Fox Execs on 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine's' Cancellation and 'Lethal Weapon' Shake-Up

Ahead of Fox's upfront presentation to advertisers, network brass also discussed the "Roseanne" effect on its schedule.
Courtesy of FOX
Gary Newman and Dana Walden

Ahead of Fox’s dog-and-pony show for media buyers Monday afternoon, the Fox broadcast network’s top executives found themselves in the hot seat.

At issue is what one reporter described as a “tonal shift” in Fox’s comedy brand, with the network all but wiping clean its serialized, single-camera, live-action brand (see cancellations for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Last Man on Earth and The Mick) coupled with the addition of three new multicamera half-hours, including the revival of Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing. The latter, produced by the network’s sibling studio, had been canceled by rival ABC a year earlier.

While Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Gary Newman suggested “tonal shift” was too strong a descriptor, he and his partner, Dana Walden, acknowledged that they were emboldened by the breakout success of ABC’s multicam reboot Roseanne. "Obviously everyone took a good hard look at the performance of [that show]," said Walden, who added: "It certainly did remind us that we have a huge comedy star in Tim Allen." And with the addition of Thursday Night Football, which will occupy more than 30 hours of programming on Fox’s forthcoming schedule and serve as a key launchpad for new and returning fare, the team had been looking for programming with a lower barrier to entry. To that end, Walden noted that they are still mulling the future of L.A. to Vegas, which is more close-ended than its other single-cam fare and thus more appealing in the opportunities it presents. 

At several points, Newman and Walden waxed on about the potential for Last Man Standing, which they said they had tried to pull over to Fox at this time last year but found it didn’t have the right companion. An additional year allowed the network to develop The Cool Kids, another multicamera offering which comes from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day. When pressed, Newman suggested star Allen’s right-leaning politics posed no concern from a promotional standpoint, and added that he believed the series' demise on ABC had more to do with vertical integration than it did politics.

The Fox executive team was similarly frank when it came to the fate of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, acknowledging that five seasons was a good run for a single-camera comedy. And though both Walden and Newman said they loved both the creators and the cast, they found that there were limited opportunities to schedule it on their network, particularly as the network added football to Thursday nights and looked to prioritize Emmy winner Bob’s Burgers on Sunday. Added Walden, “We’re really happy that [Brooklyn Nine-Nine] found a new home.”

Later in the call with members of the press, Walden also addressed the shake-up on Lethal Weapon, with star Clayne Crawford fired ahead of its third season and replaced by Seann William Scott. Walden acknowledged that the decision was not her network’s to make, but rather one presented by studio Warner Bros Television. Without delving into the unseemly details that led to Crawford's ouster, she simply said the studio came to her team and said the show could not continue in the form that fans had known it for the two prior seasons. Walden and Newman, who attempted to liken the scenario to one at NYPD Blue, intend to put some marketing muscle into Lethal Weapon's revamped third season, in an attempt to not only recruit new viewers but also to educate returning ones about the addition of a new character.

The remainder of Fox brass’ half-hour with the press included queries about the future of Ghosted, for which the execs say they’re waiting to see how new episodes perform in July, and long-running franchise 24. Of the latter, Walden revealed producer Howard Gordon was batting around new ideas with the original producers of the series but that it was too early to share anything more specific. As for the demise of series like Lucifer and The Exorcist, Newman suggested it was simply a matter of shelf space and performance.

Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR's scorecards for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW and all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.