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This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Empire has more than its characters singing. The red-hot hip-hop drama nabbed a quick renewal Jan. 17 after its second episode saw a rare lift (and a 4.0 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic) and became a much-needed talking point for new Fox TV Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman during their first TCA.
Also garnering early renewals from the fourth-place network: Brooklyn Nine-Nine and freshman Gotham, which both hail from outside studios — Universal Television and Warner Bros. TV, respectively — helping Walden and Newman send a message that Fox’s doors remain open to studios other than their own 20th TV.
Those reveals were joined by casting news on Ryan Murphy‘s Scream Queens (Lea Michele, Joe Manganiello) and Grease: Live (Vanessa Hudgens, Julianne Hough) during a presentation that included five mentions of “big” and “bold” to describe Walden and Newman’s philosophy.
All told, the partners garnered strong reviews, with Walden scoring the biggest laughs when she quoted a recent column by THR chief TV critic Tim Goodman: “Welcome to the beginning of the end. At least you have the studio to go back to when it all goes to hell.” They also were particularly forthcoming with things they’d like to see happen. In addition to more Bones and New Girl, the execs confirmed talks for a project with Simon Cowell, another installment of 24 — potentially without star Kiefer Sutherland — and a revival of The X-Files. They’d love a Prison Break reboot, too, which would fit nicely with their “event series” plan.
“They need to be things that don’t need the kind of marketing campaign that you would have to have to support an ongoing traditional series,” entertainment president David Madden told THR. “They need to be sort of, ‘OK, that’s what it is, and I get it.’ “
But not everyone walked away happy. Fox reality chief Simon Andreae was replaced by Electus’ Corie Henson hours before the panel. Producers of Sleepy Hollow were said to be panicked after Walden’s comments about the series’ creative missteps (the show is expected to return, with a location change already in the works). And The Mindy Project, whose cast had its hopes raised when Walden told reporters she was hopeful the Universal TV series would continue, likely will not be renewed unless the network has a particularly poor pilot season.
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