Charlie Collier Promises "Nimble" New Fox, Dodges Questions at First Network Presser

Charlie Collier - Getty - H 2017
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Charlie Collier on Wednesday morning offered up a lot of charisma during his first meeting with the Television Critics Association since taking the top post at Fox, but the newly minted broadcast chief did not have clear answers to most of the questions he fielded during his half-hour onstage.

After touting network’s “nimble” future once its officially divorced from its longtime sister studio, a move that will be cemented with Disney’s formal acquisition of 20th Century Fox TV later this year, Collier had little to say when asked pointedly about several of his new network's major franchises. There was no news about the future of Family Guy and Empire, though longtime flagship The Simpsons got a two-season order. When pushed to comment on Damon Wayans’ late-2018 announcement that he will be leaving Lethal Weapon just one season after original co-star Clayne Crawford was fired and replaced by Sean William Scott, Collier said only that the producers and studio are “running in lockstep.”

The fate of live musicals at the network, given the recent production snafu and low ratings for Rent, was also not disclosed. The longtime AMC exec also had little to say when asked about the pall cast by sister network Fox News and how he was responding to many in Hollywood’s increasingly vocal distaste (see Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane) for the network’s association with Murdoch’s popular right-wing outlet. “The bottom line is the news division and entertainment division are run completely separately,” he said. “I understand why it’s a heated issue for a lot of people. I appreciate those who speak up about it.”

What Collier did seem to clear up, quite confidently, echoed much of what Dana Walden said before leaving the network for her new post at Disney. The New Fox broadcast network will be an equal-opportunity player in Hollywood, making competitive deals with outside sellers and sharing ownership of new series moving forward.

“We think a lot about how to compete today,” said Collier. “The way we’re coming to market is more nimble and able to match business with opportunity than some of the vertically integrated networks out there.”

The Fox Entertainment CEO wouldn’t go so far as to say that, post-Disney, there’s room for another full-fledged in-house studio — but he did imply that the network isn’t turning its back on all production capabilities: “I think we’re going to have capabilities without a lot of the overhead you saw before."

Capabilities include a new "content development accelerator" called Sidecar, run by Fox veteran Gail Berman with an aim at incubating programming for both the network and third-party platforms. It is wholly owned by Fox, and will also lean on network execs Michael Thorn and Rob Wade.

To be sure, Collier did entertain while at the podium. He was introduced by longtime collaborator Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), who came out dressed as the hippopotamus from The Masked Singer, pretending to be his former AMC boss, his voice altered, talking about how much he was accomplishing in his new job. The exec also got laughs of his own when he told the room that he had to rewrite all of his congratulatory notes for the Rent producers on the day of the live-ish telecast, after initially signing them with "break a leg" before the lead was felled by a broken foot.

Speaking seriously, Collier also commented on the recent attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett, calling him an "important part of the Fox family."

But there was a repeated point throughout his half-hour onstage, one echoed in both the questions the exec chose to answer and the ones he worked his way around. There still isn't complete clarity about what New Fox will be, because it doesn't really start in earnest until after the merger.

"Fox Entertainment is an open canvas," said Collier. "It’s a startup company, albeit one with a roughly $26 billion valuation.”