Pilots Package: dialogue with Peter Liguori
EmptyThe Hollywood Reporter: For the past few years, Fox has been on a roll January-May but has mostly struggled in the first three months of the season, in part because of disruptions from baseball coverage. Will airing fewer games next season help get off to a better start in the fall?
Peter Liguori: Baseball is going from 26 preemptions down to 14, that should definitely help. But great creative conquers all; that's our hope. We think we've got a bunch of strong pilots in contention, and everyone is working hard to make sure that our fourth quarter is very strong.
THR: Will you stick to your game plan from the past several years of launching new series before the beginning of the season?
Liguori: Given the fact that we do have baseball and we do have that hiatus, clearly, we will have to get out before the other guys, but the fact that we no longer have the divisional playoffs allows us some flexibility.
THR: You said in the summer that you would be making a big push in comedy this development season. What are the results?
Liguori: It's way to early to tell, but certainly I feel that (senior vp comedy) Susan (Levison) and her troop have done a really good job of portfolio management. I think we have a number of strong broader comedies, some real off-the-grid ideas, a really good mix between workplace and families, single- and multi- (camera) with some really good auspices. And we've been taking some swings on the animation front — from a project with Steve Dildarian, who is best known for the Anheuser-Busch frog commercials to Robert Smigel to something from Dave Hemingson, with whom have experience on "Family Guy."
THR: With "House," "24," "Prison Break" and "Bones" working, did you mostly focus on finding companion pieces for them on the drama side?
Liguori: We want to improve our schedule. There are a number of slots open, and I think you could slice and dice it a few different ways. First, we're clearly looking for companion pieces to the "House's" and "24's" and "Bones" of this world, but secondly, we're going to set our schedule by putting forward what we feel is the best creative.
THR: "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" has turned on the lights for Fox on Thursday. Is this the building block you've been waiting for to set foothold on the night?
Liguori: We're certainly hoping. It's night where this network traditionally has had some very tough sweating. We're extremely heartened by the performance of "5th Grader." We think there's an upside on that show. We're even pushing to make the show better. It could be the start of a Thursday night that this network has long sought.
THR: While the other networks went for a single-camera-heavy comedy slates this season, Fox opted for a more balanced approach with the most multicamera pilots of any net. Was it a conscious decision to stray from the single-camera trend?
Liguori: From our standpoint, great yuks is going to lead to great comedy in any format. Fortunately for us, on the multicamera front we're able to work with great directors like James Burrows and great writers like Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan. We were able to bring actors like Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton to the multicamera format. When you look at the single-camera front, we work with the Farrelly brothers. These are all strong options, very strong auspices, and we anticipate that we're going to see (footage) that's going to be very powerful for us.
THR: Overall, what is your biggest need?
Liguori: Getting the No. 1 new show of the season and that it's of great quality.