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If its 2018 upfront brought a taste of “New Fox,” the 2019 outing will offer a full-on assault.
No longer in mid-merger limbo, with former chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman on to other things, Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier will go it alone — likely bragging about slightly improved ratings, up 7 percent to tie CBS for No. 2 in the key demo this season with an average 1.6 rating, and the surprise success of The Masked Singer. But don’t let that confuse you. (Fox’s modest resurgence is largely credited to the arrival of Thursday Night Football.)
With a justifiably hard lean on live events and sports (see also the looming arrival of WWE SmackDown) and low-cost reality (The Masked Singer), it will be interesting to see just how much scripted content Fox pursues in the coming year given the fact that all of its buying will now be done out of house. Former sister studio 20th Century Fox TV officially became a Disney property in March.
Of the series still awaiting word heading into May, few seem an absolute lock for renewal outside of Empire and, perhaps, freshman comedy The Cool Kids. The latter has worked well outside of a strong (and renewed) Last Man Standing, but that’s about all there is to brag about on the live-action comedy front. Early orders for new series have been exclusively animated.
Dramas The Orville, Lethal Weapon, Star, The Passage and Proven Innocent, none as successful as already renewed 911 or The Resident, seem likely for renewal or cancellation — though the majority seem subject to the latter, like recently guillotined The Gifted, given all that primetime real estate being ceded to sports.
What version of Fox will advertisers see at the May 13 Beacon Theatre event in Manhattan? That might be the biggest question of this year’s upfronts.
Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR‘s scorecards for ABC, CBS, NBC and The CW and with all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.
911 | The Ryan Murphy-produced drama (now owned, like the vast majority of Fox’s veteran shows, by Disney’s 20th Century Fox TV) has been the network’s top-rated scripted series in each of the past two seasons. While Murphy decamped for Netflix, his top lieutenant — showrunner Tim Minear — remains in place to oversee the Peter Krause-led procedural, which added Jennifer Love Hewitt in its sophomore run to fill the void created by star Connie Britton’s one-season run. No need to sound the alarm, it’ll be back for season three.
Bob’s Burgers | The youngest of Fox’s Sunday animated slate enters its 10th season in 2019-20 after creator Loren Bouchard last year quietly inked a sizable new overall deal with the now Disney-owned 20th TV. The Emmy-winning animated series is among just a handful of series this season to improve its ratings versus a year ago, likely a benefit of the show’s streaming prowess on Hulu.
Family Guy | The Seth MacFarlane animated favorite remains a steady linear performer and, what’s more, is now a key asset in Disney’s arsenal. The larger question remains how much longer MacFarlane — whose overall deal is up this year — will remain at Disney’s 20th TV as the multihyphenate is being courted by half of Hollywood. Still, Family Guy is a multibillion-dollar asset for Disney, even though it may not be the family friendly fare with which the Mouse House likes to be associated. The series, returning for its 18th season, also remains one of Hulu’s most-watched acquired originals.
The Resident | The medical drama starring Emily VanCamp and Matt Czuchry is among the more consistent shows on broadcast. In its second season, the 20th TV-produced series from Todd Harthan and Amy Holden Jones has increased its total audience by about 400,000 viewers while maintaining nearly all of last season’s 18-49 rating. What’s more, the broad-skewing procedural — returning for season three — gives the network a player in the always-in-demand medical drama space.
The Simpsons | Television’s longest-running scripted primetime series ever will continue through its 32nd cycle and the 2020-21 broadcast season as part of a two-season pickup done days before Disney formally acquired the multibillion-dollar asset as part of its Fox acquisition. Still, Disney wasted no time in making the most of its new crown jewel when it announced that its new streaming service, Disney+, would be the new streaming home for all 600-plus episodes of the Matt Groening-created animated hit. The better question may be what happens after season 32 as Disney could make a financial mint if The Simpsons were to jump networks. (And Fox will now have to pay a steep licensing fee to air the low-rated comedy.)
Last Man Standing | Look no further for the poster child for New Fox’s scripted fare than this Tim Allen-fronted comedy. The veteran comedy is returning for its eighth season overall and second on Fox as the multicamera entry appeals to middle America and boasts a built-in star. Still, comedy is now facing a similar refrain: ABC canceled Last Man after its sixth season as the network did not own the 20th TV-produced series. After Disney acquired 20th TV from Fox, the broadcaster now has to pay Disney a licensing fee for the comedy, which will have to find a new home as Fox will have wrestling Fridays come next season.
Empire | The drama will return for a sixth season, but it will do so without beleaguered star Jussie Smollett, who was written out of the end of season five. Though he remains under contract, “there are no plans” for him to return, the network and producer 20th Century Fox TV say — despite Smollett’s co-stars writing a letter in support of his returning. The now Disney-owned show, thanks to the conglomerate’s purchase of 20th TV in the $71.3 billion 21st Century Fox deal, ranks as Fox’s No. 2 drama among adults 18-49 by a fairly wide margin.
