Idol” will return in January. Although Foxs Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori announced in May that “Idol” will undergo a bit of a creative overhaul, Reilly was tight-lipped about the changes today. He only would reveal that the results shows will revert to a half-hour format and that the audition phase would be “fine-tuned.”

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

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