The new fall schedule Fox will announce next week promises to offer both stability—and quite possibly, surprise.
While the network isn’t saying much about its plans until Monday, when it kicks off upfront week, industry insiders believe that radical across-the-board changes are unlikely. Indeed, thanks to a series of shifts made during the past six months, Fox heads into next fall with it arguably its strongest lineup in years.
Still, while stability may be the watchword at Fox, that doesn’t mean the network’s announcement will be drama-free. Insiders indicate Fox may be ready to take some big chances.
A word of caution on scheduling buzz this time of year: It’s often flat-out wrong. Network executives are not above floating false scenarios in order to throw off the competition.
But if Fox does decide to take a chance or two, there are some obvious places on the schedule where it might want to roll the dice—and areas where stability makes sense.
Fox’s big moves this past season included shifting “House” to an 8 p.m. anchor slot, first on Tuesday and then, this winter, on Monday nights. The play gave critical support to newcomer “Fringe” and now, “24.”
It seems likely Fox will continue to use “House” on Mondays as a lead-in to either a first-year or sophomore series.
Reality has worked well for Fox on Mondays in the past. Perhaps the network might air its new Mike Darnell-Mike Fleiss collaboration, “The Fatchelor,” Mondays at 9, the same night that ABC airs Mr. Fleiss’s “The Bachelor”? Industry insiders believe that show will air this summer, but if Fox likes it enough, it might hold it for the fall.
The network’s other successful shift this season was the move of “Bones” to 8 p.m. Thursday, paired with “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” at 9 p.m.
The change has helped make Fox competitive on the night after years of struggle. “Bones” regularly ranks second only to CBS’s “Survivor” in its timeslot, while in the 9:30 half-hour, “Kitchen” has come close to matching “CSI” and NBC’s “30 Rock” some weeks.
If Fox is feeling confident about its development, it might try a new drama Thursday at 9. With “CSI” weakened, and “Grey’s Anatomy” down markedly, now could be the time for Fox to attack on the night.
Given the success of “Hell’s Kitchen,” Fox could stick with reality on Thursdays at 9, possibly slotting “The Fatchelor” in that slot. However, given advertisers’ love for scripted, Fox would make more ad money if it had a successful scripted show on the high-profile evening.
That’s why moving “House” to the night could make a lot of economic sense. But would Fox really want to move the show again?
And, shading all speculation about Fox’s shifts: The network has said it wants to continue to offer solid lead-in support to nascent hits “Fringe” and “Lie to Me.”
Two shows are already said to be assured spots on Fox’s fall lineup: “Glee” and “Cleveland.” The latter will almost certainly go on Sunday nights; the former could fit on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights.
The network has picked up drama “Human Target,” an action-oriented hour that would seem to fit well with “House on Mondays, assuming Fox decides to launch the show in the fall.
It could also make some noise on Thursdays, capturing the male viewers who’ve abandoned “CSI” in recent months.
Fox has ordered comedy “Sons of Tucson,” but given the difficulty the network has faced with half-hours, it might make sense for the network to hold that show for midseason.