Fox Entertainment Chief on the Future of 'House,' 'Bones,' 'Terra Nova,' and More
Kevin Reilly offers a sliver of hope for "Breaking In" fans, a rationale for adding a space odyssey series and big expectations for "The X Factor."
Fox Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly trotted out on stage Friday to face the critics.
While the line of questions during the Television Critics Association's summer tour stop kept turning back to Glee, Reilly did his best to address the remainder of his schedule -- newcomers and returning favorites -- as well as his own frustrations with the network television business.
Here are the highlights:
Reilly once again acknowledged that the Steven Spielberg dinosaur series was a pricey gamble for the network; he also noted that it’s a necessary and important one. “Is it a big bet? Yeah, but that's the business we're in,” he said, adding that there are no inexpensive dramas on television these days. “We're increasingly in a less linear universe … and we've got to demand [viewers’] attention.” Post session, he noted that there was no chance – even in success -- that Terra Nova would be back for more episodes beyond the previously ordered 13 episodes this season.
While star Hugh Laurie is locked in to another year after this coming one, Fox is only contractually obligated to air the series for this season. He acknowledged that House producers as well as his team are currently mulling the idea of making this the final season of the long-running medical show. He added his sense is that the show would want to go out creatively vibrant rather than “limp along for four more years as a vestige of itself.” Reilly told a gaggle of reporters following the session that he anticipates having to make a decision in October.
The X Factor
Reilly is not much for publicly prognosticating, but he did say that if The X Factor did half as well as his team anticipates it will, Fox will be a force to be reckoned with in the fall -- a historically challenging period for the network care of baseball. He acknowledged that the costs of these big reality shows like X Factor and American Idol continue to rise thanks to their high profile and pricey judges, he also said that they’re highly profitable and draw the kind of live viewership that broadcast networks still needs. As for its creator Simon Cowell, “the second he sits down and starts speaking with you, you can't resist him,” said Reilly, adding that there’s a “dark charm” to him.
Reilly said that they haven’t had any formal discussions about renewing the series yet, but “the producer would like to keep it going; and we'd like to keep it going.” As of now, both Bones (along with its spinoff The Finder) will air 13 episodes this season, a product of both limited real estate and star Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy. Post panel, he told reporters that Fox would do more episodes if she returns and feels up to it.
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey
If you think the decision to pick up a Space-Time Odyssey series, a successor to the 1980s PBS hit, seems an odd choice for the Fox brand, Reilly agrees with you. And if you let him tell it, that’s among the reasons that he loves it. He told the roomful of reporters that he was lured by the educational value and potential cultural significance that the series could offer, thought realistic about its performance. He acknowledged that it would be unlikely to occupy a lucrative Thursday night time slot or be a ratings juggernaut. In addition to the previously announced co-production deal with Nat Geo, he added that there might be a feature component to the project as well.
For those still lamenting the cancellation of midseason comedy Breaking In, there may be a sliver of hope for you. “Stranger things have happened,” Reilly said of the potential for the Christian Slater comedy to return to Fox’s schedule as part of the net’s spring comedy block. Still, he defended the “judgement call” he and his team had to make in May, again a product of limited real estate.
America’s Most Wanted
Reilly was forced to once again address the cancellation of long-running Saturday night series, America’s Most Wanted. He noted that while it offered important societal value, it had been showing up as a loss on Fox’s books in recent years despite John Walsh’s efforts to cut costs. Reilly added that he hoped that Walsh would be able to sell the crime-catching series to another network.
Reilly has used past TCA panels a platform to voice his desire to enact a year-round schedule, and he did so again Friday. He called the current model where all of the season’s new shows are launched during a single week in September “antiquated,” but said he recognized that it’s easier to talk about changing that model than it is to actually do it. In a smaller group following the session, he addressed another challenge of broadcast TV: the waning appeal of repeats, which historically have been an important piece of revenue for a show. “There’s a systemic issue in network television, which is that 22 episodes do not fill your year,” he said. “One of the challenges for the industry has been when you get to our traditional repeat pattern in the spring, when daylight saving time comes in, you’re moving more audiences to DVR and there’s a percentage of the audience [goes away].” He added that if Fox has the kind of success that he foresees the network having this year, they will move from May right through June with originals.
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