Once upon a time, FOX was the hyper kid with a short attention span of Upfront Week. The network – with its commitments at different times of year to baseball, football, “American Idol,” etc. – would swoop in to announce a two-, three- or even four-pronged schedule involving dozens of shows that would constantly jump around to different nights and/or times. Frequently, those plans would be scrapped by the time we got into the season (if not sooner), and some shows would never even air at all.
Now, though, the 25-year-old FOX is embracing a stable, conservative, bordering on dull mindset as it seeks stability in its adult life. With “X Factor” as a plausible fall stand-in for “Idol” – even if it wasn’t the indestructible hit that FOX and Simon Cowell had suggested it would be – the network announced a new schedule on Monday morning that was among the more stable we’re going to see this week, with only three new shows on in the fall, and minimal changes planned for mid-season.
The one semi-big move is that “Glee” will be moving to Thursdays at 9, after the “X Factor” results show in fall and the “Idol” version in spring. FOX entertainment president Kevin Reilly said the move sprang from two desires: to establish a four-comedy lineup on Tuesdays built around freshman hit “New Girl,” and also to protect “Glee” a bit as “it gets more mature and we try some creative twists with it,” including a “show within a show” approach where the series will split time between some of this season’s high school graduates trying to make it in New York and younger kids still in school back in Lima.
Beyond that? It’s pretty much the FOX schedule you would expect based on how this season played out. Analysis of the thing, night-by-night:
SUNDAY: For the first time in a couple of years, FOX won’t be adding any new animated shows to its Sunday bloc, which will have “The Simpsons” at 8, “Bob’s Burgers” at 8:30, “Family Guy” at 9 and “American Dad” at 9:30, plus “The Cleveland Show” at 7:30 after the NFL season ends. With several of the shows locked down for a couple of years, with recent failures in “Allen Gregory” and “Napoleon Dynamite,” and with the planned Seth MacFarlane-produced “Flintstones” remake disrupted by his film schedule, there wasn’t an interest in rushing a new cartoon through development, Reilly said, particularly since he wanted to see how the terrific “Bob’s Burgers” would do in the fall when football was leading into the animation bloc.
MONDAY: “House” retires next week, which turns “Bones” into the new Monday flagship show at 8. In the fall, it’ll lead into “Mob Doctor,” starring Jordana Spiro from “My Boys” as a Chicago surgeon who tries to help her family with a debt to local wiseguys. At mid-season, we get the new show Reilly seemed most excited about: “The Following,” a thriller created by Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries,” the “Scream” films) about an FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) chasing a serial killer (James Purefoy). Bacon only agreed to do a TV series if the commitment was only for 15 episodes a season, so FOX will hold the show – which Reilly hyperbolically suggested could be “the next ’24′” – until 2013 so the episodes can run straight through without interruption.
TUESDAY: “New Girl” had a very strong debut in the fall, then got hurt by being pre-empted for several weeks due to baseball. (Or, specifically, due to FOX moving “X Factor” to Tuesdays for a few weeks due to baseball, wrongly assuming the Simon Cowell show would be a bigger instant hit than the Zooey Deschanel show.) This year, the plan is to leave the new comedy bloc – “Raising Hope” at 8, “Ben and Kate” (Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson as odd couple adult siblings), “New Girl” at 9, and “The Mindy Project” (“Office” co-star/writer Mindy Kaling created and stars as a successful OB/GYN with a messy personal life) – alone, with only a couple of election-related disruptions.
A fifth comedy, “The Goodwin Games” – Scott Foley, Beckie Newton and Jake Lacy as estranged siblings in a show from the “How I Met Your Mother” producers – will appear on the night at some point in mid-season.
WEDNESDAY: Simple: two hours of “X Factor” in fall, two hours of “American Idol” in spring. In previous seasons, the network has tried to eventually winnow down one show or the other to 90 minutes to try to launch sitcoms at 9:30, but it’s never worked (“I Hate My Teenage Daughter” was this year’s failure), and FOX chairman Peter Rice suggested it wasn’t worth the bother.
“X Factor” will also have some significant on-camera changes, as judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger were dumped, as was host Steve Jones. The rumor is that Britney Spears and Demi Lovato will be introduced as the new judges at this afternoon’s upfront presentation for advertisers, but Reilly and Rice declined to comment on that. (Reilly coyly hinted at “the new judges we’re hoping we can announce today.)
Reilly also acknowledged that, though “Idol” remains the network’s flagship, the ratings decline this season was troubling, and that the show’s producers “know what happened this year, there’s going to be some creative invigoration.”
THURSDAY: Also simple: “X Factor”/”Idol” results show at 8, “Glee” (which will feature guest arcs for Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker) at 9.
FRIDAY: While fellow bubble shows “The Finder,” “Terra Nova” and “Alcatraz” were canceled(*), “Touch” lives on at 8, apparently because, as Reilly put it, “Kiefer Sutherland has enormous goodwill and is one of our main guys.” “Fringe” will return at 9 with a 13-episode final season, then make way for “Hell’s Kitchen” at mid-season.
(*) In discussing the cancellation of those shows, Reilly said he “felt good” about the decision because this year’s development was so strong – which is pretty much what he said a year ago in explaining why he canceled “The Chicago Code,” “Lie to Me” and “Human Target” in favor of new development like… “Terra Nova,” “Alcatraz” and “The Finder.” The more things change…
SATURDAY: For the first time in a very long time, “Cops” won’t be part of the fall line-up, though it’ll be back at mid-season. As ABC has done for many years, FOX will devote Saturday nights in the fall to various sporting events.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org