Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 Upfront Answers, Fox

Last week, I asked "Upfront Questions" to preview each network's fall 2014 schedule. With the schedule now official, here are the "Upfront Answers"!

Fox's upfront previews: True Power Rankings | Upfront Questions

Other Upfront Answers: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM GOTHAM (new)
9:00-10:00 PM Sleepy Hollow

My Question: Which new drama makes it onto Fox's best night for drama counter-programming?

Yep, it's Gotham. This seemed like the best play, and it should have potential to self-start on this night.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM UTOPIA (new)
9:00-9:30 PM New Girl
9:30-10:00 PM The Mindy Project

My Question: Does Fox think new shows can succeed alongside the crumbling Tuesday comedies?

Yes, but not new comedies. Fox refuses to completely surrender in 18-49 ratings on Tuesday, going with their big gamble Utopia. But my thing with these big swings is that I always like to see some obvious benefit if the gamble works. Even if Utopia is a legitimate success, will it help the extreme young female-skewing New Girl and Mindy that much? This scheduling would tend to suggest Fox is not banking on it being a legitimate success, because I doubt Fox would funnel its audience into New Girl if they thought it'd be huge.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM Hell's Kitchen
9:00-10:00 PM RED BAND SOCIETY (new)

My Question: How many of the three hours vacated by The X Factor go right back to unscripted programming?

In the end, there are three new unscripted hours to replace the three vacated by X. Utopia gets two of 'em, and Fox brings a second Ramsay show to Wednesday to lead into Octavia Spencer's medical drama Red Band Society.

However, Fox was still able to "open up" a couple more hours for their extensive new drama slate by 1) shipping its second live-action comedy hour to Sunday, 2) no regularly-scheduled encore hour and, most surprisingly, 3) holding Glee for midseason. Can't say keeping that thing off the sked for as long as possible is a bad move, but I didn't think it was possible with the reported full-season order. Coupled with newbie Empire, both of the network's music-themed dramas will be saved for American Idol season.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM Bones
9:00-10:00 PM GRACEPOINT (new)

My Question: Is Thursday another opportunity for scripted counter-programming?

Yep, and in the Bones / new drama form that I predicted. However, it's Gracepoint (a remake of the British series Broadchurch) rather than Backstrom getting the fall nod. With CBS going so extreme in its drama pick-ups, the Thursday 9/8c suddenly looks like much more of a wild card for new dramas than it did before. But before The Blacklist's arrival in February, it shouldn't be too much of a murderer's row.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00-9:00 PM MasterChef Junior
9:00-10:00 PM UTOPIA (new)

My Question: How much effort can a badly struggling network put forth on Friday?

MasterChef Junior is back here, as seemed most likely, and it should do respectably. The second hour of Utopia is on Friday at 9/8c, where (once again) it won't be that damaging if it bombs and it won't be that helpful to the network's overall ratings if it works.


Fall 2014 Schedule
7:00-7:30 PM NFL Game
7:30-8:00 PM Bob's Burgers / THE OT
8:00-8:30 PM The Simpsons
8:30-9:00 PM Brooklyn Nine-Nine
9:00-9:30 PM Family Guy
9:30-10:00 PM MULANEY (new)

My Question: How much of Fox's animation development gets picked up?

Only Bordertown, already ordered for 13 episodes and slated for midseason. With the animation development pipeline seemingly drying up, Fox will close up the two-hour Animation Domination and try its male-leaning live action shows on the night, including the sophomore Brooklyn Nine-Nine after The Simpsons. It kinda reminds me of the post-Simpsons berth that Arrested Development garnered in season two. In that case, the move was of minor help, but not enough to really justify it, and that (sadly) seems like the likeliest outcome for Brooklyn as well. It'll be interesting to see how much animated stuff Fox develops for 2015-16, but this arrangement definitely suggests they might be on their way out of that business.


I expected to come here on Monday morning and say, "Well, all you can really say about this schedule is that it will depend heavily on Utopia. If it works, they could make progress. If not, disaster." But instead, Fox seems to have gone out of its way to make that dependence as small as humanly possible; they somehow found room for three new dramas without two nights of Utopia leading into a single one of them. The new dramas on Wednesday and Thursday will have dependable but frankly bland-rated lead-ins, and they may have to fully retain/grow to be considered significant successes. To me, that suggests a relatively significant vote of no-confidence in Utopia, but your mileage may vary. Fox is surely well aware that they're limiting the upside with this sked, but that probably means they're counting on Utopia being more on the downside half of the equation.


Spot said...

Best Move: Pairing Gotham and Sleepy Hollow. I thought that Fox may want to limit variables on Wednesdays and Thursdays and use Sleepy Hollow as part of that, but they still found a way to do it and put Gotham on Mondays. It'll be one of their top nights.

