As in most years, last season was a pretty good one for Fox, largely because of the declining “American Idol.” It was also helped by the new darling hit “Glee” (although I know many people, myself included, have jumped off the bandwagon, and I predict a strong ratings dip next year), and that show has been rewarded with the precious post-Super Bowl spot next February. And while “Human Target” hasn’t been a particularly strong critical or ratings boon, it’s been a solid little piece of entertainment which the network saw fit to give a second season to.
Speaking of second seasons, Fox gave an uncharacteristic one to “Dollhouse” which was creatively intriguing and ratings deprived, so yet another Joss Whedon show is no more. “Brothers” and “Sons of Tucson” have now been officially canceled, although we knew that was coming for quite some time. So too has “The Wanda Sykes Show” been canceled, which is also not a surprise since we know Fox is destined for eternal failure in the late-night talk arena.
But the big cancellation, of course, is one of Fox’s two flaghsips, “24.” For years now, the show has been a bit up and down in the ratings, and a lot up and down in both fan and critical reception. But along with “American Idol,” it’s been one of the few things Fox has been able to rely upon. But decreased ratings coupled with costs through the roof spelled the end for Jack Bauer who, himself, seems to be going off the deep end as the show winds down. Which means that “House” and “Fringe” now becomes the closest thing to flagships for Fox.
And speaking of “American Idol,” when it returns in the spring, it will be a little leaner. Not just because Simon Cowell will be gone, but because the performance show has been dropped to 90 minutes and the results show has been cut back to a half-hour. Said entertainment president Kevin Reilly: “We looked at some of the feedback and viewers want us to tighten up the show. And we need spots for our new half-hour comedies, which are a big part of our development this year.” (Although Fox has “trimmed” the results show to 30 minutes before, only to quickly revert it to an hour after an episode or three.)
In fact, Fox has announced four new comedies, along with three new dramas, in its fall and midseason slates. Let’s take a look. (And I’ll remind everyone that while the fall schedule will likely not change between now and September, there is every reason to think that changes will be made to the midseason schedule between now and January).
One last thing to note. You may have heard of “Terra Nova,” but you won’t see it below. While Fox has confirmed that it’s picked up Steven Spielberg’s new drama about a family who travels back in time to live with the dinosaurs, it hasn’t penciled it in yet. Presumably the network is waiting to see what failures it has on its horizon, and will then drop “Terra Nova” in accordingly. Try not to get too excited about “Terra Nova,” though. Yes, it’s Spielberg and dinosaurs. But the show is going to be run by Brannon Braga who is a bit of a hack.
Mondays. In both the winter and midseason, the night is led off by “House.” Unsurprisingly, Fox is using “House” to help launch new shows, so in the fall, the 9 p.m. slot goes to the new “Lonestar” (which used to be called “Midland”), while the slot will then be handed over to the new “Ride-Along” sometime in the spring.
“Lonestar” is “a provocative soap set against the backdrop of big Texas oil.” It has “a charismatic and brilliant schemer” who is juggling two identities. Robert Allen is apparently a married Houston man who heads a Texas big-oil family, while maintaining a second life some 400 miles away, where he’s got a girlfriend and spends his time swindling the locals. He’s been living his secret lives for years but, duhn dunh duhn, things may be closing in on him! The lead role is played by James Wolk, a newbie actor. The show also stars Adrianne Palicki and Jon Voight, among others. I’m highly skeptical, but Fox is pretty excited about “Lonestar,” which comes from the people who brought us “Party of Five,” so I’m guessing we’ll see lots of advertising for this in the early days of the upcoming football season. Wonderful.
“Ride Along,” meanwhile, comes from Shawn Ryan (“The Shield” and “The Unit”), which means I’m already in, even though I’m not all that excited by the show’s premise:
During a ride-along, a civilian spends a shift in the passenger seat of a squad car, observing the work day of a police officer. But in this series, the audience is the passenger, taking an unpredictable ride through the streets of Chicago and navigating crime and corruption with the most respected - and notorious - cops in the city.
Yes, it’s another damned cop drama, this time starring Jason Clarke (“Brotherhood”), Jennifer Beals (“The L Word”), Matt Lauria (Luke on “Friday Night Lights”), and Delroy Lindo, among others. If it weren’t for Shawn Ryan, I’d probably skip it, but he’s earned my trust.
