Monday, May 9, 2011

Upfront Questions, Fox

This week, I'm gonna add my voice to the slew of pre-upfront articles out there with "Upfront Questions," in which I break down each night of the current schedule. THIS IS NOT A PREDICTION. I'm just listing the potentially returning puzzle pieces each network's got on the nights they last aired, then laying out what I see as the issues the schedulers have to deal with on each night. Rather than commit to one possibility, I'll try to help with the range of possibilities and considerations. Since I'm not really that interested in development, I think that's about the best I can do. Next week I'll do "Upfront Answers" posts and take a look at how they addressed my questions.

Shows in green are already renewed for next season. The ones in BOLD are (in my opinion) very likely to return to their current timeslots. The ones with a question mark (?) have genuine doubt about their renewal.

Other Upfront Questions: NBC

8:00 - House
9:00 - The Chicago Code? / Lie to Me?

Question: Can Fox finally find a way to round out the evening?

I'm gonna assume Fox comes up with a way to keep House. The question is what comes next, and this hour has been a problem on Fox (at least during non-24 time) for many years now. I actually think that if Fox renews The Chicago Code it has a better chance of staying here than many give it credit for, simply because Fox is gonna have so much new programming later in the week. That said, creator Shawn Ryan's signed a new deal elsewhere, which probably slightly upped the ratings expectations, and then the ratings have kept falling. So that's becoming a longer shot. If they truly are concerned with dedicating their promo time to the bevy of new shows later in the week, perhaps a Lie to Me or Bones move here could be a real longshot, but I think now it's probably gonna be something new.

8:00 - Glee
9:00 - Raising Hope / Million Dollar Money Drop?
9:30 -

Question: Is Raising Hope the best possible use of the Glee lead-in?

This is really an important question, because I think Glee is riding the trajectory of so many buzz-driven flameouts that run about four seasons (Heroes the biggest recent example): big hit for two years, still a very solid player in year three, then into very marginal territory in year four. That means next year might be the last good shot to launch something after Glee. Raising Hope has done... barely OK, I guess, but it sure seems like something better is possible. Maybe Raising Hope stays, maybe it's shifted to 9:30 in favor of a high priority comedy, maybe it's shipped to midseason and even thrown into the Sunday mix in favor of a drama. Fox may just start off the fall with the end of the summer Hell's Kitchen season in the 9:00 hour, since it doesn't debut till well into the summer (and on Tuesday). Then again, Raising Hope gets a bit of a pass because Fox likes it and they've been so historically inept with live-action comedy. Maybe it really isn't gonna get much better. I'll be interested to see what happens.

8:00 - Human Target?
9:00 - Hell's Kitchen?
9:30 - Breaking In?

Question: How much real estate will X Factor take up?

So I threw some bubble shows on there (with Hell's not a bubble show in general but just as far as airing in the regular season) but the real schedule will look nothing like this. It's gonna be reserved for new reality competition X Factor. But how much of the evening? I tend to think the shows will be reduced at some point, perhaps creating a lead-in for a new show. But it actually wouldn't surprise me to see this night all X Factor almost all the time. (Incidentally, I don't think any of the above three bubble shows will air during the next regular season except for the tail end of the summer Hell's Kitchen.)

8:00 -  
9:00 - Bones / Mobbed

Question: How much real estate will X Factor take up? The Squeakquel

I think usually the answer here will be "all of the 8:00 hour." Some have suggested they might just air a 30-minute results show, but I think those are the same people who keep insisting American Idol is gonna cut back to a 30-minute results show every year. At 9:00? They could go with Bones and probably do all right. It's seen a noticeable bump from airing after Idol. But continuing to pump big reality lead-ins into such an established show seems a bit of a waste, so I think this is yet another spot ripe for a new show. Many are pegging Terra Nova as that new show, assuming it's actually ready by then.

8:00 - Kitchen Nightmares
9:00 - Fringe 

Question: Is it finally time for a Bones move to Friday?

Many a midseason Fox schedule has claimed the veteran drama is headed for Friday and then reneged when something fell apart in the fall. This time, the arrival of X Factor on Wednesday/Thursday may mean they're finally out of places to put Bones. The only other two real options (Monday 9:00 and Thursday 9:00) both seem like potential missed opportunities for the lead-ins. There's also the chance Fox may not end up with House, and then Bones would seem a candidate for the Monday 8:00 slot. Other than that... well, they could move it to Friday and probably do pretty well. It'd be a bit of a wasted opportunity, but there just isn't that much else. I think a Fringe return in the fall is reasonably likely despite all the stressing over its late season ratings. Whatever they do, I recommend keeping this night full of returning players. They have so many options, after all, once you throw in Kitchen Nightmares and maybe even Lie to Me. Some have suggested the Bones spinoff here, but I just think they need to focus their new show promotional efforts on the Monday to Thursday shows.

7:00 - NFL Overrun / Repeats
7:30 - The OT / American Dad!
8:00 - The Simpsons
8:30 - Bob's Burgers
9:00 - Family Guy
9:30 - The Cleveland Show

Question: How to arrange the marginal players around the anchors?

Almost every two-hour comedy block on TV has two anchor-worthy shows and then a bunch of marginal stuff floating around. Fox's is no exception, but for now it doesn't seem to be that much of an issue because Simpsons and Family Guy pull enormous ad rates and are seemingly just gonna run ad nauseam. At this point, we are pretty much 100% sure that American Dad! and The Cleveland Show are going to do OK. Nothing more, nothing less. We're not quite that sure about Bob's Burgers, which accumulated some nice buzz and comes from a different voice than same two dudes that have dominated Fox animation for two decades and both have multiple shows going (counting Matt Groening's Futurama on Comedy Central). That's why, despite it getting just a 13-ep order, I think Bob's Burgers should get a shot in the fall. They've also got some more new animation coming down the pipe, and they'll integrate that if they see fit. Again, it's not like you're missing out on something huge by shifting Dad! and Cleveland around.

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