TCA: Reilly Fox's latest idol

Ligouri: 'Our sights are on No. 1'

Two months after he was ousted as NBC Entertainment president, a confident and relaxed Kevin Reilly appeared at the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour Sunday as entertainment president at rival Fox.

Reilly had mostly calculated responses to the slew of questions regarding his exit from NBC, while his new boss, Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori, threw a few punches at NBC, mostly in regard to the two networks' standings in the ratings, where Fox is No. 1 among adults 18-49 and NBC is fourth.

When asked whether having an intimate knowledge of NBC's schedule helps him in his job at Fox, Reilly said, jokingly: "I prefer that I had an intimate knowledge of ABC's schedule."

Added Liguori: "Our sights are not set on the No. 4 network. Our sights are set on the No. 1 network and creating a distance between us and the No. 2 network."

In another exchange during Fox's executive session at the Beverly Hilton, Reilly was asked whether he was rooting for the new NBC series he put on the schedule for next season.

"I don't have that deep-seated, sort of torn emotion about it," he said philosophically, prompting Liguori to chime in, "I want them to all be bloody failures."

Fox and NBC's simmering rivalry heated up this summer over Reilly's move from NBC to Fox and the networks' competing karaoke-style game shows.

Earlier in the week, during NBC's portion of TCA, the network announced changes to its fall schedule that included their karaoke series, "The Singing Bee," joining its Tuesday lineup.

Reilly on Sunday questioned the decision to "announce a show on the fall schedule that only had one airing and actually sloughed off in week two."

Additionally, Fox said that it is picking 13 more episodes of its karaoke show, "Don't Forget the Lyrics!"

Asked whether he was actually fired from NBC during the Memorial Day weekend, Reilly earned laughs with his response: "You can pick whatever trade euphemism you want: I 'segued,' I 'thought about it over the holidays,' I 'want to explore other opportunities.' You know, I want to spend more time with my family ... which I did for three days."

Overall, Reilly and Liguori, dressed in the same jeans-and-blazer style dubbed by Reilly "the weekend Fox look," displayed an almost idyllic relationship at what Reilly called "a very happy network."

"It's like an old love," Liguori said. "We finish each other's sentences."

In their previous partnership, at FX, Liguori and Reilly faced the TCA crowd together for several years until Reilly left in summer 2003 to join NBC. Asked about the timing of his network switches that finds him inheriting a schedule put together by someone else, Reilly said: "It is somewhat awkward. The good news is I'm not getting behind the wheel feeling like the wheels are about to come off."

Other highlights from Fox's TCA presentation:

-- Liguori said that talks with the network's reality chief, Mike Darnell, continue, and that an announcement will come soon. "Needless to say, we want Mike at Fox," Liguori said. "He's a really important part of what makes this network stand out."

-- Liguori is not worried by the ratings slip for megahit "American Idol" toward the end of last season. " 'Idol' reboots every year, and you're always one water-cooler contestant away from having an even bigger surge," he said.

-- The school-shooting scene in the pilot for Fox's upcoming drama series "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," which was shot before the Virginia Tech tragedy, will not air.

-- Fox is bringing back for another cycle its successful summer series "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Hell's Kitchen."

-- Tony winner Cherry Jones has been tapped to play the president on the upcoming season of "24," whose season finale will be "carbon neutral."
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