Upfront Analysis: Fox
It's good to be king. Or CBS. Either one will do.
Fox has finally completed its metamorphosis into CBS, after being CBS Lite for the last few seasons.
Now, in the past, sneering at Fox for growing up and becoming more staid was just misplaced bitterness that network television was becoming boring and vanilla – its last chance to be different was always Fox.
But nowadays, the two primary reasons for watching broadcast television are sitcoms and singing shows. And guess what? Fox has plenty of both!
Besides, what’s so bad about being CBS, the ultimate reload-not-restock network? If your shows are popular and have staying power, like CBS shows have over the last decade, then appearing at the upfronts is mostly a song-and-dance affair with some glad-handing and booze. It’s practically stress free to add two or three shows and pull the plug on the party in about an hour.
So, what shiny new things does Fox have planned for next season? Not many. Which is kind of the point if you’re No. 1. It has a drama on Monday called Mob Doctor, which is pretty self-explanatory. It has two new comedies on Tuesday, as it establishes a four-comedy beach head on the night, a longtime goal of entertainment president Kevin Reilly.
And that’s it, folks. There’s not even much more coming in midseason. That’s either confidence or hubris. Until Fox tanks, let’s allow it the glory of confidence. Maybe even cockiness.
Since the upfronts are there to create headlines (well, the idea is to sell ads first, bask in the hype second), what Fox did for attention was switch Glee to Thursday, which is essentially a non-story because it’s a non-series. No, the big deal was announcing Britney Spears and Demi Lovato as X-Factor judges. Consult your cultural guide as to whether that’s an upgrade over last season.
But now Fox has X-Factor in the fall and American Idol at midseason for Wednesday nights, with the Thursday results shows leading into Glee. Not much storage room there. They moved Touch, which desperately needs new fans, to Fridays where it joins Fringe, which has been capped for new fans for several seasons. It’s like the weird kids reading corner. Sunday remains the same with a glut of animation.
But hey, it all works. Otherwise you’d be seeing 11 or 13 new series announced, aka the ABC shotgun blast of hope.
Where’s the weakness in this Fox show of strength? Well, there are a ton of new comedies next fall. Fox had better hope its own freshman crop are more New Girl and less I Hate My Teenage Daughter.
The X Factor needs to bounce back strong and nobody knows whether Britney and Demi will be the show's breath of fresh air or its helium-headed slide into mockery. Idol needs to stop bleeding viewers, period. Both positives are certainly possible but one would think singing-show-saturation is right around the corner for everybody. It has to be, right?
Then there’s Friday, which is kinda-sorta capitulation. Sunday will always be Sunday. No gripes there. But if things come apart elsewhere, there’s not much bench.
That’s nitpicking, of course. Fox had every right to walk through New York City like Avengers, and it did just that. We'll see how super it is next season.