July 23, 2012 5:54pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
TCA 2012 Fox Recap: Simon Cowell, Britney Spears, J.J. Abrams Offer Praise (and Jabs)
Fox kicked off its day in front of television critics Monday with a lively baseball-themed performance from a uniform-clad So You Think You Can Dance trio with Mindy Kaling touching on the wares of romantic comedies and Ben and Kate creator Dana Fox spilling on her outrageous brother who inspired the series.
Meanwhile, it was back to business for Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who confirmed Mariah Carey's seat at the judges' table on American Idol, while The X Factor's Simon Cowell had a field day with new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, all before the cast and creators of Fringe bid an emotional farewell to TCA.
Here are the highlights from Fox's day at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.
Fringe: Stars Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv and Lance Reddick joined executive producer J.H. Wyman for one final tour with the critics to celebrate the final season of the sci-fi drama. Creator J.J. Abrams, appearing in a taped message, thanked critics for supporting the one-time bubble series.
Hotel Hell: Gordon Ramsay defended his ever-increasing presence on the network and explained the move into hospitality -- and the difference in tackling a new subject matter -- all while deferring questions about host hotel the Beverly Hilton. (Black lights were provided to critics for independent research.)
The X Factor: Britney Spears is "quite mean ... [she's] as sweet as a lemon," Simon Cowell said of his newest judge. Fellow new edition Demi Lovato, he said, is "a brat … but there's something really likable about her as well." The always chatty Cowell clearly wasn't short on zingers, quickly advising his two young judges on how not to answer a question about other reality series the duo enjoy: "Don't mention The Voice," he quipped.
The Mob Doctor: Traces of ER, The Sopranos and even a dash of Drop Dead Diva can be found in The Mob Doctor, producers Josh Berman and Rob Wright said, noting the parallels that exist between the mob and medical world are ripe for exploration.
Executive session: Kevin Reilly made it official with a phone call from his TCA stage: Mariah Carey is joining American Idol as a judge. Fox Broadcasting's president of entertainment also confirmed that his mutual decision with Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez for the pair to depart the reality competition series. "We both decided it was time for a change," he told reporters. In addition, he reiterated what Glee producers confirmed at Comic-Con: That the upcoming fourth season will take place both in Ohio and New York with episodes featuring a thematic through-line between the two locations. The plan comes after the network nixed the idea to split the season in two, with half set in New York and the other at McKinley High, noting it was too jarring.
Ben and Kate: Dana Fox spilled on her brother, Ben Fox -- on whom the series is based -- and his hilarious hijinks at May's upfronts in New York when he swiped Peter Chernin's seat in the car, sending the executive to sit (no joke!) in the trunk and snuck into parties that even the show's creator/exec producer wasn't invited to. Fox also noted that the reason the series changed its title (from Ben Fox is My Manny) was twofold: it was an inside joke with Ben and, more importantly, the show's concept really is "it takes a village," she said of the series about a single mom raising her daughter with the help of her idiot brother.
The Mindy Project: In addition to confirming her return to NBC's The Office, Mindy Kaling dished on kissing co-stars, always looking for female voices in the writers room and the fun of having her former boss, Greg Daniels, come by to direct an episode. Plus the cast teases that a guest star from the pilot -- Bill Hader? Ed Helms? -- will be returning at some point this season. Plus more than Mindy's love life will be explored, showrunner Matt Warburton says. "We have relationship arcs, not just love interests for Mindy but love interests for the rest of our characters; we're going to get the best, coolest people," he says. Plus what's the project referenced in the pilot? "She's super relatable, that's the Project," Kaling says.
So You Think You Can Dance: Producers and choreographers touched on the success dancers have found after their appearance on the reality competition series. Meanwhile, judge Nigel Lythgoe defended the series' format changes, which this year include two winners -- male and female. "I had no idea why we never did that in the first place," he told reporters. In addition, Lythgoe was vocal about his surprise that Jennifer Lopez was "99 percent sure" she was leaving the music competition series and holds out hope that she'll return.