FOX is not opposed to big bombshell announcements at the Television Critics Association press tour. In fact, no other network can equal FOX’s appreciation for TCA drama. Case in point: Simon Cowell coming out on stage to announce his “American Idol” departure and sign his “X-Factor” contract.
So if it’s even slightly possible for FOX to bring out its new “American Idol” judging panel, you can be sure it’ll happen during the network’s executive session on Monday (Aug. 2) morning. And if it’s not? Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice will be peppered with nonstop questions about the failure to supply Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler or Mystery Judge X.
Click through to follow the excitement (or possible lack thereof)…
11:04 a.m. Things have been running slightly behind this morning. Was the “Human Target”/”Good Guys” Breakfast going so well FOX didn’t want to interrupt or are we waiting for J-Lo to be properly buffed and shined for her grand debut? Who knows!
11:05 a.m. As always, this live-blog will be held hostage by the vagaries of the hotel WiFi. I’ll be updating as best as I can once we actually get going. Figure on an 11:15 start time…
11:09 a.m. Nevermind. We’re rolling. “We thought we were going to be here to talk about our fall shows,” Peter Rice says.
11:09 a.m. Rice begins by talking about the departure of Ellen DeGeneres. He says they met in early June and talked about the season. Rice say Ellen’s discomfort, tried to sway her and ultimately realized that it was time to let her exit. Rice admits that the final decision on Ellen and “Idol” was made with a TCAs in mind.
11:11 a.m. “No one has signed a deal yet,” Rice tells us. “There are no signed deals with anybody. There has been tremendous speculation,” Rice adds, complimenting us for finding out information. “I can tell you that much of the information that has been written is accurate and some of the information is wildly inaccurate,” he adds.
11:12 a.m. “I truly wish we were going to walk out a panel of judges and that could be a celebration for us,” Rice says. He anticipates that we might have one or two follow-ups. He promises he won’t talk about speculation or give us a blow-by-blow of negotiations. He says auditions with the judges will start in mid-September and they hope to have a judging panel by then.
11:13 a.m. The first question is *not* about “American Idol.” Instead, it’s about FOX’s new pilots. “I think, in an overall view, we’re in the talent business,” Rice says, adding that they love the talent and the stories they want to tell. Reilly agrees that the show creators have original voices and stuff.
11:16 a.m. The first “American Idol” question regards Nigel Lythgoe and Rice repeats that no deals have been signed on either side of the camera.
11:16 a.m. How are “Idol” auditions being handled? The judges were never at those originals stadium calls, so nothing has been changed.
11:17 a.m. What about Kara DioGuardi? Again, Rice refuses to speculate. “It’s not fair to everyone who’s being speculated about,” Rice says.
11:18 a.m. More “American Idol” babble. Why is it hard for them to close these deals? “When we have a signed deal, we’re going to announce it,” Rice says, adding that they’ve met with a tremendous amount of people and they’re excited about the panel. Rice is finally getting tired about this game.
11:19 a.m. How are we replacing judges? “The goal has to be to put on a great television show,” Rice says, adding that there’s both the journey to finding a superstar and the alchemy of the judging panel. “We have to service those two things,” Rice says, noting that they don’t plan on casting the same kinds of people. Can the show function without a Simon-style truthteller? No speculation, Rice says again. “We have to put together a panel that has great chemistry with each other and provides the function of judging,” he says.
11:21 a.m. Is “Idol” getting an overhaul? A tweak? “Again, I think we have to put on a great TV show,” Rice says. Kevin Reilly isn’t saying *anything* about “Idol” this morning, apparently. Rice implies that the core of the show is still strong, but he admits that it’s something they have to “evolve.” He adds that Simon’s departure was going to bring an active evolution anyway.
11:23 a.m. Non-“Idol” question! This one regarding FOX’s new country music awards show. Reilly asks Rice a question about the show and adds, “Sorry, I was nodding off over here and I just wanted to stay in the game.”
