TV Upfronts: Fox Fall Schedule Stays the Comedy Course (Analysis)


Stars: Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Tommy Dewey, Brenda Song, Peter Riegert, Martin Mull, Tonita Castro, Vanessa Lachey
Team: Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild (Ted), Seth MacFarlane; director - Mark Cendrowski

From producer Seth MacFarlane, Dads -- about two successful guys (and childhood best friends) whose lives get turned upside down when their fathers move in -- received an early series order.

Nearing the end of a season that's seen ratings dip nearly 20 percent, the new schedule Fox presented Monday morning doesn't look terribly different from the one it announced during last May's upfronts. And while the network's boosted order of new series includes five comedies and five dramas, it's the half-hours that are getting some of the most interesting placement.

Tuesday once again will be home to a two-hour comedy block, a move Fox first made for the 2012-13 season and ultimately wavered on. Shortly after the January cancelation of low-rated Ben and Kate, the network doubled up on the also soft Raising Hope before ultimately giving the hour to Hell's Kitchen. This time around, the female-driven New Girl and Mindy Project will have a different kind of lead-in with the Seth MacFarlane-produced Dads and cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. New Girl, still a Fox brand definer at the end of its sophomore run, also will score the coveted post-Super Bowl slot in February.

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Of the three other new comedies ordered, only Enlisted will see its debut in the fall, with Surviving Jack and Us and Them opening at midseason. Fox carves a new hour for comedy on Fridays at 9 p.m. after its World Series coverage. The more family-driven Enlisted will air at 9:30 p.m. following the new time slot for Raising Hope. Junior MasterChef starts Friday off at 8 p.m. in the fall -- but only until Bones moves to the hour after baseball. The third move for Bones in as many years, it will mark the first time in several seasons the network hasn't aired any unscripted offerings on Friday. Scripted efforts have not done particularly well for Fox on Fridays in recent years, though neither of the most recent efforts (Touch, Fringe) had a great deal of promotion behind them.

Bones' home of the last two seasons, Mondays at 8 p.m., will launch the series' eighth season briefly before ceding the hour to science fiction cop drama Almost Human. It will be a genre-heavy night packaged with the supernatural Sleepy Hollow -- that is until Fox resumes The Following at 9 p.m. at midseason. The Kevin Bacon starrer was only outmatched by NBC's Revolution as last season's top freshman performer, and shuffling its lead-in should have no effect on its performance. A strong DVR gainer, The Following also posted consistent Live+Same Day numbers whether its lead was in originals or encores.

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Stuck between something of a rock and a hard place, fall's X Factor and midseason's American Idol see no changes at all. Both series had double digit declines in their most recent seasons, with Idol taking a high-profile 19 percent drop, but the Wednesday-Thursday combination of performance and results shows is not anything easily altered -- especially now that NBC's The Voice owns Mondays and Tuesdays nearly year-round.

One tweak Thursday will see is the midseason departure of Glee. After a fall run in its 9 p.m. hour, the show will break for the launch of Rake. It's a tactic reminiscent of this past season's successful launch of The Following on Mondays, giving the most recognizable talent of the new schedule (Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear) a showcase after most of the networks' new programming has launched.

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