Upfronts Analysis: FOX 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

“A Subtle Improvement”

FOX 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

In the past, I’ve complained a lot about FOX’s scheduling practices – rather than using their biggest shows to produce strong lead-ins for new shows that need attention, they have instead chosen a path wherein they waste it on reality shows or (what I consider to be) derivative comedies. And really, their fall schedule is always a little bit of a crapshoot: considering that American Idol isn’t on it, FOX is kind of hoping for subtle success before its juggernaut wins the season outright in a few months time.

This time around, I admire their scheduling far more – sure, it isn’t perfect by any means, and they’re only debuting two new shows, but there’s a smart decision that signifies that FOX is no longer being idiots about how to handle their top shows, and to create hit new shows in their place.

New Shows

Fringe – Tuesdays at 9

It has a big-budget pilot, Lost producer J.J. Abrams on board, and most importantly has the best slot on the schedule: the newly created spot post-House on Tuesday nights. This is a smart way to create a lead-in, without question – the only concern is that the two-hour pilot will have to air without a lead-in, so I almost wonder if FOX will divide it in two just to make sure the show doesn’t get off on a weak foot. (Final details of the schedule sees Fringe airing its two-hour premiere on August 26th).

Regardless of all this, the show has creative potential – while the X-Files comparisons are impossible to ignore, the show follows a young FBI agent who is forced to interact with a crazy scientist whose research may be the center of a rapid spread of paranormal phenomena. The pedigree alone will have me watching, but there is certainly a lot going for this one.

Do Not Disturb – Wednesdays at 9:30

FOX is moving its comedy block an hour later, and this multi-camera comedy from Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) about less than upscale employees at an upscale hotel is their choice to pair with the rather awful ‘Til Death. I am intrigued to see what Bateman, who directed the pilot, is bringing to the table with this one, and HIMYM has at the very least kept me from balking at the term “multi-camera.”

Midseason Shows

Dollhouse – Joss Whedon’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) new series has been in production for a while now, and has an episode order, so its pickup is no surprise. As for why it is being saved for midseason, that’s a better question – perhaps it was an issue of not wanting to have to move it to make room for Idol, choosing instead to find a plum timeslot for it once the 2009 schedule is settled. I don’t want to presume that Whedon’s show about dolls who are programmed with certain personalities until one starts to find their own program (Or something like that) is being given the “Drive” treatment that Tim Minear’s show got last year, where it was held until midseason and bombed horribly. This show has more potential than that, and Whedon frakkin’ deserves better.

Edit: And FOX’s full schedule reveals that the show will air on Mondays at 8pm, so leading into as opposed to out of 24. I don’t see the show finding traction against Dancing with the Stars, so let’s hope that it proves successful.

Sit Down, Shut Up and The Cleveland Show – These two animated shows couldn’t be on two more different trajectories for me: the former comes from Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz and is a cast filled with alumni from that particular Emmy-winning comedy, and the other is a spinoff of Family Guy. While I’m sure the latter will turn out fine in the end, forgive me for being more excited about the one with G.O.B. in the cast. Either way, the shows will sub in for King of the Hill and American Dad in January.

Secret Millionaire – it’s a new reality show, like Oprah’s Big Give for less rich people. Millionaires go into impoverished neighbourhoods, see how the other 90% of America lives, and then gives away a donation of at least $100,000 to someone they meet in their journey.

Returning Shows

Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles – Mondays at 8pm

Moving down an hour, and losing its Prison Break lead-in for no reason I can really figure out, Sarah Connor and Co. get a second chance. I’ve yet to finish the first season (It’s on my list with Eli Stone and Reaper), but it’s good to see FOX showing commitment to at least one of last season’s new shows.

Bones – Wednesdays at 8pm

House – Tuesdays at 8pm

These two shows have been an hour later this season, but now they are smartly leading off two separate nights. I’ve seen a lot of good things in Bones recently, and the show appears to be finding traction (Good thing FOX didn’t move it to Fridays as it had planned, although it is planning it again for January). House, meanwhile, finally leads out a night of programming – this was my big complaint last year, and now finally FOX is smart enough to realize that House’s ratings are strong enough that it can handle an earlier time period and could actually create another successful property in the process.

Also returning: Prison Break, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Kitchen Nightmares, The Moment of Truth, Don’t Forget the Lyrics, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, American Dad, King of the Hill, ‘Til Death.

Canceled Shows

Back to You – The biggest surprise of the upfronts, perhaps, is that this series with two sitcom standards in Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton was booted off the schedule. The show was never that funny for me, even if it was the strongest example of traditional multi-camera sitcoms on television (Which isn’t saying much), but that star power eventually led to its downfall – it was too expensive to hold onto. If I was Brad Garrett right now, I’d be thanking my lucky stars, because this was a shocker.

New Amsterdam, Canterbury’s Law, Unhitched, The Return of Jezebel James – All midseason replacements, and all booted after a single season. That these shows didn’t make the grade certainly isn’t surprising, but it is a definite blow to procedural dramas and unfunny comedies on the network. Meanwhile, earth to Amy Sherman-Palladino: go back to single camera, and humour.

K-Ville, Nashville, The Next Great American Band – One aired for most of the fall season but never picked up any ratings (Plus Anthony Anderson already went to Law & Order), the other aired a single episode, and the other only lasted so long because it was a reality show, and got almost no ratings. The network is smartly sticking with proven reality properties on Thursday/Friday this year, so these shows get the boot.

Overall

FOX has never really cared about its Fall Schedule, but I think this is its most stable one to date: Friday has 5th Grader/Lyrics, which has had great success on Thursdays, and Moment of Truth/Kitchen Nightmares will pull at least half decent numbers against the other networks on TV’s busiest night. Combine with the intelligent programming of its established hits, and really my only concern with the fall is how Terminator performs early in the evening on Monday.

And that’s perhaps why its schedule seems the most successful – a few small intelligent moves, one new shows that I’m excited about, and all is great, right? Well, I have some concerns over midseason, where they might add news shows to add to the list with New Amsterdam and Canterbury’s Law above, and I just hope without hope that Dollhouse is not amongst them. That’s the big question mark, and I hope the upfronts later today will shed more light on this.

2 Comments

Filed under FOX

2 responses to “Upfronts Analysis: FOX 2008-2009 Fall Schedule

  1. “All actions beyond the ordinary limits are subject to a sinister interpretation.”

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