11:24 a.m. Why “Lone Star” on FOX? Reilly says it’s a FOX show because it as “a noisy conceit.” Reilly says the concept has the FOX level of octane. He promises it will be provocative. He isn’t concerned by “the level of scorekeeping” on “Lone Star,” calling it a character-based story with continuing storylines.
11:25 a.m. We’ve started to address questions directly to Reilly, just because we feel sorry for him. This question is regarding the lack of stage-presence from contestants on “Idol.” “First let me start by telling you who the judges are this year,” Reilly cracks. He’s handling this well. “The talent was excellent this year,” Reilly insists. He acknowledges that there may or may not have been the alchemy at the end. He declines to say, though, if they’re returning to three judges.
11:28 a.m. “Fringe” question. Reilly says, “We have no intention of screwing with “Fringe,” because the show’s doing great.” He says he’s proud of “Fringe” and how well it’s doing on Thursdays. He wants the audience to be bigger, but he’s pleased with the DVR numbers and with the overall quality of the show. He promises that the first few scripts for the next season are great.
11:29 a.m. Rice and Reilly aren’t interested in engaging on “X-Factor.”
11:30 a.m. “It was mainly due to the scope of what this show’s going to take,” Reilly says, explaining why “Terra Nova” has been pushed to next fall (after a May sneak). A lot of the world will be created digitally, but they’re also looking for possible locations. “It really became apparent that to do the show right, we’d need more time, so we decided to make a virtue of it,” Reilly says. Rice compares “Terra Nova” to a movie, saying that you can’t sell the show without the visual effects being perfect. Reilly says they have the A-team working on “Terra Nova.”
11:32 a.m. Ah, a Conan O’Brien question. Did Conan ever come close to coming to FOX. “I don’t think we have to go into the Conan thing,” Reilly says, adding that he thinks Conan will do great on TBS. Regarding FOX’s late-night hopes, it sounds like this won’t be the year, once again, for FOX to do late-night. Reilly adds, “Late-night is never off the table.”
11:34 a.m. Question about the “Glee” reality show FOX decided not to do… Were they afraid of “Glee” getting overexposed? “No,” Reilly says. He point out that the producers and cast had no downtime and they only had a couple weeks to make that hypothetical reality show happen. Reilly says that the the character who were originally supposed to be cast via the show will be introduced at midseason. He says the audition footage will still be used in casting, possibly. Reilly says that the “Glee” overexposure (or “burning hot”) is “a high class problem.” He acknowledges, though, that the hoopla dying down a little bit might be a good thing.
11:38 a.m. Reilly and Rice both feel good about the creative direction of “Glee” and Rice is happy that we gave “Glee” Program of the Year the other night.
11:40 a.m. Where are the minorities at on FOX? Other than Cleveland Brown, of course… Rice says that the pilots this year had a broad spectrum that resembled the world we live in. It just happens that the shows FOX picked up this year don’t resemble the world in which we live. Reilly says that across the spectrum of the network, FOX is still good, but nobody wanted “a sea of white faces” on the new shows. “Ridealong” is FOX’s great not-so-white-hope for diversity. Reilly promises whiteness isn’t a pattern.
11:42 a.m. Reilly doesn’t want to talk about Steve McPherson’s decision. They’re close friends, have been for 30 years. He calls Steve “a loyal and a good friend.” He says McPherson has the courage of his convictions, which will continue to serve him well. Reilly says that if McPherson decides to go into producing, the door will be open.
11:43 a.m. And what of Randy Jackson? “I’m not going to confirm, deny, get into a debate, speculate about anyone’s contract,” an increasingly irked Rice says.
11:44 a.m. FOX says “Lone Star” and “Ridealong” will continue to occupy the same Monday slot, but they don’t know exactly how that will be done.
11:45 a.m. Will FOX promote “American Idol” as a 10-year anniversary. Rice says they’ll try to get the judges in place first.