When attempting to assess the big 4s possible fall schedules the last few years, FOX was the relatively easy one. With fewer hours to fill than other nets and 3 of them (over two nights) going to X Factor/Idol, plus an animated Sunday sked not likely be tampered much with, it was easier to plot the hits and guess which likely new shows would fill the empty slots. This year Fox was the hardest for me. Over the last two seasons Fox has essentially launched one comedy hit, New Girl and one drama hit The Following. In that same period of time they said goodbye to one of their biggest hits ever, House, and have seen Idol become incredibly mortal this season.
FOXs highest rated same day rating for any show now is the low 3’s Idol has been getting. All their other hits are in the low 2s (Family Guy is getting a 2.5, 2.6 generally). Now some of them get nice DVR gains, but despite FOXs insistence on targeting the young 18-34 demo, they must be in search of a show that will get them 4’s like Modern Family or 5s like The Big Bang Theory and The Voice. Hell they’d be thrilled with a high 3. I think Fox, even more than NBC, heads into fall in a somewhat concerning place. They really don’t have many huge hits and are in dire need of new ones. More concerning is the downtrend of Idol these last few months, considering that X Factor is a weaker version of that show creatively and ratings wise. If Idol got a 3.0 for a results show on Thu (with TBBT in reruns and weaker competition from the other nets) realistically X Factor is likely to be significantly lower the same point in its season (possibly a 2.0 or lower).
All this makes putting X Factor in the Idol time periods and slotting a few new shows on their sked even more difficult. I can’t imagine FOX is satisfied with the prospect of that either. They want to win and I’m sure they will be doing all they can to ensure they launch some new hits. Truthfully, I bet FOX would prefer just to focus all their energy on Idol at this point. Idol’s strength for 12 years was due to airing only Jan-May. Fox was very smart in how they showed restraint and it bettered the show and their network in the long run. NBC was also very smart in beating X to the punch with a much better singing show that is on fire now in the ratings but also is superior production wise. The Voice panel all dig each other and Nigel Lythgoe has even alluded to that being a noticeable difference that favors the rival show. X Factor is the weakest music competition of the 3 both creatively and in the ratings and it feels utterly redundant at this point. While Idol and The Voice can co-exist at the same time, I’m sure FOX feels that X Factor at this point is just adding another singing competition to muddy the waters and by its mere existence, it makes Idol less special. If X was getting mid 3’s like 2 years ago, they’d be thrilled, but that wasn’t the case this season and its likely to be lower next season. I assume this is X Factor’s last chance to turn things around.
FOX is preparing a 3rd season of the X Factor and I think they’ll be smart in scheduling it. There has to be a happy medium for FOX. They need new hits. With X Factor on their schedule most of Wed and Thu that makes that even more difficult. Fox has another issue in that their one new drama hit is only producing 15 eps a season. If they had 22 eps of The Following, I’d immediately suggest FOX split up Bones and The Following. The latter has shown that it has its own audience. Quite simply, it’s a hit. When Bones is in reruns, The Following produces the same numbers even with Bones getting a low 1. It doesn’t need a lead in. Fox would be better served splitting them up and launching new dramas around them. If The Following had 22 eps, I’d suggest air a new drama Monday at 8 into The Following and move Bones to Wed at 8 and launch a new show out of that. Alas, FOX has only 15 eps.
I contemplated FOX splitting up the season and starting The Following in the fall with 7 eps and then returning after the Olympics in March with the final 8. While that is a possibility, it might be hard for FOX to launch a new show in November on Monday opposite The Voice and then head into winter/holiday doldrums. Plus, taking 4 months off in the middle of the season hasn’t done wonders for Revolution and that has a 5.0 lead in. I think Fox is smart running it 15 weeks in a row and I assume they’ll follow through similarly next season (though I gather they wont run new eps vs The Olympics and their season will end 2 weeks later in sweeps). Plus if FOX is lucky enough to launch a new Monday hit next fall, maybe they can move The Following to another night by the time the show comes back. (Fox might also opt to launch The Following right after the Olympics and take a page out of the 24 handbook and launch with a 4 hour/2 night premiere and make some noise and catch up the weeks they missed if they launched in Jan. But I’m way ahead of myself and that’s only an option if they are fortunate enough to launch new hits in the fall. If not. I’m sure they’ll be ready to bring it back mid Jan like this year).
(Another crazy idea is for FOX use to Sunday football overruns to launch X Factor for a few weeks, but why delay animated comedies which are likely to do better. Wouldn’t be shocked if they used Football to help it out a bit, though).
So FOX needs new hits and I think they are going to try to make a schedule that enables them to launch new ones. I think FOX should move X Factor to Thu/Fri. Results show on Fri?? Yes. If X was producing numbers like 2 years ago that would be foolish. But it wasn’t this year and it likely won’t next and Wed at 8p is not a huge hour on the other networks and it would be a prime spot for FOX to try to launch a new show. With TBBT possibly on the move to 9p next year, FOX could have the performance show of X Factor for 2 hours on Thu and if CBS isn’t as strong at 8, they could possibly hook some viewers early in the evening. I contemplated FOX just cutting X Factor to an hour on Wed and Thu and launching new hits out of it. It’s an option, I guess. It’s just that 9p is competitive on both nights and 8p much less on Wed. If they launched a new hit on Wed at 8 and it flopped it might be hard to draw viewers into X Factor at 9. This way FOX kind of gets the best of both worlds. They get a 2 hour production show on Thu. A results show on Fri night is not the worst prospect for a show. This TV season has proven that viewers will show up on Fri for shows they like (Shark Tank) and this would be the only live show there. Most importantly it frees up Wed to try to launch something new. Another plus to moving X Factor to Thu/Fri is it offers up a day respite from signing competitions and separates X from The Voice a tad.
