Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 Upfront Questions, Fox

Last year, I did a series of "Upfront Questions" posts during the pre-upfront week, and I used those questions plus the revealed schedules for "Upfront Answers" during upfront week. I liked that format, so I'm gonna try generally the same thing this year.

This network's upfront happens just one week from today!

Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | The CW | General

For further reference, see the April Fox True Power Rankings.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - Terra Nova / House / Bones
9:00 - House / Alcatraz

Question: Is Bones capable of anchoring a competitive Monday?

The veteran procedural's late spring level has been somewhere in the low 2's. That's nothing special, but I don't think it can be taken for granted; it's very possible they could do worse with a new show on this very crowded night. So in these situations, it usually comes down to the pilots. The Bones ratings do not make a compelling case either way. If they have two stellar drama pilots, I'd put 'em together and keep Bones as a backup.


2011-12 Schedule 
8:00 - Glee / Raising Hope
8:30 - Glee / I Hate My Teenage Daughter
9:00 - New Girl
9:30 - Raising Hope / Breaking In

Question: Can New Girl bounce back from its spring woes?

The comedy that starts huge and sorta peters out from there is a fairly rare breed, but it is possible; I would cite My Name is Earl as a relatively recent example. NBC got a few pretty respectable years out of Earl, but I have to feel like they probably hoped for more than four seasons. Similarly, Fox was hoping for a really long-term player based on New Girl's early returns. The jury is still out, but the magnitude of New Girl's spring struggle makes it hard to throw all the blame on typical springtime drops. It's also kinda unfortunate that Fox doesn't (at least so far) have a regularly-scheduled spot for New Girl reruns this summer. I think a part of that "second season bounce" that people talk about with sitcoms is all the summer reruns. Anyway, I guess the above isn't really an "upfront question" but  we'll at least get some sense of how Fox is thinking. If they do something unexpected like keep Glee on Tuesday, for example, that would look like a big vote of no-confidence.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - The X Factor / American Idol
9:00 - The X Factor / American Idol / Mobbed
9:30 - The X Factor / I Hate My Teenage Daughter / American Idol / Mobbed

Question: Is it time to start considering a world after American Idol?

OK, so that question is a bit sensationalistic. The show will be back next year, and next season's drops would probably have to exceed even this season's huge ones to make 2014 even remotely a question mark. This wasn't the year Idol died, but it was the year that might get Idol to start working on its will. All those two-hour Wednesday editions of Idol were a nice short-term ratings grab that made the problem (from the network-wide perspective) look less severe. But is Fox really in a position to continue using the show's lead-in power so little? After all, this was also the year that Fox became suddenly incapable of programming a decent-rated drama. It's great that all these reality franchises can effectively fill three hours per week, but it isn't easy to seamlessly recover if you suddenly lose all three hours at once. It's like a miniature version of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? / Jay Leno Show situation.

For most of its run, the performance night of Idol did serve as a lead-in for something else (House being the most obvious example), and I think they need to get back to that.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - The X Factor / American Idol
9:00 - Bones / The Finder / Touch

Question: What leads out of The X Factor and Idol results shows?

Yeah, not one of my deeper questions. A lot of people have penciled Glee in, but I'm guessing there's a great deal of audience crossover between that and Grey's Anatomy. The Finder didn't do much in this hour, but I still think this is one of the better slots for Fox to go with some kind of procedural, especially since CBS probably shifts to comedy next season.


2011-12 Schedule 
8:00 - Kitchen Nightmares / The Finder
9:00 - Fringe

Question: What does Fox Friday look like after Fringe is over?

Kevin Reilly has admitted that Fringe Fridays was a losing proposition financially, but at least that pairing with Kitchen Nightmares saved them a scheduling headache on a really tough evening. That headache returns once Fringe is gone. Maybe I should just go with Occam's razor and assume it'll be Kitchen and Fringe again next fall, but I still think they'd be better off at least trying to set themselves up for midseason. (Like in 2011-12, the current Kitchen Nightmares order is not big enough to go wire-to-wire.) So I'd pair 13 episodes of some relatively new-ish scripted show with Fringe. I guess the leader for that role would still be Touch, even though its ratings continue to underwhelm. If that show works, give it a back nine and throw on Kitchen Nightmares at midseason and you're set. If not, you at least give the audience a little break from Gordon Ramsay and can pair Nightmares with something that potentially has a future.


2011-12 Schedule
7:00 - NFL Overrun / repeats
7:30 - The OT / The Cleveland Show
8:00 - The Simpsons
8:30 - Allen Gregory / Napoleon Dynamite / Bob's Burgers
9:00 - Family Guy
9:30 - American Dad!

Question: Where does the demise of The Flinstones leave Fox?

Unlike with Fox's drama situation, there's not really cause for alarm just yet. The Simpsons and Family Guy both took slightly above average drops this year, but there's no clear sign yet that they're ending, and they're still doing good work. Eventually, it'd be nice to come up with a new animated program that can anchor an hour. Bob's Burgers hasn't made that leap yet, but I should probably put it in green since it will clearly be airing in some capacity next season. (It'll air just nine of its 22-episode order this season.)


