Fox Broadcasting’s independent inquiry is still looking into allegations that “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul had an inappropriate relationship with a contestant on the hit musical reality series, said Peter Liguori, who addressed the issue during his first appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles as the network’s president of entertainment.
“Any allegations against this show we take quite seriously,” Mr. Liguori said. “We want to make sure there is a thorough inquiry into the allegations made on ABC.”
But he refused to say whether Ms. Abdul would be removed if former “Idol” contestant Corey Clark’s allegations were found to be true.
“I don’t want to speculate,” he said. “I want to focus everyone in the room on the credibility of the process.”
The unnamed independent investigator heading the probe is not under pressure to finish before “Idol” begins auditions Aug. 18 in San Francisco, Mr. Liguori said.
In other news from TCA:
Fox will focus marketing dollars this fall on “Prison Break,” which will air seven original episodes before the return of postseason Major League Baseball in October, Mr. Liguori said. In addition, at least four episodes of “The O.C.” and the new drama “Reunion” will air before baseball returns.
“All of those serialized dramas will have a good solid cliffhanger” before baseball pre-emptions take them off the air for at least two weeks, Mr. Liguori said.
Fox announced a deal with Imagine Television to produce the reality series “XQuest,” in which two teams of contestants will live in “biocrafts” that will mimic life in a spaceship and cut off contestants from contact with Earth for an entire month. The series, which is slated for summer 2006, will be produced by Base Camp Films, Jim Banister of Spectrum MediaWorks and Alexander Seropian, the executive producer of the video game “Halo.” An episode count for “XQuest” has not been confirmed.
Ashton Kutcher will appear in four episodes of “That ’70s Show” this fall. Josh Meyers (“MadTV”) joins the cast as a series regular.
Despite tabloid reports to the contrary, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie will return for another cycle of “The Simple Life.”
“Both will be ready for work,” Mr. Liguori said.
ABC declined to identify which new shows will be the focus of its marketing. ABC targets just a few shows for the bulk of its preseason promotion. Last fall ABC focused on “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Wife Swap.” All three shows saw ratings success.
The promotional dry cleaning bags from last year’s “Housewives” campaign will return this year, and in some unnamed cities “Housewives” shirts will be given out.
Critics challenged the voting process for the summer reality hit “Dancing With the Stars” and the selection of Kelly Monaco, a star on the ABC soap “General Hospital” as overall winner. The network denied favoring ABC stars, and said that its talent will be considered for the show’s second installment, scheduled for midseason.
Criticism from advocacy groups of the summer reality series “Welcome to the Neighborhood” was not a factor in ABC’s decision to pull the show less than two weeks before its premiere date, the network said. “Neighborhood,” which followed a group of white Christian families as they selected new neighbors, , was heavily promoted until the show was pulled.
NBC is developing another show with “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf, but not under the signature series’ franchise. NBC is shooting the pilot on the set of the canceled “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.” It explores the world of assistant district attorneys.
In his TCA appearance, Mr. Wolf said the series would be “much more a character-driven show, with closed-ended episodes.”
He chastised critics for not reporting “the financial aspects of how successful the brand is” and pointed out how valuable “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” is versus the critically acclaimed and widely covered “Alias” on ABC.
“‘Alias’ sold three weeks ago for $175,000 an episode,” he said. “‘Criminal Intent’ sold for 1,100 percent more. OK, do the math.” (For the math-challenged, that’s $2.1 million per episode. The actual price was just under $2 million.)
NBC has already made a fall schedule change. “Three Wishes” will premiere at 9 p.m. (ET) Friday and “Dateline” will return to 8 p.m.
Emmy winner Paul Haggis is writing, directing and executive producing the midseason drama “The Black Donnellys,” which profiles four young Irish brothers involved in organized crime in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.
In October the dramas “Crossing Jordan” and “Las Vegas” will coordinate on a second crossover episode.