Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, examining the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront. I've always favored laying out the possibilities rather than creating an actual mock schedule; this seems to set up better to review the schedule next week without making it all about how my own prediction/recommendation did. But you can probably get some sense of which way I'm leaning.
Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, in which I drilled more into the merits of individual shows: Fox True Power Rankings
Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW
8:00 - Bones | Almost Human | Bones
9:00 - Sleepy Hollow | The Following | 24: Live Another Day
Question: Which new drama makes it onto Fox's best night for drama counter-programming?
As for the last half-decade or more, this remains very ripe dramatic territory for the network, with CBS airing comedies and NBC/ABC in the unscripted realm. The top new drama should go here as always. I don't know that much about development, but it feels like that drama is the Batman prequel Gotham, which was series-ordered yesterday and previewed during 24 last night.
8:00 - Dads | Glee
8:30 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine | Glee
9:00 - New Girl
9:30 - The Mindy Project | Brooklyn Nine-Nine | The Mindy Project
Question: Does Fox think new shows can succeed alongside the crumbling Tuesday comedies?
My original idea for this night back in the winter (Brooklyn / newbie / New Girl / newbie) looks pretty depressing now that those shows have gotten so low in the spring. I still think Fox might swear off newbies completely here. If they do put new shows on Tuesday, the arrangement should take the same form as last year: leading off in the 8:00 hour, with New Girl and Mindy likely back at 9/8c. It's far from ideal, but it didn't go that badly for Dads and Brooklyn this year, and local programming sadly may be the better lead-in at this point.
8:00 - The X Factor| American Idol
Question: How many of the three hours vacated by The X Factor go right back to unscripted programming?
Fox's fall 2014 sked is one of those where there's one huge question mark above the rest. This is it. It'll heavily inform what they do not just on Wednesday but also on Thursday, Friday and maybe Tuesday as well. And it's a pretty huge unknown to those of us on the outside.
Can Fox really gamble on one big thing like the ambitious, super-expensive, problematic new reality series Utopia for that much real estate? The network seems headed for a hefty slate of new scripted series, many of which might be limited options that could keep these slots warm for American Idol's January arrival. So it doesn't feel like they're setting up for all three of those X hours to go right back into one show. At least one probably opens up. And with Fox axing Almost Human, a potential placeholder with a track record for one of those hours, it also seems less likely that the whole of these two nights will get turned over to scripted. I'm guessing there's an unscripted hour or maybe two across these two nights, but your guess is at least as good as mine.
8:00 - The X Factor | American Idol | Hell's Kitchen
9:00 - Glee | Rake | American Idol
9:30 - Glee | Rake | Surviving Jack
Question: Is Thursday another opportunity for scripted counter-programming?
In case you couldn't tell, this is about as vague a question as I can possibly come up with, because I really have no idea what will happen here. But the main point is that this night looks like the best option to become Fox's Monday Part Two in terms of producing dramas, as CBS is also out of the crime drama business in this two-hour space. Try to get a new procedural going with Bones + already-series-ordered Backstrom?
8:00 - MasterChef Junior | Bones | Rake | Kitchen Nightmares
9:00 - Sleepy Hollow (R) | Raising Hope | Enlisted | Kitchen Nightmares
9:30 - Sleepy Hollow (R) | Enlisted | Raising Hope | Kitchen Nightmares
Question: How much effort can a badly struggling network put forth on Friday?
Fox was in a better place one year ago than they are today, and they still ran a regularly-scheduled Sleepy Hollow repeat through the fall. So don't be a bit surprised to see that reprised with new drama repeats, or maybe the final season of Glee taking over that low-priority role. Fox could give the night the ultimate middle finger by pairing Glee with new drama repeats. This season's Rake / Enlisted / Raising Hope lineup should make it clear they're not totally opposed to going all the way off the map on Friday.
But unless Fox ends up with no unscripted alternatives to The X Factor and needs a ton of product for Wednesday/Thursday, it looks like Fox will probably have enough stuff to try making at least some inroads on Friday. It's pretty likely that one of last year's 8/7c occupants - Bones or MasterChef Junior - will return to this night. Since Bones would seem to pair better with a new drama, MasterChef Junior is the better choice.
7:00 - NFL Overrun | Bob's Burgers
7:30 - The OT | American Dad!
8:00 - The Simpsons
8:30 - Bob's Burgers | Family Guy
9:00 - Family Guy | Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
9:30 - American Dad! | Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Question: How much of Fox's animation development gets picked up?
If you just look at the network's renewal/cancellation trend, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think Fox is phasing out of the animated game. The Cleveland Show ended after last season, and American Dad! heads to TBS after this season. But the network has five animated scripts, including one (naturally, the Seth MacFarlane show) picked up to series for 13 episodes. When digging back to past years, I noticed this is actually not much more than normal for Fox. But it still doesn't feel like a network looking to get out of the animated game. It'd be pretty disappointing if they couldn't find a decent option for the fall out of that crop, and it's not inconceivable they could have two and hold Bob's Burgers in reserve.