Tuesdays. “Glee” is also being used as a launching pad this fall, as it will air at 8, followed by the new comedies “Raising Hope” at 9 and “Running Wilde” (formerly “Wilde Kingdom”) at 9:30. “Raising Hope” comes from Greg Garcia (he gave us “My Name Is Earl”) and is about the Chance family, which has problems enough before 23-year-old Jimmy Chance learns that he knocked up a felon and has to bring her home and raise their kid. And comedy ensues. Jimmy is played by Lucas Neff, who I’ve never heard of, but I’ve definitely heard of and support the folks cast to play his parents, Martha Plimpton and Garret Dillahunt (Dillahunt as a sitcom father is such a bizarre casting choice that it just might be genius). Beyond that, I’m willing to give the show a chance because of Greg Garcia, but it’s gonna be on a short leash.
“Running Wilde,” meanwhile, is a romantic comedy starring Will Arnett and Keri Russell, which is certainly a curious pairing. More specifically, Arnett plays “a filthy-rich, immature playboy trying desperately to win (or buy) the heart of his childhood sweetheart.” Russell’s Emmy, meanwhile, is “an earnest do-gooder who has spent her adult life trying to save the world.” She lives in the Amazon rainforest with her 12-year-old daughter, and the show will apparently be told from the daughter’s perspective. Arnett is a mixed bag, but I believe I forgot to mention that this show comes from Mitch Hurwitz, the one person who’s been able to pull pure comic gold from Arnett (ok, ok, Arnett’s been pretty funny in most of his “30 Rock” guest spots too). That, coupled with Keri Russel, means I’ll definitely be willing to give this show a shot but, like “Raising Hope” before it, it’ll be on a short leash (particularly if Arnett doesn’t bring anything to the table beyond being a stereotypically abrasive man-child, as that’ll just make me long for the days of Gob).
In January, “Glee” will move to Wednesdays to give way to the “American Idol” performance show from 8-9:30, followed by “Running Wilde.” Sometime in the spring, Fox plans to swap in the new “Mixed Signals” at the 9:30 slot, presumably hoping to use some “American Idol” ratings to launch it. “Mixed Signals” is a comedy about three friends who are attempting “to balance their relationships with the need for freedom.” One friend “is the perpetual bachelor,” one has recently moved in with his girlfriend, and the third is a married lawyer. …oy vey. I predict this show will be canceled before its fifth episode.
Wednesdays. In the fall, the 8 p.m. slot goes to “Lie to Me” and the 9 p.m. slot goes to “Hell’s Kitchen.” Since “Lie to Me” is only getting a 13 episode order, I believe, it’ll be gone in January, and 8 p.m. will give us the new “Raising Hope,” followed by the half-hour “AI” results show, followed by “Glee.”
Thursdays. No change from last season — “Bones” and “Fringe.” And this will remain the same all season long. Nice and simple.
Fridays. While Fox was willing to give “Human Target” a second chance, it’s not giving it a strong second chance, as Christopher Chance and company have been dumped on Friday nights at 8. In the fall, this will be followed by “The Good Guys” (this is the new cop show with Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford which actually premieres with a preview episode later this week, and then starts running next month). In January, Fox still has “Human Target” at 8, but odds are the show will unfortunately have been canceled by then. At 9, it’ll be “Kitchen Nightmares.”
Saturdays. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, “Cops” at 8, “Cops” at 8:30, Cops gonna come for you. “America’s Most Wanted” at 9. Same schedule for the midseason, same as it ever was and ever, apparently, will be.
Sundays. In the fall, football will be followed by Fox animation slate, “The Simpsons,” followed by the Seth MacFarlane crapfecta of “The Cleveland Show,” “Family Guy,” and “American Dad.” In the spring, “American Dad” slides back to 7:30, “The Cleveland Show” moves to 9:30, and the post-“The Simpsons” slot goes to the new “Bob’s Burgers.” As you’d guess, “Bob’s Burgers” is animated, and it’s about Bob Belcher, who runs a burger joint with his family and comes from Loren Bouchard, who brought us “Dr. Katz” back in the day. So there you go.
And lastly, speaking of animation — fuck you Fox. Fuck you long and hard for developing an animated series based on Napolean Dynamite. Yes, this is seriously happening. Jon Heder and Efran Ramirez are on-board for voice work, and the original filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess will be involved too. Dignity, as we know it, is dead.