NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- News Corp's Fox network, faced with the loss of fan-favorite drama "24" and a softening in the appeal of its biggest hit, "American Idol, said it would try to use its popular musical drama "Glee" to launch new comedies on Tuesdays and also introduce some ambitious dramas in the fall and spring.
The network is expected to formally unveil its fall schedule later today, part of the annual "upfront" marketplace, during which advertisers typically put down the bulk of their ad spending on TV's coming fall season.
Fox is in a relatively healthy space, but will face challenges. Popular drama "24" was waning in the ratings , but continued to attract a reliable and devoted audience; the ultimate success of new dramas, like most new network-TV fare, is unproven; and network executives have admitted that "Idol," still a ratings powerhouse, has matured somewhat, making it more susceptible to challenges from major sporting events and even rival programs such as ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
Fox executives said they were making a deliberate move to launch new comedies. Citing the success of "Modern Family" on ABC, Fox Networks Group's entertainment chairman, Peter Rice, said there had been a "re-invigoration of comedy on broadcast television" during a conference call with reporters today.
New comedies 'feel classy'
While Fox enjoys a long tradition of launching experimental dramas and reality programs with bold concepts, the network has also developed a reputation for burnishing sophomoric sitcoms that often don't last into the season -- the cult favorite "Arrested Development" aside.
In the fall of 2007, for example, Fox tried to launch a traditional sitcom, "Back to You," featuring veteran actors Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as star-crossed newscasters at a local station. The show was expected to perform well but ended up being canceled. Fox has continued to launch comedies such as "Brothers," "Stacked" and "Do Not Disturb" that often don't last long on the airwaves.
The new comedies "feel classy," said Kevin Reilly, president-entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Co.
Fox said it will also schedule a drama called "Terra Nova," an epic adventure focused on a family traveling back to the prehistoric era to save the human race. Steven Spielberg and former News Corp. executive Peter Chernin will lead the show. Mr. Reilly called the show a "big bet" about which executives were very enthusiastic. The network is waiting for more production to take place on the show before giving it a slot on the schedule.
'Idol' after Cowell
Executives acknowledged they had to do some work on "American Idol," which has seen ratings erosion and will lose popular judge Simon Cowell at the end of this season. The network's top task this summer is to find an appropriate judge to replace Mr. Cowell and work on tweaks to the show, according to Mr. Rice, who said the network believes audiences want more performances and a tighter "results" show. Fox "will work hard this summer with the producers to come up with a good show for next year," he said.
The network intends to bring back many of its best-known shows to the schedule in the fall. Among those shows returning are "House," "Glee," "Bones," "Fringe," "Human Target ," "Cops," "America's Most Wanted," "The Simpsons, "The Cleveland Show," "American Dad, "Family Guy" and, in the midseason, "Kitchen Nightmares."
On Mondays, Fox will launch "Lonestar," a drama set against the backdrop of the oil industry, at 9 p.m. The show will follow "House" at 8 p.m. In the spring, Fox will launch "Ride-Along," an intense cop drama from "The Shield" producer Shawn Ryan that puts viewers in the passenger seat as cops work their beat in Chicago. The show will air at 9 p.m.
On Tuesdays, Fox will start the evening off with "Glee" at 8 p.m., then follow it with two new comedies. "Raising Hope" at 9 p.m. follows a screw-up trying to raise a child with the help of an eccentric family. "Running Wilde" at 9:30 p.m. is produced by people associated with cult hit "Arrested Development" and focuses on an immature playboy trying to win the heart of an old flame. After midseason, "American Idol" will air at 8 p.m, with "Running Wilde" at 9 p.m. and new comedy "Mixed Signals," a comedy about relationships, starting at 9:30 p.m.
On Wednesdays, Fox will air returning programs "Lie to Me" at 8 p.m. and "Hell's Kitchen" at 9 p.m. After the midseason, the first hour of the night will feature "Raising Hope" and the results show of "American Idol," while "Glee" moves to 9 p.m.
On Thursdays, Fox will air "Bones" at 8 p.m. and "Fringe" at 9 p.m.
On Fridays, Fox will air "Human Target " at 8 p.m. and "The Good Guys," a new hour-long cop dramedy being introduced late this season, at 9 p.m. After the midseason, Fox said it will run "Kitchen Nightmares" at 9 p.m.
Saturdays have long been devoted to reality programming and Fox's long running "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted."
Fox will continue airing its animated comedies on Sundays. In the fall, the network will air "The Simpsons" at 8 p.m., followed in half-hour increments by "The Cleveland Show," "Family Guy" and "American Dad." In the spring, "American Dad" will move to 7:30 p.m from 9:30 p.m, while Fox introduces "Bob's Burgers," an animated comedy focused on a man, his family and his burger joint. "Bob's Burgers" will air at 8:30 p.m., preceded by "The Simpsons" at 8 p.m. and followed by "The Family Guy" and "The Cleveland Show."