Worst Move: Mixing live-action and animation on Sundays. It historically hasn't worked with sitcoms both good (Arrested Development) and not-so-good (The War at Home). At least I can understand the logic because 9-9 and Mulaney are definitely male-skewing.

Other Thoughts: I definitely thought that Utopia was going to be a bigger deal to Fox. Instead, it's coming in as filler by going against The Voice on Tuesday and presumably Shark Tank on Friday. The new dramas are at least getting known quantities (Hell's Kitchen, Bones) so Fox must overall believe in them more than Utopia.

Glee getting the midseason treatment is a little surprising since they'll have 24 episodes to work through by May. Not a high hurdle to climb with some double-pump weeks. It leads to the bigger question is how Fox is going to rearrange everything in January and what shows are "limited run series" a la The Following. As it stands now, it definitely lends credence the rumor that American Idol is getting a reduction in hours next season, especially if a non-Monday drama takes off.

Grade: B-

Spot said...

I'm not seeing too much I like. Plus, for a network that said they will try to greenlight fewer series and debut them throughout the year and not just in fall, they have debuted a hell of a lot of shows in fall. They've committed almost half their fall schedule to new shows.

Like with NBCs schedule they look like they are trying to limit decline rather than aim for many improvements. I don't like putting half of Utopia on Friday, it will surely limit the shows audience for the Tuesday audience by doing this.

I'm not surprised to see Bobs Burgers thrown to the 7:30 wolves. Foxs treatment of it since Cosmos arrived suggested they weren't that interested in it much longer. The sunday animated live-action mix looks like it could work on paper, with most being male audienced shows, but using my qualitative "do I know anyone who watches both these shows test" I'm not sure this night is a good a fit as they might think. Using broad and unscientific generalisations I would have thought the probable Brooklyn 99 and Mulaney audiences stopped watching The Simpsons a decade ago, and possibly never watched Family Guy.

Decisions I like are the whole of Monday, and holding Glee as long as possible. If you are only going to get mid 0's you might as well burn it off. For most of the other choices I have nothing to add to Spots analysis (which by the way is great, and these upfront analyses are probably my favourite articles that you do)

Grade: C+ (I would have given NBC a B)

Spot said...

Right now I'm inclined to see Fox return Idol to Wednesdays instead of Thursdays. Once Hell's Kitchen wraps up its fall run, Fox evaluates how Red Band Society did. But given that Fox loves to move Bones around midseason and that Gracepoint is another limited run show, it's possible.

Spot said...

Is Fox obligated to wrap up Glee by May? It seems like a prime candidate for a late-season-but-mostly-summer burn-off. But I don't know the contract specifics of the situation.

Spot said...

Season six was due to have 24 episodes (normal 22 plus the two missing eps that resulted from the production break over Cory's death). I assumed that Fox would wrap it up by May 2015 to keep Ryan Murphy happy.

Spot said...

Holy moly, what a disaster. Gotham should not have to face the Big Bang Theory and should be the lead out of Sleepy Hollow. Hell's Kitchen isn't a bad lead in for a new drama, but it doesn't seem compatible at all. Bones with another procedual drama is good, but with Big Bang coming later against Bones and The Blacklist and maybe even Scandal taking the 9 o'clock hour its a risk. Damn, they actually are giving Bob's Burgers the Cleveland show treatment (Family Guy actually mentioned Bob's and Cleveland's ratings last night). Brookyln 99 looks like a good fit, but not the other.

Schedule grade: D+

Spot said...

Fox is not abandoning Animation Domination because they want so, but because new additions didn't find traction. They certainly tried: Allen Gregory, Napoleon Dynamite, The Cleveland Show, American Dad.

For Idol rumor (or report?) says "down to 37 hours from its current run of over 50 hours." Then it's 2 hours a week, and on rare occasions more.
Now, Wednesday 2 hours of Idol sounds as logical solution. But...
Thursday 9 PM looked like fine destination for Backstrom considering not much crossover with whatever Shonda's is there. But with news The Blacklist is coming there in midseason, it's not fertile ground for any Fox drama anymore.
So, all bets are off. I'm really not sure what happens. Maybe Spot has solution?

Red Band Society is not a problem - if it is a hit, or at least back 9 worthy, they would move it to Tuesday 8 PM to form female themed Tuesday.

Spot said...

There's really not even a "rare occasions more"... 37 is almost exactly what they get out of the first night of Idol in a typical season. But he also said the auditions would be two nights, then shrink to one night/two hours after that, so either it's running for fewer weeks or the auditions will be exactly one hour on each night (or they just end up with over 37 hours).

