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Fox Exec: Steven Spielberg's 'Terra Nova' Is Not a 'Bank-Breaking Series'

After a lackluster fall and and heading into an overhauled "American Idol," the network looks to rebuild.

Kevin Reilly
Angela Weiss/Getty Images
Kevin Reilly

PASADENA – The pressure is on Fox as it heads into midseason down double-digits year-to-year and with a wholesale makeover on cash cow American Idol.

Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment Fox Networks Group, said he expects Idol to be down this season, but he’s still hopeful that the juggernaut will finish the season as TV’s No. 1 program.

“To be No. 1 in its tenth season would be an amazing accomplishment,” said Rice.

At hundreds of millions of dollars a year in advertising revenue, the attention focused on Idol is predictable. But Rice and Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment Fox Broadcasting, also acknowledged that the network needs to look beyond Idol and refocus on building broad-appeal across its primetime schedule.

“We’ve got some shows that are doing well,” Reilly said to reporters gathered here for the semiannual Television Critics Association press tour. “But we need a next generation of hits.”

Two of the network’s three new fall shows – Lone Star and Mitch Hurwitz’s Running Wilde – crashed and burned.

“When [Lone Star] was DOA,” said Reilly, “there was a gaping hole. That was unexpected and it caused trouble for us.”

And Greg Garcia’s Raising Hope received a second-season pickup despite mediocre ratings. Meanwhile, The Good Guys also will not be back for a second season. In fact, the phenomenal success of sophomore series Glee, which has been renewed for a third season, has done much to prop up the network this fall.

“There is a long-term focus on what our schedule should be,” said Rice, adding that the company may spend more on development this season. And some of that extra cash has already been spent on Steven Spielberg’s time-traveling drama Terra Nova, which will get a two-night preview in May and join the Fox schedule next fall.

The network skipped the pilot process and sent the series straight to a 13-episode order partly out of financial necessity, since dismantling and rebuilding the show’s extensive sets in Australia would be too cost prohibitive. But Rice and Kevin Reilly denied that Terra Nova is over-budget.

“It’s on budget,” said Rice. “It’s a very expensive television show. It’s a very ambitious television show.”

The shoot has been plagued by terrible weather, with days on end of rain. (Reilly put a positive spin on the weather: “It actually created some great atmospherics.”)

Even before that, Terra Nova was the most expensive first-year show ever for Fox, said Reilly. But he added that the cost of the show would be “amortized over 13 episodes.”

“We’re not in completely unchartered territory here,” he said. “The start-up cost for the series is definitely on the high end. But it’s not some bank-breaking series.”

The network also has multiple bubble shows that will need verdicts in the coming months: Lie to Me, Human Target and Fringe, which moves to Fridays next week – a night that has killed many a show.

Fringe has done a great job for us,” said Reilly. “I hope the fans will stick with it. And honestly, I’d be heartbroken if it went away.”

Reilly added that Hugh Laurie’s House and Bones are “very important” shows for the network and while they are still in renewal negotiations, they expect both shows to be back next season.