FOX Needs a New Hit
"American Idol" will give FOX yet another season win. But how long can the network rely on the powerhouse competition? All scripted series they launched this season have bombed ("Vanished," "Standoff," "Justice," "Happy Hour," "Drive," etc.) and some older hits have lost ground ("24"). FOX needs a new hit and it needs one now.
Although the ratings for "American Idol" have in recent weeks also gone down (about 10% year-to-year), the reality contest still generates at least 25 million people per telecast. But the network president Peter Ligouri will be in trouble if next fall's development slate fails to produce a single hit again.
The good news is, the network will air less baseball come October due to a new deal with TBS which will take over some of the World Series games. That means the number of nights with preempted regular programming will fall from 26 to only 14.
Normally, the network struggles as freshman shows that debut in September go off the air for a whole month in October, making it more difficult for them to click with the audience. And holding the premieres off till November is not necessarily the best alternative.
Next year, the network will be looking for at least three scripted dramas to pair off with "Prison Break" on Mondays, "House" on Tuesdays and "Bones" on Wednesdays. Because of the success of "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" FOX may be looking for more reality on Thursdays to counter-program dramas on ABC and CBS.
Although there won't be too much change on the weekends, FOX is hoping to completely reinvent Friday nights, traditionally the most difficult night for the network - apart from a brief run of "The X-Files" in the early 90s, most of the programming on the night has failed.
As for the pilots, the one getting most of the buzz is "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" starring Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker. It is based on the characters from the "Terminator" franchise in present-day Los Angeles as they fight attackers from the future in a battle for survival of the human race.
Cop drama with soapy elements "The Apostles" that follows officers in Simi Valley, Calif., in their off-duty time with their families has also clicked with focus groups.
The pilot "Them" about an alien sleeper cell that infiltrates the human race has also come out very strong and got a lot of network support. In the pilot, the cell's mission is compromised when its members begin to express human emotions.
Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton fronted comedy "Back to You" (formerly "Action News") has already been picked up. The network may also pick up quirky single-camera comedy "Me & Lee?" starring Lee Majors as himself or "Minister of Divine" starring Kirstie Alley.
Medical series "Nurses" and post-Katrina New Orleans cop drama "K-Ville" are also getting a lot of support.
The other pilots have not done very well in early screenings and may end not being picked up.
Next year the network is airing "Super Bowl" which is certain to give it an even stronger 1st place finish in the 2007-2008 season. The time is however running out for the network president Peter Ligouri who will need to find the next big hit.
FOX will present its new fall schedule on Thursday, May 17 at 4 p.m. EST at the Upfronts in New York.
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