I think FOX will have at least an hour or at least one hit every night in the fall: Mon – Bones, Tue – New Girl, Thu and Fri X Factor and another hit on Wed as well. Read on for that.
So Monday FOX starts off with Bones and then launches into one of their best new dramas. With The Voice huge, and CBS with their comedy block, I still think FOX should stick with drama. It’s the best counterprogramming to everything else. Some are suggesting that FOX put the Greg Kinnear dramedy, Rake here since it’s also capped at 15 eps and it could share a slot with The Following. I think FOX should put a straight ahead drama with darker elements here since it contrasts with everything else in the hour. Boomerang with its stellar leads in Felicity Huffman and Anthony Lapaglia sounds like it could possibly make some noise here. Gang Related is also a possibility. Fox has always tried Sci Fi and the JJ Abrams produced Human sounds intriguing. If it’s strong it could fit here. Sci FI dramas do have incredibly loyal audiences, albeit they are sometimes too small and cult. FOX knows that all too well. That might be a better midseason option for FOX.
Monday: Bones into Boomerang or Gang Related. Should the new 9p drama work, FOX should move The Following to another night midseason.
There is no reason to move New Girl anywhere. but FOX has to do whatever it can to make 8p stronger. They tried reality in Hell’s Kitchen and it’s definitely holding up well at a 2.0 (and against The Voice!) and doing better than the comedies earlier in the season. I might suggest a new reality here (especially if NBC moves The Voice to 9p). Fox had a few projects in development like dating show Babes On A Bus or Divorce Hotel. I don’t know the status of either one. Maybe they have some new covert project planned for here. BUT – FOX needs new scripted hits and if their comedy development is strong they’d be smart to air new comedies from 8-9 since (unless NBC slots some there), there likely won’t be any in the slot. Maybe FOX can air The Mike Schur, Andy Samberg starrer Brooklyn 99 about a New York Police Precinct at 8p into the army based comedy Enlisted. Two male skewing single cams that sounds different from everything on TV currently. FOX is committed to give The Mindy Project another try, though the Jason Ritter/Alexis Bledel romance Friends and Family sounds like it would be a nice partner there for New Girl. Maybe they can share a slot with one for midseason. (Did FOX order more than 13 for Mindy? Don’t know). I think FOX saves Raising Hope for midseason.
(If FOX had a really strong 8:30 or 9:30 animated Sunday comedy, I might suggest they move it to Tue at 8 followed by a new one, but I don’t think either is strong enough currently).
I’m guessing FOX gives a comedy night another shot. They can have Gordon Ramsey (or a new reality show) on backup should it fail. My guess is they’re hoping that Toxic Office show takes off this summer, in order for it to be their Tue at 8 option. But for right now I’m going to suggest Tue look like this:
Brooklyn 99/Enlisted/New Girl/ Mindy or Friends and Family
I think FOX should move Glee to Wed at 9 (its original home). It’s not getting a huge boost following Idol and in some weeks is even behind The Office. Wed at 9 it will be the only young skewing show. It should be able to do a 2.0 (and get a nice DVR boost). FOX can launch one of their best new dramas into it. Leading into it I would suggest they slot Rake. It’s a character driven comedic drama starring Greg Kinnear as a House like attorney. The biggest show in the slot currently is Survivor which is getting a 2.6. It’s an hour that’s open for FOX to try to launch a new hit and this show sounds different for FOX and unique enough to make some noise for them in this hour. It’s likely Idol will still air Wed/Thu but even if it does, Rake only has 15 eps and will likely be done before Feb. FOX would be thrilled for Rake to be a big enough hit they have to worry where to slot the final 5 eps.
(Should FOX indeed move the X Factor performance show off Wednesday, they might be able to use reality in midseason at 9 in between two arcs of 11 Glee eps each. If they don’t use Hell’s Kitchen on Tue, they can air it Wed at 9 midseason since there would be no reality show there presumably).
Thu: X Factor Performance show
Fri the X results can air at 8. At 9 FOX could possibly air Raising Hope (and another new comedy or comedy repeats), though FOX might be better off saving Raising Hope for midseason. They can run eps into the summer should they need to. Unless it pops suddenly, I could see it being RH’s last season (though with enough eps to enter into syndication). FOX could also use the 9p hour on Friday to encore their new shows or even air Kitchen Nightmares some weeks.
Friday: X Factor Results/Encores of New shows or Kitchen Nightmares
The bottom line is FOX needs new hits and I think however they launch them they will pick up more shows than they have in recent years. I’m guessing 3-4 dramas (including the ones I mentioned above) and 3 -4 comedies including Seth McFarlane’s multi cam Dads which already has a 6 ep commitment.