The Orville | A passion project for creator and star Seth MacFarlane, the live-action sci-fi spoof has performed solidly in its sophomore frame, doubling its 18-49 rating after seven days. The hourlong comedy — like MacFarlane’s animated Family Guy — is now owned by an outside studio (Disney’s 20th TV). The series aired at midseason in 2018-19, and that may be an option again now that Fox will have fewer available hours with the NFL in the fall and WWE Smackdown occupying Friday nights starting in October. The Orville was the last current Fox series to receive word on its future; barring the addition of more new shows the network is set with its scripted lineup.
Proven Innocent | Something had to air Fridays after Hell’s Kitchen ended its season. The Danny Strong-produced rookie legal drama from 20th TV drew the short straw and has made next to no noise since its February premiere despite having a big-name star in Kelsey Grammer, who boarded the procedural in recasting. The drama has now officially been canceled after one season. (Now, about that Frasier update.…)
Star | The Empire spinoff starring Queen Latifah hasn’t exactly been buzzworthy, but it has been fairly stable in its third season. Where Empire has slipped 21 percent in adults 18-49 this season, Star has fallen by only 11 percent in the demo. Still, it’s a middling show produced by an outside studio at a time when the network has fewer scripted needs.
Lethal Weapon | One of the biggest stories of last season’s upfront following the public firing of former star Clayne Crawford, producers Warner Bros. TV successfully negotiated a third-season renewal — with new star Seann William Scott attached. But the reboot of the film franchise still had its fair share of behind-the-scenes turmoil as star Damon Wayans Sr. said he announced his intention to quit the drama from showrunner Matt Miller at season’s end. Still, Fox extended the third season by two episodes — with Wayans on board — while Miller and company adjusted the production to better accommodate its vocal star. What’s more, Lethal Weapon remains one of the newly independent Fox Entertainment’s lone series produced by an outside studio — which still wasn’t enough to nab a fourth-season renewal after Fox lowered the ax on the procedural.
The Cool Kids | The multicamera comedy with the all-star cast of Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, Leslie Jordan and Vicki Lawrence has proved itself as a capable companion to Last Man Standing, retaining most of its lead-in’s audience when they’re paired and holding up decently on weeks the Tim Allen comedy has taken off. The rookie comedy, canceled after one season, hailed from FX Productions and 20th Century Fox TV and counts Charlie Day as an exec producer. The series had lined up a potential new showrunner to take over should there have been another season.
The Passage | The character-driven thriller based on the best-selling book trilogy by Justin Cronin had a long path to the screen after it was redeveloped from last season, when it narrowly missed the cut. The drama, produced by 20th TV and from exec producers Matt Reeves (the upcoming Batman feature) and Liz Heldens, quietly racked up solid numbers for Fox in its winter run, becoming the network’s No. 3 drama among adults 18-49 behind 911 and Empire. Mark-Paul Gosselaar starred in the series, which was canceled after one season.
The Gifted | Marvel’s multiple television series are now all exclusively housed at Disney-owned networks after Fox canceled its Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker drama following the conclusion of its second season. While synergy likely played a larger part of the cancellation, linear ratings didn’t help The Gifted make a compelling case as the superhero-theme family drama took a sizable ratings hit (down more than 40 percent).
Gotham | The Warner Bros. TV-produced Batman prequel series wrapped its run in April after five seasons and a crisp 100 episodes — the magical number needed to get the Ben McKenzie starrer into syndication.
Rel | The multicamera comedy starring and inspired by the life of Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show, Get Out) was one of only a handful of rookie series that did not receive a back order for additional episodes this season. The 20th TV-produced comedy from exec producer Jerrod Carmichael lasted one season.
911: Lone Star | A spinoff of 911, the Austin, Texas-set drama stars Rob Lowe as a New York firefighter who moves with his son. The straight-to-series drama hails from the flagship’s same creative team: co-creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and showrunner Tim Minear. The drama is produced by 20th Century Fox TV and is the network’s lone new series that is not a co-production with Fox Entertainment.
Filthy Rich | The Southern Gothic dramedy starring (and produced by) Kim Cattrall has drawn positive early reviews for the strong and authentic product that writer, director and exec producer Tate Taylor (The Help) has turned in. The concept — a wealthy Christian network CEO dies, leaving his family and illegitimate kids to battle over his fortune — works with the new Fox Entertainment’s post-Disney deal identity. Sex and the City grad Cattrall has also drawn rave reviews in industry circles for her performance opposite This Is Us Emmy winner Gerald McRaney. The official order came after Taylor and Fox execs worked out details for the series around his busy film schedule. A midseason debut is considered likely for the drama from 20th Century Fox TV, Fox Entertainment and Imagine TV.
