Upfront Navigator: FOX: Seeking Series to Bolster Fridays And Avoid Q4 Slump

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Fox’s biggest objectives going into this year’s upfront are bolstering the baseball-battered entertainment series on its fall schedule and coming up with the right Friday programming, particularly comedies.

Fox’s schedule over the past few years has taken the network’s executives on a bit of a roller coaster ride.

New series tend to struggle in the fall as they face postseason baseball pre-emptions. As a result, Fox usually lands in fourth place among its broadcast competitors in adults 18 to 49 through the end of December.

Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for Horizon Media, calls this end-of-the-year slump Fox’s “Achilles’ heel of a horrible fourth quarter.”

But Fox’s fortunes changed dramatically in January with the addition of new seasons of “American Idol” and “24.”

For the 2005-06 TV season, Fox made headway in the fall, thanks to the success of sophomore drama “House,” the early launch of “Prison Break” and the success of “Bones.”

The network already has picked up several dramatic thrillers or procedurals within the same vein as “24,” “House,” “Prison Break” and “Bones.” On tap are: 20th Century Fox-produced dramas “Vanished” and “Primary,” plus producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s “American Crime.”

With “Idol” and “24” off the schedule in the fall, the network’s early drama pickups could cover those openings. The lingering question is what the network’s executives plan to do about their biggest challenge over the past few seasons: Fridays.

This season Fox scheduled Fridays at 8 p.m. with comedy “Malcolm in the Middle,” which is ending its run, followed by “The Bernie Mac Show,” which is on the bubble but could be back for 13 additional episodes.

Stalwart “That ’70s Show” is also retiring, leaving Fox with few comedies other than its Sunday block of animated series and a likely return for rookie live-action “The War at Home.”

That helps explain the network’s early series pickup of the sitcom “‘Til Death,” which stars “Everybody Loves Raymond” alumnus Brad Garrett.

One comedy getting buzz is 20th Century Fox’s blog-inspired sports comedy “The Twelfth Man,” said Carolyn Finger, VP of media firm TVTracker.com.

Fox’s early pick of multicamera comedy “‘Til Death” is a bit of a counterintuitive choice, according to Bob Gersh, a partner and founder of The Gersh Agency.

This year network executives are showing renewed interest in the single-camera format. Single-camera comedies are shot like traditional dramas and do not employ simultaneous-camera editing or studio audiences.

“It would be sort of ironic if the ones getting the most buzz are the four-camera shows,” Mr. Gersh said.

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