Fox Chiefs on 'Pitch' Future, More 'X-Files' and Programming in the Trump Era

Gary Newman and David Madden also touted the success of 'Lethal Weapon' and discussed the fate of 'Scream Queens' at the TCA's winter press tour.
David Madden (left), Gary Newman

Fox TV’s Gary Newman wasted little time making news.

The exec, who with Dana Walden has been in the top job at Fox for two and a half years, graced the Television Critics Association's winter press tour stage Wednesday morning and almost immediately announced a renewal (Empire), an episode extension (The Mick) and a cadre of series orders, including one for a Love Connection reboot fronted by Bravo's Andy Cohen. The succession of news came with an acknowledgment of both the opportunities and the challenges programmers have in an increasingly crowded television landscape.

Before inviting entertainment president David Madden to join him on the Pasadena stage, Newman used the platform to tout some of the network's successes as well. Among them: a hugely popular World Series, which helped Fox secure a second-place finish this fall, along with the performance of Lethal Weapon (bigger than anything on cable, he was careful to note, save for The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones) as well as The Mick, Star and the ongoing (if heavily deflated) strength of Empire. Absent from his early comments, however, were mentions of Pitch and The Exorcist, both of which struggled to lure viewers in recent months.

Here are the highlights from Newman and Madden's time before the press:

This Is Us at … NBC?

Given the town’s initial concerns when Newman and Walden added the network to their purview, the execs have been both strategic and vocal about their willingness to not only buy from other studios (see Lethal Weapon), but also take quality product elsewhere. To that end, Newman used the TCA platform to tout the recent success of his studio, noting that 20th Century Fox TV produces the No. 1 show on six different networks today. Among them: Modern Family on ABC, American Horror Story on FX, Homeland on Showtime, Empire on Fox and This Is Us on NBC. Unsurprisingly, the success of the latter prompted a follow-up question with one reporter wondering aloud why the hit series went to NBC over Fox. And though Newman surely would prefer to have the series delivering much-needed ratings to his network, he acknowledged that NBC had more to offer the series, both in terms of promotional (Olympics) and lead-in (The Voice) power, as well as with shows similar in tone (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights).

The Future of …

While neither Pitch nor The Exorcist delivered the kind of ratings Fox brass had hoped for, Newman and Madden suggested that both series could live on. A decision is unlikely to come for several months, however, as they assess what else they have in the pipeline. Helping Pitch, in particular, is the value of its creator, Dan Fogelman, who is simultaneously delivering This Is Us for the studio. That said, conversations are being had already about ways in which both series could be broadened for a potential season two. Post-panel, the duo insisted that additional seasons of Scream Queens and Wayward Pines were also in consideration, with Madden adding that the goal is to have more X-Files ready in 2018. In an ideal world, Fox will have more than six episodes to offer this time around, though he cautioned that a deal has yet to be inked.

Programming in the Trump Era

Unlike ABC chief Channing Dungey — who has publicly acknowledged that the presidential election served as a “wake-up call” with regard to the characters, lifestyles and points of view she should be showcasing on her air — Newman suggested it would be business as usual for Fox in the Donald Trump era. To hear him tell it, his network has been doing a good job of appealing to different subsets of the country already with a tonally diverse schedule that includes Empire, New Girl and Shots Fired. As he moves forward with another development season, Newman noted that maintaining that diversity on his air would continue to be key. 

Going Beyond Scripted

While Madden had nothing to announce by way of more live musical events, the exec did say he very much believed in the genre and was “very close” on at least one option. Fox also is committed to striking the right balance with serialized vs. procedural series, he added, just as it is (finally) finding success in the unscripted space. “We know we have a lot of work to do,” Newman said of reality. Among the net’s forthcoming bets: a Love Connection reboot with Cohen and a game show hosted by Jamie Foxx.

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