Updates on ’24,’ ‘X-Files’ and Simon Cowell from FOX’s TCA executive session

From Paul Lee to Mark Pedowitz to Nina Tassler to Robert Greenblatt, the Television Critics Association has been meeting with a lot of our old favorites over the past week. 

On Saturday (January 16) morning, though, it's time for some fresh blood.

While Fox Television Group Chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman are press savvy industry veterans, this will be their first time meeting with the TCA as the heads of the fairly-newly reorganized Fox infrastructure. 

FOX had a rough fall, but the spring is off to a good start on at least one significant front: “Empire” premiered huge and actually went UP in Week 2.

So let's hear how FOX is going to continue the momentum…

10:02 a.m. Pacific. Get ready for some news!

10:03 a.m. After the obligatory clip reel set to “Bang Bang,” Walden and Newman take the stage. They'e been on the job for six months and this is the first time talking to the “consumer press,” so they're introducing themselves. Seriously. Newman is reading their collective bio. Walden notes that she's actually attended 30 TCAs, but she's usually been at the back of the room and she only knows the backs of our heads. Why take this job? Well, they wanted to have more control over the shows they develop after they develop them. “The time was right to align our studio with the network,” she says, referencing “Empire” as an example of the benefits of this synergy. Walden says she and Newman IDed “Empire” as their midseason priority on their first week on the job. 

10:08 a.m. NEWS: “Empire” is being picked up for a second studio. 

10:08 a.m. But FOX's news isn't only for 20th shows. “Gotham” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” have been renewed as well.

10:10 a.m. Their first creative call on the job was to Ryan Murphy. “Scream Queens” has been casting up. Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin and guest star Ariana Grande will be in the series.

10:10 a.m. As I'll write up after the panel, Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens will star in the network's live production of “Grease.”

10:12 a.m. Mark Mylod will direct the network's “Minority” report pilot. “We think he will knock this out of the park,” Newman says.

10:12 a.m. “We are well aware we're the fourth place network and our ratings are challenged,” Newman says.

10:12 a.m. What's happening on FOX's unscripted side, where things haven't been as rosy? “We're excited about the reality brand. We're especially excited about 'MasterChef Junior' this year,” Walden says. She appreciates that families come to the show. “I would say we're looking for a balanced slate of development,” she notes, saying they aren't merely going for family friendly and middle-of-the-road. And what happened with “Utopia”? She passes to Newman for this one. “While we weren't any part of the decision to do 'Utopia,' I have respect for the fact that it was a big swing,” Newman says. He says the producers tried different things to create urgency, but the show still struggled. “It was an admirable effort. It just didn't work out,” he says.

10:15 a.m. What's up with “Bones” and “Sleepy Hollow” for pickups? “Frankly, we're in conversations with both,” Walden says. Both David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel need new deals but, “Nothing would make us happier than do another deal,” she says. Walden says they'd like to make “Sleepy Hollow” a little bit less serialized, but she's “hopeful” it will come back, but notes that they love Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie.

10:16 a.m. “Backstrom” and “Last Man on Earth” are 20th shows and they're excited and optimistic about them. He calls “Last Man” a “big, bold swing,” admitting that it makes them “a little nervous,” which he means as a compliment. Regarding “Wayward Pines,” which isn't an internal offering, is “a really beautiful, suspenseful, interesting series,” Newman says. It will be the centerpiece of FOX's scripted efforts this summer. A lot of marketing attention will be paid to it as we get closer to May.

10:18 a.m. Our first tough question js about Terrence Howard's history of domestic violence and his centrality to FOX's schedule this spring and summer. Does this kind of thing come up in conversations during casting? “We've been working with Terrence now for just about a year and it's been a fantastic experience,” Newman says. They'd only been fans when he was cast. Walden says they hadn't been aware of his past until December. “I can only tell you that that was when we were made aware of it,” he says. “The network executives who interacted with him had nothing but a great experience,” she says. Hmmm.

10:21 a.m. “I don't think we're looking to just prioritize studio development,” Walden says, emphasizing how many other studios they're working with. Because they're producers at heart, they knew that “Minority Report” would require a lot of prep, so they ordered it earlier. They'll be “open and independent to outside studios.” 

10:22 a.m. Are there any current plans for “24”? “We have no current plans although we're in discussions with the creative team there,” Newman says. “We would love nothing more than to do another '24,'” Newman says. 

10:23 a.m. Newman has great things to say about “Glee” and its impact on culture. They “just adore” Ryan Murphy and they've always felt close to the show. He notes that it isn't unusual for a show that burnt so fast to come to an end rather quickly, but he says that it's coming to an end at the right time and they're glad to have these last episodes. He thinks the remaining episodes will live on in outside markets even if the live ratings aren't what they wanted this season.

10:25 a.m. What do they want FOX's identity to be? Walden says that FOX has had a reputation for big, bold shows that also feel broad and appealing. She wants the network to be recognized for “great showmanship,” referencing “Empire” again. 

10:26 a.m. “It's been a very effective campaign,” Newman says of ABC's Shondaland Thursday and how counter-intuitive that has been in the OnDemand world. Talking about the FOX brand, Newman repeats “big and bold.” He also mentions “compelling,” “original” and “integrity” as touchstone words.

10:27 a.m. Regarding “Sleepy Hollow,” Walden says that they're responding not necessarily to criticism, but she talks about its high degree of difficulty. “The show got a little overly serialized this past season. It's very difficult on a show like this to hit the exact right balance” between procedural and serialized elements, Walden says. She says that as part of their diagnostic process, they looked at it midseason and they're trying to return the “fun” to it. “This is all about calibrating the show, not making dramatic changes,” she says.

10:29 a.m. Newman says that they've been meeting with Simon Cowell. “We have nothing to announce at the moment, but we like Simon very much and we'd like to be in business with him,” Newman says. Walden calls Cowell “a great showman.” 

10:30 a.m. How do they divide responsibility? “Gary and I are like an old married couple,” Walden says. She says that she may be a bit more on the creative side and he may be a bit more on the business side, but they take a holistic approach and they don't like to make divisions. “It's a lot of communication and not hard divisional lines,” Walden says.

10:31 a.m. What went wrong with “Red Band Society”? “We really fell in love with that show when we got to the network,” Newman says. “It was a challenging show,” he adds. “The creative team there did a great job. The show felt soulful and truthful and felt like there was integrity to it,” he says. They went to ABC Studios and offered them the chance to do additional episodes in the summer, asking them to do it for a lower cost. The studio decided that didn't make sense. “They were pretty firm when they came back to us,” Newman says.

10:33 a.m. What else is coming for summer along with “Wayward Pines”? That's the centerpiece, but Walden admits they don't have that much scripted stuff for the summer. They didn't have the time to do more. “Summer's a priority for us,” Walden says, noting they're planning for Summer 2016. “Wayward Pines” represents what they want their “event” brand to be. 

10:35 a.m. Will FOX bring back any other studio properties in the event mode that worked for “24”? Newman says they've had “some conversations on 'X-Files'” and they're “hopeful” about bringing the show back in this format. [Gillian Anderson has said in the past that this isn't something she'd want — she expressed a preference for another movie, if memory serves — but who knows? UPDATE: In comments people are noting that a recent Nerdist podcast reflected a change-of-mood for Anderson.] Newman says that they've bring “Prison Break” back “in a heartbeat,” but they haven't had any conversations on that.

That's all, folks…