I feel like Empire really ought to launch out of Idol, but not on Thursday (where Shonda dramas are among the biggest African-American draws on TV). So I would prefer keeping Idol at one hour on two nights: Wednesday Idol/Empire, and Thursday... something (Bones? Glee?) & Idol. I don't know what would fit with Empire on Wed. if not Idol.

Spot said...

Thanks. Then it's probably:
Wed: Idol / Empire
Thu: Backstrom / Idol

At 8 PM CBS is surely comedies, NBC supposedly 2nd cycle of TBL or something similar, and ABC very likely something from Shonda. Then Thu 8 PM seems like nice place for Backstrom.
That's logical solution, but until your answer I was fixated on 2-hours Idol on the same night.

Bones perhaps on a longer than usual hiatus, waiting to replace what first fails among midseason premieres?
Glee perhaps on Tuesday 8 PM? Provided Utopia is not year-around (or hit, so they gladly make it year-around) + Red Band Society is fixed 13 episodes order (or ratings are underwhelming). Otherwise, Glee to Friday, as much as it would be awkward, and would irk Ryan Murphy even more.

Spot said...

Another B- schedule

Gotham and Sleepy Hollow was obvious but with two cons, self starting Gothan and facing TBBT on its early run.

Utopia not surrendering tuesday is a pro, Utopia agaisnt Voice is a con.

Wednesday schedule is good, easy to replace it for Idol (since it will probably be downsized for two hours) and gives Red Band Society a chance of succeed.

Thursdays are good too, Bones being the wild card as usual and Gracepoint facing fading competition.

Fridays look temporary, I wonder if FOX may bench some new show to place utopia and air Glee there.

Sundays are horrible and the reason why it didn't get a B, animation didn't work with live action, not for Arrested Development (it had its highest rated season behind simpsons, but bad retention) or even for FOX second-biggest comedy success (Malcolm In The Middle), Nine Nine is in trouble and Mulaney DOA (Family Guy's audience will reject it)

A for benching Glee, not A+ because it is still 22 episodes

As a fan, F for Bob's Burgers being Futurama 2.0, can't wait for weeks on/weeks off and airing at 7:30 even when the entire lineup is on repeats

Odds of survival (I'm supposing Gracepoint won't be a minisseries, learned the lesson from Under the Dome and Broadchurch will see a second season):

Gracepoint > Red Band Society > Gotham > Mulaney

Spot said...

Yes, this is what I would do. But again, he stated one night/two hours after auditions. I'm just hoping he changes his mind!

Spot said...

I'm slightly surprised by the negativity over the Sunday block. It seems like the only real option for B99 and Mulaney to me. At the very least, it's a far better solution than throwing them to the wolves on Tuesdays. It does seem to sacrifice the block itself for the protection of B99 and Mulaney, though.

Otherwise, I mostly like this schedule, and it's an improvement over last years' disaster. At least Fox is actually *trying things* this time.

Spot said...

I agree. People are reacting like Fox yanked some animated shows for this to happen. No, American Dad is ending run on Fox, Bordertown has only 13 episodes (so even if it's ready for fall, and they put it on the fall schedule, they wouldn't have anything for midseason 9:30 PM). And other animated projects are either dead, either planned for 2015-16 (I don't know, and am too lazy to check).

Yes, Bob's Burgers is going to suffer, but it's low rated anyway. And if both live-action comedies would flop, or hurt ratings of strong The Simpsons / Family Guy, they would yank one early in favor of Bob's Burgers, and put up with the other one until Bordertown is ready. I mean, Fox didn't commited themselves to this schedule for entire season, yet they gave chance to Mulaney, and second chance to Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Come to think, now renewal of low rated Brooklyn Nine-Nine makes much more sense. Same goes for rumors about awfully rated Dads being considered for renewal - probably they were weighting it against Mulaney. We now know they have something like 3 x 24 half-hours of veteran animated comedies + 13 episodes of newbie, and that's not enough of inventory, they need at least one other comedy for Sunday.

Spot said...

Bob's Burgers has had more than enough time between Simpsons and Family Guy to build its own audience. It just hasn't.

Spot said...

I hope too. And it's definitely not set in stone, because Deadline is now reporting the reason Fox isn't announcing their midseason schedule at upfronts (as they usually do), exactly because they're not yet sure about format of Idol's next cycle.

Fox execs aren’t announcing its midseason schedule this year. That’s because the network hasn’t yet decided how much of Idol it can afford not to do next season. “We always built our second season schedule around Idol,” Reilly explained this morning.

Spot said...

