NEW YORK - People who like their dramas dark and complicated and their comedies animated should find plenty to look forward to next season from Fox, whose entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, yesterday told reporters that "we're just looking for good, noisy shows."
For "noise," read: Big-Name Producers with Big Ideas.
Hours before Reilly and his boss, entertainment chairman Peter Liguori, were to meet with advertisers at Manhattan's City Center Theater, the network yesterday announced it had picked up two new dramas, three new comedies and one unscripted show for next season. Only two of those series will premiere in the fall, traditionally a tricky time for Fox, which has to work around baseball pre-emptions but which usually sees its ratings surge in January with the return of "American Idol" and "24."
One of those fall offerings is a thriller titled "Fringe" from "Lost" co-creator J.J. Abrams that stars Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's Creek"), John Noble ("Lord of the Rings") and Anna Torv as "an unlikely trio who uncover a deadly mystery involving a series of unbelievable events and realize they may be a part of a larger, more disturbing pattern that blurs the line between science fiction and technology," according to the network.
(Head hurting yet?)
The fall comedy, whose working title is "Do Not Disturb," stars Jerry O'Connell ("Carpoolers") and Niecy Nash ("Reno 911") as the managers of a New York City hotel.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse," which stars That Other Slayer, Eliza Dushku, is scheduled for a midseason launch. Dushku plays a member of a covert group of people whose personalities are periodically wiped clean so they can assume new personas - and be unaware that they're not the people they claim to be.
(And if your head's not hurting by now, you probably also understand what's going on on "Lost" these days.)
Before you reach for the aspirin, though, remember that "Lost" and "Buffy" turned out to be pretty good television, beloved even by those of us who can't speak a word of Klingon. Plus, in one of the more unusual moves this year, Liguori announced that Fox was cutting the commercial load for both shows by an amount that one source said is expected to add four to six minutes of programming for each hour.
Fox's latest unscripted show, "Secret Millionaire," sounds a bit like ABC's "Oprah's Big Give," with a different millionaire each week going "undercover to some of America's most disadvantaged areas in search of everyday heroes to possibly change their lives forever."
Two new animated comedies are scheduled for spring 2009: "The Cleveland Show," a spinoff of "Family Guy" in which Cleveland Brown moves to a place called Stoolbend, Va.; and a show from "Arrested Development's" Mitchell Hurwitz about the staff of a high school "in a small northeastern fishing town who never lose sight of the fact that the students must ALWAYS come second."
Returning prime-time shows include "24," "American Dad," "American Idol," "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," "Bones," "Cops," "Don't Forget the Lyrics!," "Family Guy," "Hell's Kitchen," "House," "King of the Hill," "Kitchen Nightmares," "The Moment of Truth," "Prison Break," "The Simpsons," "So You Think You Can Dance," "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and " 'Til Death."
Out of the picture, as expected, was the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton sitcom "Back to You," which never felt much like a Fox show, anyway. Blame the high expectations that were bound to accompany any show that paired stars from "Frasier" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" - stars who aren't exactly the sweet spot of the network's 18-49 target demographic - and writing that didn't wow the bosses.
The show was a "mixed bag," creatively, said Reilly, and despite considerable promotion, didn't seem to be reaching viewers, either.
Other notes on the Fox schedule for 2008-09:
_ "House," the No. 1 scripted show on television, moves yet again - to 8 p.m. Tuesdays this fall - to serve as a lead-in to "Fringe."
_ "Bones" may not get "House's" ratings (though it seems to get moved just as often), but the show, which stars David Boreanaz (son of Channel 6's Dave Roberts), has the support of the suits, who say its core audience is loyal, and that
they're happy with the creative side, too.
"You've got to give it props. Wherever you put that show, it performs," said Reilly.
_ "American Idol's" easily confused Paula Abdul, too, apparently has nothing to worry about. Asked about her future, Liguori quickly replied, "We love Paula. She's coming back."
_ "Day 7" of "24" still won't start till January 2009, but the network's throwing fans a bone in the form of a two-hour "prequel" scheduled to air Nov. 23. Shot on location in South Africa, where Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is fighting an unspecified "international crisis," it takes place a few months before "Day 7" and seems to be set in something akin to Real People's Time, since Fox notes that the U.S. is getting ready for a new president to be inaugurated. (In Fox Land, that president's going to be played by Cherry Jones.)
The new season is to be set in Washington, D.C., and, as you've probably already heard, features the return of Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard), the CTU agent with more lives than ABC's "According to Jim." *
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