Spot said...

The Fox drama problem is something I feel like has been lurking for awhile. They've had two straight years of no-go on that front from a new development perspective, and their last two "successful" drama rookies have both turned into four-year flameouts (at best). That kind of thing is something that will eventually catch up with a network as their older shows start heading down the tubes, especially if they're declining faster than the primetime averages (i.e. House, Glee). Fox hasn't adapted.

I still agree that they should push dramas on the night, even though it seems like the comedy and reality efforts on other nets always seem to squeeze dramas out over the long-term (see: ABC's three decades of mostly drama-driven failure on Thursdays @ 8). That said, maybe you put returnees on the night rather than newbies - trying to launch an entirely new night in this day and age is folly, especially on a night w/ the strength of the above competition. (the lack of top tier programs on Wednesdays back in '09 - at least during the fall - is one of the reasons why ABC got a 75% success rate w/ the new comedy block that year)

Spot said...

Fox opened their cards, Touch renewed, The Finder and Alcatraz canceled, 3 comedies picked: It's Messy (FKA Mindy), The Goodwin Games, Ned & Kate (FKA Ned Fox is My Manny) and 2 new dramas, maybe 3:
The Following (Kevin Williamson project with Kevin Bacon starring), The Mob Doctor and they're still tinkering Guilty (Greg Berlanti legal drama with Cuba Gooding Jr starring), they're said to decide about its fate only after upfronts. The Following is said to be 13 episodes, maximum 15, due to Bacon's feature movies career, Guilty is now kind of out-of-cycle show, so it makes Mob Doctor (if I understood well, 13 episodes order with possible 9 eps back-order) fall show by default.
Bones is fall show, after (Deschanel pregnancy caused) erratic schedule this season, Fox can't allow themselves any more fans annoyance. Then Monday is clear, Bones at 8PM followed by The Mob Doctor. Not that Bones is good lead-in anymore, but what else they have? Least of the evils.
In midseason I see The Mob Doctor moving to 8PM and The Following at Monday 9PM (it's about serial killers, not exactly family show) while Bones taking hiatus and returning at 8PM later in season.
Glee is also fall show, each season follows school year, so it'll be on air in September and in May no matter what. They can be creative with hiatus, and I'll allow they could air only few homecoming episodes in September and some Christmas episodes in December (with bulk of episodes left for midseason / spring) - such a scenario would allow squeezing in new show in same slot during fall - but with baseball and holidays season also in the mix, I think that would only be counterproductive for such new show. I see Glee remaining at Tuesday 8PM, using good X-factor lead-in for 4th year show, instead as launching pad for some new shows looks highly illogical to me.
Then Tuesday is Glee - New Girl - It's Messy and Thursday at 9PM Ned & Kate and more serialized The Goodwin Games at 9:30PM, to avoid its schedule being affected by those 90-minutes X-factor editions. Raising Hope as backup.
Friday at 8PM Kitchen Nightmares, reality midseason filler, more Gordon Ramsay in spring. 9PM is for those 13 Fringe episodes to air before Christmas, then Touch in midseason. Touch and/or (if picked) Guilty could also appear on some weekday - if new comedies crumble, then it's best for Fox to move Glee at Thursday post-Idol spot and Guilty or Touch to Tuesday 8PM in midseason. While if new comedies do well (or at least solid), but dramas are problematic, then Guilty or Touch can simply go to Monday 8PM with bad performing drama(s) being burned off at Friday 9PM.
Here comes in Fox problem - in order to have enough utility players for all possible scenarios, beside renewing Touch and Raising Hope, they should also pick both Guilty and 1 or 2 more comedies. But that would be too much of a financial commitment, and at same time vote of no-confidence in own other picks. And if they additionally pick only drama or comedy (financially correct), then Murphy's Law says: if they pick Guilty, then somehow all dramas will work fine with comedies crumbling, while if they order more comedies, then drama department is going to fall apart and comedies to excel. If they pick no more pilots, they're betting on highly unlikely scenario that all new shows will do good, hedging it only with quickly fading Touch and Raising Hope as backups. Such situation is caused by Fox having only 10 hours Monday to Friday out of which 4 hours is occupied by reality shows and another hour by money-losing Fringe (head-scratching renewal, to stay in good relations with JJ Abrams ? ). Not counting animation domination, then there's need only for 5 hours of expensive scripted program. That's plus side .. but backslash is Fox having much less manoeuvring space compared to other big 3.

Spot said...

I think a comedy block on Thursday at 9 is possible, but there's likely to be comedy competition from two other networks (including possibly Big Bang Theory). I still think the best spot is 4x sitcoms on Tuesday, but admittedly the fact that they only ordered 3 comedy pilots makes me think that may be less likely.

Ideally I would hold Glee for midseason and put Mob Doctor Monday at 9 and Guilty Thursday at 9 (again, I think procedural is a good idea for that hour), but you may be right about Glee having to be on in the fall, and I guess we won't know about Guilty by the upfront anyway.

I agree they should add more pilots.

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