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Fox on Monday revealed details of its biggest fall premiere, Simon Cowell’s The X Factor, which will air Wednesdays and Thursdays where American Idol is currently running.
“We feel we have the gold standard in both Idol and X Factor,” said Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment for Fox Networks Group, shortly after the network released its 2011-2012 schedule. “In Simon Cowell we have the absolute star of the genre at the pinnacle of his game. There’s an excitement and a buzz around [X Factor] that we’ve never seen before. We had more people show up for the audition than we ever had on Idol.”
And network executives say they are not particularly concerned about competition from NBC’s recently launched The Voice, which has somewhat defied expectations to give the ratings-challenged network a late-season shot in the arm.
“There’s always competition on television,” said Rice.
Fox will give X Factor the most promotional consideration of any of its new shows, said Rice, including heavy promos during the MLB playoffs and World Series.
Of course, Idol will return for its 11th season in January with the same judging panel, in all likelihood. The show has multiyear contracts with Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler and is talking to Jennifer Lopez about extending her one-year deal.
“We’re talking to her about her schedule for next year,” said Rice. “And we hope and expect her to return.”
After a scripted development slate that this year produced one viable series (Raising Hope), Fox will aggressively program scripted fare in the fall including a six-week four-comedy Tuesday in March when Glee will go on hiatus.
“The comedy genre got rather anemic,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said during the conference call. “Comedy used to be the core of the network schedules. It’s been fallow.”
Fox will launch two live-action comedies in the fall: The New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel will get the post-Glee slot on Tuesdays; and Liz Meriwether’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter will get the post-X Factor slot on Wednesdays. Bones will stay put on Thursday after The X Factor performance show. The OT and Allen Gregory will join the networks Sunday animation lineup in the fall while Napoleon Dynamite will rotate in at midseason.
In March, Glee will take a six-week hiatus while Fox mounts an all-comedy block on Tuesdays with Raising Hope, My Teenage Daughter, The New Girl and at least one of the net’s additional comedies in development; Mike O’Malley’s Family Album or Rob Corddry’s Little in Common.
Comedy is critical for networks because it’s more repeatable than many network dramas and it sells well in syndication. This fall NBC will attempt to launch a Wednesday comedy hour.
On the drama front, Fox will bow Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova on Mondays leading into House. They will produce 13 episodes of the time-travel epic, which was supposed to bow this spring but was pushed to fall because of production delays. J.J. Abrams’ Alcatraz will get the Monday slot at midseason when Fox will switch House back to 8 p.m. to give Alcatraz a stable lead-in. Kiefer Sutherland’s Touch is also a contender for midseason. But the drama, about a father who learns that his autistic son is also precognitive, will not begin production until June due to Sutherland’s Broadway schedule.
Bones spinoff The Finder will cycle into the Thursday post-American Idol slot at midseason.
The network also is downsizing Saturday staple America’s Most Wanted, produced and hosted by John Walsh, into four two-hour specials to run quarterly.
Reilly admitted that the show no longer makes money for the network but stressed that Walsh is “a very important guy to the network for a very long time.”
America’s Most Wanted, he said, “is not particularly viable. But we wanted to keep the show alive.”
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