This is hardly scientific or even a grand prophesy by any means and although NOTHING in the TV biz is EVER guaranteed, it sure does look like FOX should spend the fall in an unusual position, for them – #1. They always take the crown once American Idol returns every January and those 5 months at the top usually are enough to erase the lower rated weeks of Sep-Dec and it’s made them the #1 network in the 18-49 demo for the last 8 years. But this fall they have a number of shows that seem very likely to score higher numbers than anything they have had the last number of fall seasons (especially last fall when Lone Star was a colossal bomb right away). At the very least, it’s hard not to imagine, that FOX, more so than any other network, will be supremely up versus last fall.
The biggest story they have, obviously, is X Factor. America seems to have an insatiable appetite for these talent shows. Certainly, if this was just an ordinary talent/singing competition it might not be such a sure thing, especially debuting against the glut of fall premieres. But with Simon Cowell at the helm it does have a big carrot to dangle. Gordon Ramsay is enough of a draw that all 3 of his shows for FOX have been hits. Hell’s Kitchen and Big Brother are the only shows getting above a 2.5 on broadcast in these waning weeks of summer. Simon Cowell is the original snarky judge/personality and clearly the biggest one of them all and he commands even more attention from the viewing public. Throw in a reunion with Paula Abdul and it’s hard to imagine this won’t be, at the very least, incredibly well sampled.
But it’s more than that too. As The Voice proved, these live competition shows are the next best thing to the NFL. People love to watch them and even more importantly for networks and advertisers, they are among the only things people feel the need to watch live, lest they be lost at the watercooler the next day. America’s Got Talent is still far and away the biggest hit of the summer, and that’s with a panel of judges that a) have no business deciding who has talent (in my humble opinion) and b) are far less interesting and fun to watch than virtually every other talent competition judges on TV (again, just my humble opinion). Yet, there is a large audience for this show. The Voice also made a big splash last season with some modifications to the American Idol fiormula. So, X Factor, a show that is beyond huge in the UK, and is an amalgam of AGT, The Voice, IDOL, and most importantly, features the biggest star in the genre, yeah seems like this show is poised for great success here. It could quite possibly achieve American Idol type numbers of which only NFL games can compete with. Fox will have 4 hours of X on their 22 schedule week (they do have that luxury of not needing to program the 10p hour) and for most of the fall it will encompass their entire Wed/Thu lineup. It’s sure to do bigger numbers than Hell’s Kitchen and Bones/Fringe did on those nights for them last year. I just hope it doesn’t decimate the competition like Idol used to. Well CBS should be immune to any competition, like they always are. But ABC finally has a really solid 2 hour comedy block on Wed (Suburgatory is the best show that has ever aired between The Middle and Modern Family) and I, like many others, am a huge fan of Happy Endings. So it would be nice to think that even if X hits it outta the park, there is room for other nets to do well against it.
The thing is, FOX has two scripted shows that are better than average and would probably garner them extra notice in a season where they didn’t have X Factor: New Girl is getting the best buzz of any comedy this fall. I have to say, while I find Zooey Deschanel adorable like everyone else, I don’t think this comedy is as hysterical as others are saying. I have seen some journalists say it’s the best comedy pilot they have seen in years. Really? Honestly, I laughed more at 2 Broke Girls and I found Subugatory to be smarter. Is New Girl a good pilot? Definitely. Is there a wonderful, should be a mega star, leading lady starring in it? Absolutely. Is it the best sitcom I have seen in years? No. But it’s fun and if anything, I found part of it sweet. Plus, Fox has been marketing it well and it’s scheduled perfectly behind Glee and in an hour with there are no other comedies. It’s certainly poised to do better than Running Wilde did in that hour last season. Do I feel confident that it’s a home run? No, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a hit. I guess like most shows it will depend on how future episodes come out.
Interestingly, while most critics are praising the hell out of New Girl, some are kind of underplaying Terra Nova, which I think is the biggest swing of the fall and not just because of all the money that’s been put into it. I’m always impressed and intrigued by shows that are like nothing else on TV and there is no doubt that there is nothing else on TV like Terra Nova. It also is a multiple quadrant show. Kids will totally dig it, but so will adults. There is action, adventure, romance, and um dinosaurs. It’s not another cop procedural. But in addition to all the spectacle, it’s a family drama and is led by a great cast including, should have been a star by now Jason O Mara. I watched the full 2 hour premiere and it feels like a movie, complete with a wonderful cinematic score. Most importantly I like these people and am interested in where there story will go next. I can’t imagine this show won’t be sampled and honestly I’d be surprised if most of the audience doesn’t come back for at least episode 2.
Fox has done some smart scheduling too. The first night of the season when Ashton debuts on CBS and DWTS premieres, they are running the Hells Kitchen finale which as I noted above, is one of summer’s ratings successes. So even if it is dinged a bit, amidst teh competition, it should far exceed what Lone Star did on premiere night last year. The second week, when the hoopla has died down a bit from premiere night, they debut the Terra Nova movie. The 3rd Monday they premiere House, which while down from it’s previous heights should bring back some viewers that night who want to check out House in jail.
Plus factor in their strong Sunday night. Family Guy is practically the only show that gets 2’s in reruns consistently. Thrown in a Football overrun every other Sunday and they should have no trouble taking #2 Sunday night, behind the NFL on NBC.
I think there are other nets that have some really exciting shows this Fall too. But my thoughts here are who I think will fare best this fall especially versus last fall. Do I think that’s a guarantee? Of course not. One of the cool things about the TV business, or media in general, is that NOTHING is a sure thing. That would include X Factor too. Things that look perfect on paper have a way sometimes of not coming though and then every once in a while something you’d never predict is a wonderful surprise. Look at the music biz this year. I am still very pleasantly surprised that the biggest commercial success story this year is Adele – a singer that is all about her voice and not at all about image. Would I have predicted it a year ago? No way. In fact, I still can’t believe it. But it’s thrilling and it just further proves that you never know what will happen in the TV biz either. That being said, it would be rather surprising, although not at all unprecedented, if FOX doesn’t have a great fall.