Heh, I think NBC has more faith in their line up than you do. You present almost a worst case scenario, much which is contradicted by evidence.
1. CPD doesn't need a Voice lead-in, SVU is fine. The two generally move together in the ratings, in a tug of war with CM/CSI. If the CBS shows loose another 10-15% or they put CSI:Cyber at 10pm (fall or midseason), a betting man would say CPD will grow its ratings
2. Blacklist has proven it can stand without The Voice. It's remained stable while TV has gone down. No need to shield it - it may end just being a Thursday utility player in the end, but allows NBC to build up a Thursday sced midseason and onwards - they're using what they have. Before they had nothing on Thursday. Hits aren't going to magically appear, they are doing this organically, year by year.
3. CF no longer needs TV - it has a core audience, independent of whatever goes before it. So it might get a 0.5 boost or so from TV, thats better used on new shows.
4. So what? TV still provides a base to launch the show. If it has legs, it will be fine, if it doesn't then it is another Revolution, best to kill it after one season then.

I'm sure most their new shows will be DOA, as will most other networks too, but their strategy maximises the chance of more Blacklists and less Revolutions and Go Ons - weak shows propped up by lead ins.

Spot said...

In the end, Reilly at Fox Upfronts Presentation pretty much unveiled their plans for midseason.
He mentioned Wayward Pines premiering in winter, and Idol being paired with Empire.
Then, assuming nothing bombs, and is early canceled, this is it:

Confirmed orders are:
Gotham - 16 episodes
Sleepy Hollow - 18 episodes
Gracepoint - 10 episodes
Wayward Pines - 10 episodes

Tentative order:
American Idol - 37 hours

My assumptions are:
Red Band Society - 13 episodes (if 22, back 9 to air at Tuesday 8 PM)
The Following - 15 episodes
Hieroglyph - 13 episodes
Backstrom - 13 episodes
Empire - 13 episodes

Hell's Kitchen and Bones are utility players, so size of order doesn't matter.

Spot said...

I think this is a good schedule on the whole. I like all male centric comedies grouped together and the female centric ones likewise. I think the scheduling of Red Band Society and Gracepoint is clever counter programming, kind of like what Sleepy Hollow was on Monday last year.

The one answer not yet revealed is whether FOX will launch everything a week early like last year. They got very good sampling for Sleepy Hollow and B99 using that strategy. If they use it for Utopia, it might trigger some interest in that show, otherwise it will get lost in premiere week. TNF ruins that strategy for Thursday though. I also think Gotham will need the boost from an early launch.

Gotham, RBS, Gracepoint, Utopia do nothing for me and I won't even check them out, but that's not the schedule's fault.

Spot said...

Utopia is today confirmed to premiere 6 weeks before regular season start. That would be early August.

Spot said...

Thanks. That will help get the show sampled - then it's up to the quality of the show...

Spot said...

Point here is: shows that clearly will be in 2015-16 schedule are getting worse than last season lead-in and/or less good timeslot. In best case, the same, while it could be improved, example: one of Chicago shows to Tuesday 9 PM.

Shows that clearly will be canceled are getting The Voice lead-in, or whatever other NBC support.

Spot said...

Worst case / Best case / Likely
2.1 / 1.7 / 1.9
(only Thursday airings included)

Spot said...

FOX did go heavy on dramas, but not the dramas I was would.

Monday: It sucks that they have debut their biggest show against The Voice AND Big Bang Theory, but it can't be helped. Gotham can not afford to be like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and start slowly, because you just lose the casual audience that way. That lowers the ceiling, so that when you have a big arc like the Hydra episodes, they don't have that much pop because only the people who stuck with the show during the boring part are watching it now. The big question is whether Sleepy Hollow trailing off at the end was a fluke or a sign of weakness. Grade: B

Tuesday: Do not like. Surrender or don't. Utopia against The Voice makes a lot less sense. If you don't think it'll work, why air it at all? If you do, do you really want the two shows you boost to be a couple of niche sitcoms. How high can they go? Above 2.0? Because NG hasn't done that since November and TMP hasn't done that since its premiere. Grade: D

Wednesday: I don't really see much compatibility between Ramsey and Red Band Society. This pairing just feels like an afterthought. Hell's Kitchen is fine during off-periods, but it has never really impressed me during the regular season. I doubt going against Survivor will help much with that. RBS just feels like an ABC show. FOX doesn't do heartwarming that well. Grade: C

Thursday: Bones moves yet again, though I doubt it can help another show all that much. I'm a bit surprised that they went with a miniseries in the fall. It almost feels like an audible to get Backstrom away from Blacklist, which seems a little short-sighted if it denies it its best possible match. Grade: C

Friday: Junior Masterchef makes sense here, but another hour of Utopia doesn't. They obviously aren't that confident in it, so why should I be? Grade: C

Sunday: Really like them mixing-and-matching. It never made sense to me to have the male-skewing new shows leading-in to the female-skewing vets. Grade: A

Overall, it feels a bit like treading water. I get that this is their first real post-Cowell line-up, but it sort of shows how exposed they've been the last couple years.
Final Grade: C+

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