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‘Glee’s’ Two-Season Renewal
The musical received a rare two-season renewal during its fourth run. At the time, the series was down only slightly year-over-year as the Ryan Murphy dramedy started to shift its focus between its Ohio high school setting and New York, a daunting split-location challenge that ultimately resulted in a complete shift in season five to New York. Following the death of star Cory Monteith, season five was trimmed and Glee's ratings plummeted to multiple series lows in the key adults 18-49 demographic. The show is the lowest-rated broadcast series returning to the schedule in 2014-15, and may see its 22-episode season reduced after being held for a midseason bow.
Saying ‘Yes’ to Seth
Seth MacFarlane, long the golden boy at Fox, has seen his profile bruised by several high-profile failures. After Fox quietly snuffed out Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show, rights to toon American Dad soon shifted over to TBS. Dads, the most controversial new series of the last season, was largely viewed as a make-good for the showrunner who wanted to get a live-action show on the network. Critics hated it, viewers were tepid and it didn't last. Now MacFarlane's four series on the network shrink to only two, including rookie animated entry Bordertown, which remains unscheduled.
Not Making Stronger Plays on Friday
Friday has become a bragging point for the Big Four. Once a death slot, it now thrives, in one way or another, on ABC, NBC and CBS. Fox remains the lone exception. Although 8 p.m. still often houses successes — MasterChef Junior, a brief run of Bones — it's still a burial ground for flat-lining projects (Rake). And 9 p.m. proved to be a non-vote of confidence for comedy this season, where Enlistedand Raising Hopemade quiet exits.
RIP, Pilot Season
Reilly declared pilot season dead in January 2014 at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour and called the process in which the broadcast networks compete with cable and streaming services alike for top talent in a race to cast and film more than 100 pilots in a tiny window. Instead, he spent months focused on straight-to-series development including pickups for Backstrom, Hieroglyph, The Last Man on Earth, Weird Lonersand Mulaney.
Investing in Niche Comedy
Finding new hit comedies has proven to a challenge for all of the broadcast networks — and, with the exception of NBC, Fox has struggled the most. New Girl is still a solid performer, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine's critical success has not been matched by viewers. And The Mindy Project, after two very modest seasons, stands as one of the lowest-rated shows that will return to the 2014-15 schedule. Broader efforts Dads, Enlisted and Raising Hope all met their demise in 2014.
‘The Mob Doctor’ and an Empty Bench
The critically panned drama opened to an unfortunate 1.5 adults 18-49 demo and dropped below a 1.0 during its run on Mondays in the fall of 2012. Despite negative reviews and terrible ratings, the medical drama starring Jordana Spiro aired its entire 13-episode run — with the final four buried on Saturdays — largely because the network didn't have anything to fill its place on the bench to replace it with. That season, Fox only ordered two dramas — including The Following — and three comedies. Of those five, only Following and The Mindy Project remain.
‘Terra Nova’s’ Big, Expensive Swing
The pricey time-traveling series from exec producer Steven Spielberg was delayed twice and carried a price tag of between $10 million and $20 million for its two-hour premiere alone. Launching day-and-date across international territories, the network and studio 20th Century Fox Television hoped the show that featured futuristic technology and CG dinosaurs would fill a big-event genre programming void left by the departures of series including Lost and the recently revived 24. The drama starring Jason O'Mara was canceled after 13 episodes, finishing with a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 — a series low.
Letting ‘American Idol’ Slide
No one can stall the sands of time, but American Idol's massive ratings hemorrhage happened on Reilly's watch. And doubling up on music competitions by ordering the ultimately ill-fated U.S. version of The X Factor didn't help matters. Reilly pulled the plug on X Factor in January and announced that the 2015 installment of American Idol would be curtailed, leaving a once dominant reality brand a shadow of its former self. (Unscripted czar Mike Darnell was the first to concede to the missteps, leaving the network one year before Reilly.)
Avoiding Alternative and Late-Night
Late-night remains a huge arena where Fox does not participate. Its 8-10 p.m. schedule makes any potential foray difficult for affiliates, but Reilly oversaw the network's complete exit from the space his first years after joining. He canceled (admittedly lackluster) Saturday Night Live rival MadTV in 2008 and pulled the plug on talker The Wanda Sykes Show after just one season a year later. Fox has been quiet on the front ever since, while Jimmy Kimmel has been a boon to ABC, Jimmy Fallon has revitalized an already dominant NBC and the 2015 CBS arrival of David Letterman heir Stephen Colbert is already earning big buzz.
‘Lone Star’ and the Cable Push
The well-reviewed drama about a con man leading a double life was a big bet for Fox and marked the network's big push into more cable-type programming. The series, from creator Kyle Killen, was canceled after only two episodes. It launched to a paltry 4.1 million total viewers and a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49, a dismal performance by 2010 standards. The hook came after episode two sank to 3.2 million viewers and a 1.0 in the demo.
Missing a ‘Modern’ Opportunity
Reilly made unfortunate foes out of the co-creators of one of the 21st century's biggest TV hits. Steve Levitan — who, along with Christopher Lloyd, created ABC Emmy darling and ratings behemoth Modern Family — has been vocal about his anger over Reilly's cancellation of their former Fox comedy Back to You. "I’ve done about four to five shows in a row on Fox," Levitan said in 2009. "I have sworn off the Fox network. I'm done." (That obviously left Fox out of the running when Levitan and Lloyd started shopping their Modern Family pilot script.)