Bless the Harts | As Family Guy and The Simpsons will now be expensive for Fox to keep around given their newfound status as Disney properties, the network is doubling down on animation this season. Bless the Harts, created by Emily Spivey (Up All Night, SNL) and from 20th TV, follows a group of people living in the South. What they lack in money, they make up for in family and friends. Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jillian Bell and Ike Barinholtz lead the voice cast of the series that counts Phil Lord and Chris Miller among its exec producers.
Duncanville | Produced by Amy Poehler and The Simpsons duo Mike and Julie Scully, the animated comedy — a co-production between 20th TV and Universal TV — revolves around a 15-year-old boy and his mother. Poehler will reunite with her Parks and Recreation co-star Rashida Jones as both lead a voice cast that includes Wiz Khalifa and Ty Burrell.
What Just Happened | A half-hour scripted comedy/talk show hybrid, the nine-episode series is a spoof on the aftershow format and sees the network inventing a drama series. Fred Savage created the comedy and serves as its “host.” Premieres in the summer.
Deputy | The drama features one of pilot season’s biggest talent deals for True Detective grad Stephen Dorff, who stars in the modern cop drama with a classic Western spirit. Will Beall (Aquaman) penned the script and exec produces alongside director David Ayer and his Cedar Park partner (and former Audience Network chief) Chris Long. The series hails from Entertainment One and Fox Entertainment.
Next | An internal favorite of new Fox Entertainment CEO Collier, the drama is a fact-based thriller about the emergence of a rogue AI that combines action with an examination of how tech transforms culture in a way that isn’t always understandable. Manny Coto (24) penned the script and exec produces alongside John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. Mad Men grad John Slattery stars and reunites with former AMC president Collier on the drama. The series hails from 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment.
Prodigal Son | The drama, which generated rave reviews for stars Michael Sheen and Tom Payne (The Walking Dead), is a fresh take on the crime franchise and follows a notorious serial killer and his criminal psychologist son. Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver reunite with Deception exec producer Greg Berlanti on the series, which co-stars Lou Diamond Phillips and Scandal favorite Bellamy Young. The series is a co-production between Warner Bros. TV and Fox Entertainment.
Almost Family | The drama, from Jason Katims (Parenthood) and Annie Weisman (The Path) and formerly known as Not Just Me, is based on Endemol Shine Australia’s series Sisters. Weisman penned the script about an only child whose life is turned upside down when her famous father (Timothy Hutton) reveals he used his own sperm to conceive upward of a hundred children, including two new sisters. Brittany Snow, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Emily Osment star in the co-production between Universal TV, Endemol Shine and Fox Entertainment.
The Great North | The animated comedy was put in development last fall and is from the Emmy-winning Bob’s Burgers team of creator Loren Bouchard and writers Wendy Molyneux, Lizzie Molyneux and Minty Lewis. Nick Offerman, Jenny Slate, Megan Mullally, Paul Rust, Aparna Nancherla, Will Forte and Dulce Sloan comprise the voice cast. The series follows the Alaskan adventures of the Tobin family as a single dad does his best to keep his weird bunch of kids close as the artistic dreams of his only daughter lead her away from the family fishing boat and into the glamorous world of the local mall. The series is a co-production between 20th TV and Fox Entertainment.
Outmatched | The multicamera comedy from Lon Zimmet (L.A. to Vegas) revolves around a blue-collar couple (Jason Biggs and Maggie Lawson) in South Jersey trying to get by and raise four kids — three of whom are certified geniuses. Tisha Campbell-Martin co-stars in the 20th TV and Fox Entertainment co-production.
90210 | A meta-revival of the iconic 1990s teen soap is due for a six-episode run in the summer. Original stars Jason Priestley (Brandon), Jennie Garth (Kelly), Ian Ziering (Steve), Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea), Brian Austin Green (David) and Tori Spelling (Donna) will play heightened versions of themselves in what is being billed as an “event series.” Will launch in the summer.
Breakout hit The Masked Singer will be back for a second run in 2019-20, as will Gordon Ramsay-led shows Hell’s Kitchen (season 19), MasterChef Junior (season eight) and 24 Hours to Hell and Back (season three). Season three of Beat Shazam, season 16 of So You Think You Can Dance, season 10 of MasterChef and a revival of Paradise Hotel are on tap for summer, along with newcomers First Responders Live, from uber-producer Dick Wolf, and game show Spin the Wheel from Justin Timberlake. Fox will also add competition show Ultimate Tag, featuring NFL-star brothers J.J., T.J. and Derek Watt, in 2019-20. The network hasn’t made a call on Rob Lowe-hosted game show Mental Samurai. Unscripted shows run on a different schedule from that of scripted series, so all renewals may not be decided until after the upfronts.
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