Fox Execs Talk 'X-Files' Fate, 'Lethal Weapon' Promise and More Megyn Kelly

Gary Newman and Dana Walden also addressed the 'Sleepy Hollow' backlash among other subjects during a press call ahead of the network's Monday afternoon upfront.
Dana Walden & Gary Newman

Dana Walden and Gary Newman gave their Madison Avenue pitch a test run with the press Monday morning.

“Ninety percent or nearly 90 percent of our schedule is original,” Newman boasted ahead of the network dog-and-pony show at the Beacon Theater later in the day, with fellow Fox TV Group chairman Walden adding: “Our audience is not interested in repeats, and that requires a tremendous amount of programming.”

As the longtime partners look ahead to the 2016-17 season, that new batch of programming will consist of familiar franchises, led by 24: Legacy and Prison Break, a couple more Phil Lord and Chris Miller comedies and the continued (if slightly less potent) strength of 2015 breakout Empire. To be sure, the network — which is poised to round out the season in third place, down roughly 5 percent from a year earlier — has significantly more shelf space to fill with American Idol signing off this past spring.

Here are the highlights from the press call with Walden and Newman.

Lethal Weapon Scores the Most Hype

If airtime on the press call is any indication of what the Fox execs are most excited about, Lethal Weapon is the new series to watch. Walden described the reboot, starring Damon Wayans Sr., as “muscular,” “high-octane” and “very broadly appealing,” noting at one point that director McG and writer-producer Matt Miller (Forever) “delivered exactly what we wanted.” At multiple points during the call, the new drama was also referenced as an example of what’s to come from the network, with both chairmen noting that it’s poised to benefit from the halo effect of lead-out Empire.

X-Files’ Future

Yes, Fox is prepared to give you more X-Files. The network execs continue to have conversations with creator Chris Carter and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, all three of whom Walden says are “on board to do another installment.” The only catch now is scheduling, with the trio currently in different parts of the world. Both Walden and Newman noted that while they’re “encouraged” and “hopeful,” they don’t foresee having a batch of new episodes to launch until the 2017-18 season.

More Megyn Kelly

Newman and his longtime partner are just as excited as the Twittersphere about Megyn Kelly’s primetime special Tuesday night, using his Monday platform to praise both the Fox News star and the timeliness of her heavily hyped Donald Trump interview. (Kelly is rumored to be making an appearance at the Beacon later Monday.) “We think Megyn is a huge star, and has huge potential in this form of TV,” said Newman, before adding: “And though we have no plans for more [specials], it’s certainly something we’re very interested in, as I believe Megyn and Fox News are as well.”

That Sleepy Backlash

Walden is not at all ready to call the forthcoming season of Sleepy Hollow the series’ last, noting that she's genuinely unsure whether it will be. While she noted how a sizable subset of the drama’s fans were thrilled to hear it’ll get another go with Tom Mison at the center, she acknowledged the backlash surrounding female lead Nicole Beharie’s shocking death in the recent season three finale. And though Walden didn’t get into specifics — at the time, sources told THR that the actress had been unhappy for some time and had personally asked to be written off — she confirmed that Beharie's exit wasn't something that the network initially wanted to see. "A variety of factors led to that end of the season this year. … It wasn't a decision we wanted to make,” said Walden. “We were put in a place where that decision had to be made." 

Other Odds and Ends

Newman revealed that at various points during the network’s recent scheduling discussions, Empire had moved from its regular 9 p.m. slot up to 8 p.m., where it could help jumpstart a night. But in the end, he and his team decided to keep the No. 1 series where "viewers expect it," adding that he’s hopeful that the series will have a “halo effect.” Also revealed during the call: Fox intends to announce at least one more live musical event in the coming months, with Newman praising both the originality and ratings strength of early 2016 entry Grease: Live.

Keep up with all the renewals, cancellations and new series pickups with THR's handy scorecard and follow the pilot crop status here. For full upfront 2016 coverage, go to THR.com/upfronts.

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