Upfronts: Fox's new lineup banking on the 'Glee' effect
Fox unveiled its schedule for next season and is banking on its surprise musical hit "Glee" to open Tuesday night at 8 p.m. and bring in viewers to check out the two new comedies that will follow it. "Glee" is also getting the coveted post-Super Bowl slot next February and then will move to Wednesday nights following "American Idol."
Fox's lineup for the 2010-11 season features seven new shows including four comedies, but the question on everyone's mind -- who will replace Simon Cowell on "American Idol" -- remains a mystery.
"There is no bigger question for the summer," teased Peter Rich, the chairman of entertainment for Fox Networks Group. The challenge, Rice said, will be finding someone with Cowell's musical credibility who can also entertain the audience.
"It's something you have to do right," he said.
Fox does not have to rush to decide on a new chief justice for TV's top show ... yet. Cowell will wrap up his run on "American Idol" next week and the show won't be back until January 2011. Still, with the ratings for "American Idol" on the decline, finding a judge that can keep the long-running franchise a cash cow is the biggest priority for Fox.
The network is planning on tweaking "American Idol" for next season in the hopes of jump-starting the ratings. Rice and Kevin Reilly, Fox's entertainment president, said there will be more performances and that the Wednesday results show is being cut to a half-hour.
Overall, Fox is playing from a position of strength. It is averaging almost 10 million viewers in prime time, second only to CBS, and is first among the coveted 18-49 demographic. Taking out sports, including the World Series, Fox is down just 3% in viewers and 4% in adults 18-49. "Glee" has turned into a legitimate success, and although "American Idol" is fading, it still is averaging 24.3 million viewers. The long-running serial "24" is ending its run Monday, as its falling ratings could no longer justify the high costs in making the show.
As it has in the past, Fox will basically have two schedules -- one in the fall without "American Idol" and another one for January when the talent show returns.
In the fall, Fox's Monday lineup is to include the veteran medical drama "House" and newcomer "Lonestar" from Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, who created the 1990s Fox hit "Party of Five." "Lonestar" is a soap opera that Reilly described as a "modern-day `Dallas.'" Its stars include Jon Voight and David Keith.
On Tuesday, "Glee" will try to load the bases for the new Fox comedies "Running Wilde" and "Raising Hope." "Running Wilde," a comedy from "Arrested Development' creator Mitch Hurwitz, that show's co-star Will Arnett and "Felicity" star Keri Russell, is about a playboy trying to woo his grade-school crush. "Raising Hope," from "My Name is Earl" creator Greg Garcia, is about a screw-up who ends up with a daughter who is the result of a fling with a woman who subsequently ends up in prison.
The Wednesday and Thursday schedules in the fall are to be made up of returning shows. Wednesday is scheduled to feature the reality show "Hell's Kitchen" and the drama "Lie to Me." Thursday's current lineup of "Bones" and "Fringe" remains intact.
On Fridays, a night that all the networks struggle to program, Fox is going with action with the returning "Human Target" and "The Good Guys," a buddy cop show that is premiering this month. Weekends on Fox remain the same.
In January, when "American Idol" returns on Tuesday and Wednesday, Fox is planning to also introduce several other comedies and dramas throughout the week, including "Terra Nova," an expensive drama from Steven Spielberg and former News Corp. President Peter Chernin about a family that goes back in time to prehistoric times in an effort to save Earth's future.
"This thing is going to be huge," Reilly promised. It's so huge the network does not yet have a time slot for it.
Other shows scheduled to debut in the new year include the Chicago cop drama "Ride-along," from Shawn Ryan, creator of "The Shield," that stars Jennifer Beals and Delroy Lindo and will replace "Lonestar" on Monday nights. Also coming is the relationship comedy "Mixed Signals," which is set for Tuesday.
-- Joe Flint
Photo (top): Jason Clarke, left, Jennifer Beals and Matt Laura in the "Ride-Along" pilot. Credit: Peter Sorel / Fox
Photo (bottom): Nelson Franklin and Alexandra Breckenridge in the "Traffic Light" pilot. Credit: Patrick Wymore / Fox
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