In Depth

Fox Seems Keen on 'Cleveland'

Fox has ordered nine more episodes of “The Cleveland Show,” giving the “Family Guy” spinoff a big boost even as the network decided to make viewers wait a little longer to see the animated series.

In addition, Huffington Post owner Arianna Huffington and “Saturday Night Live” regular Jason Sudekis have joined the voice cast of “Cleveland.”

In a week that brought changes to Fox’s slate, the network has briefly delayed the planned holiday premiere of its new Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne variety hour.

Fox didn’t mention “Cleveland” or the Osbournes in its midseason scheduling announcement last week, but that doesn’t mean both shows aren’t still considered key to its long-term plans.

In the case of “Cleveland,” the network told advertisers last spring that the show would premiere in spring 2009. But given the long lead time for animation, that was always a very ambitious production schedule. Fox now confirms that “Cleveland” won’t launch until next fall.

“Nothing should be read into this that we’re unhappy with the show—just the opposite,” said Preston Beckman, Fox’s executive VP in charge of scheduling. “It just wouldn’t have had the same impact it’s going to have now. It’s really going to add some extra oomph to our Sunday lineup.”

Ordering nine extra episodes even before seeing a fully finished episode of “Cleveland” also underlines the network’s belief in the project.

“This is a huge vote of confidence,” said Rich Appel, who serves as a “Cleveland” executive producer/showrunner alongside Mike Henry and Seth MacFarlane. “It’s my secret hope that we get to do our 100th episode table read before the show premieres. They can keep pushing back the premiere date as long as they want if they keep giving us back nine orders.”

Joking aside, Mr. Appel said Fox and the show’s producers “all seem to be on the same page” about the creative direction of the program, something he called “a rare thing” in network television.

As for the cast additions, Ms. Huffington will play the wife of Tim the Bear, a character being voiced by Mr. MacFarlane. “She’s a cross between who she is and Zsa Zsa Gabor,” Mr. Appel said.

Mr. Sudekis will play a hipster wannabe named Holt.

“Fox picking up nine more episodes of our show is proof that an African-American can make it in our country,” the fictional Cleveland Brown said in a non-fictional statement. “This is a milestone for the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Beckman confirmed that the untitled Osbournes variety show won’t premiere with a Christmas special as originally announced. He also revealed that the project will unfold as a series of six stand-alone specials rather than as a weekly program.

“This was always the plan,” Mr. Beckman said. “We’ve always wanted to have it pop up every couple of weeks. We will find opportunities to spotlight the show throughout the second half of the season, starting early in the year.”

And while no firm time slot has been announced for the first Osbournes special, Mr. Beckman said the network “fully intends” to air at least some of the specials on the same night as “American Idol.”