With the previously announced demise of singing competition series “The X Factor,” Fox had some rebuilding to do for its fall 2014 schedule.
The network’s big swings are “Batman” prequel “Gotham” and the introduction of a new reality competition, “Utopia.” In addition, Fox announced plans Monday to add live-action comedies to its all-animation Sunday night comedy block, including returning comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly noted that some of Fox’s biggest live-action hits first aired on Sunday – “Married … With Children,” “Malcolm in the Middle” – and called the insertion of live-action shows in what’s known as the Animation Domination comedy block a return to the network’s roots.
“The animation business is something we’ve had a monopoly on for our entire run, and these are incredibly potent and culturally impactful and profitable shows for us, and we’ll remain in that business for as long as we’re in business,” Mr. Reilly said. But he said live-action comedies, especially new series, need bolstering by being surrounded by established comedy series. “I just couldn’t face it again having them exposed without some protection.”
After several years of trying to jump-start a two-hour comedy block on Tuesday, Fox will retreat to a single hour.
“We got strategic this year and put good shows where they have some protection,” Mr. Reilly said.
As for “Gotham,” which stands to be the summer’s most talked about new fall show, Mr. Reilly sought to differentiate it from last year’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC, which ultimately did not live up to its hype creatively or in the ratings.
“When you get these franchises with some built-in profiles and anticipation, the burden of that can be that the anticipation and the build-up can exceed the delivery,” he said. “This is conjecture on my part, but I think they struggled to find their creative footing in [‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’], and also those weren’t the actual franchise characters. With ‘Gotham,’ a real selling point is these are the actual series, franchise characters. … So I am feeling very good about where we are with ‘Gotham.’”
Fox canceled first-year series “Almost Human,” “Rake,” “Dads,” “Enlisted,” “Surviving Dad” and established series “Raising Hope” and “The X Factor.”
Here's Fox's fall schedule, with new series in bold:
7 p.m.: “NFL on Fox.”
7:30 p.m.: “The OT”/“Bob’s Burgers.”
8 p.m.: “The Simpsons.”
8:30 p.m.: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
9 p.m.: “Family Guy.”
9:30 p.m.: “Mulaney”: John Mulaney (“Saturday Night Live”) plays a version of himself, a rising comic who takes a job as a writer for an obnoxious game show host (Martin Short) in this single-camera comedy.
8 p.m.: “Gotham”: A prequel to the Batman story, this drama tells the early-years stories of familiar Gotham City denizens, including Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, “Southland”), Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Camren Bicondova) and Oswald Cobble/The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor).
9 p.m.: “Sleepy Hollow.”
8 p.m.: “Utopia”: Based on a Dutch reality show, “Utopia” puts 15 Americans in an isolated, undeveloped location for an entire year where they have to build their own civilization.
9 p.m.: “New Girl.”
9:30 p.m.: “The Mindy Project.”
8 p.m.: “Hell’s Kitchen.”
9 p.m.: “The Red Band Society”: Fox returns to the teen drama well for this story of young patients who become friends while in the pediatric ward of a Los Angeles hospital, told from the point of view of a comatose 12-year-old narrator. Octavia Spencer (“The Help”) stars as a nurse, and Dave Annable (“Brothers & Sisters”) is one of the doctors.
8 p.m.: “Bones.”
9 p.m.: “Gracepoint”: A 10-episode, close-ended remake of BBC America’s “Broadchurch” with British actor David Tennant essentially reprising his role as a detective investigating a small-town murder. Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”) plays the local cop passed over for the top job Tennant’s character lands. This version of the story will have a different resolution from the original British series.
8 p.m.: “Masterchef Junior.”
9 p.m.: “Utopia”: A second original episode of the new reality competition will air through at least the first six weeks of the TV season.
7-10:30 p.m.: “Fox Sports Saturday: Fox College Football.”
Midseason on Fox
As usual, “American Idol” will be back for its 14th season, but given its declining ratings and cultural currency, Fox will shake up its format. Instead of about 50 hours of “Idol,” Fox will air about 37 hours. Mr. Reilly said the two-night-per-week air format will likely change after the audition rounds to once-per-week, two-hour episodes.
Fox executives are still tweaking format plans for “Idol” and did not announce a specific midseason schedule as they have in recent years.
The final season of “Glee” and the third season of “The Following” will air on Fox in 2015 along with the event series “Wayward Pines” (sort of a modern “Twin Peaks” from M. Night Shyamalan).
New midseason dramas include:
“Backstrom”: Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) stars as Everett Backstrom, an offensive but effective crime-solving cop.
“Empire”: Hip-hop music impresario Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and his three sons and ex-wife (Taraji P. Henson) all want to inherit his music business in this drama from Oscar nominee Lee Daniels (“Precious”).
“Hieroglyph”: Set in ancient Egypt, this series follows a master thief (Max Brown) as he tracks down a scroll for Pharaoh Shai Kanakht (Reece Ritchie).
New midseason comedies include:
“The Last Man on Earth”: Will Forte (“Saturday Night Live”) teams with the producers of “The Lego Movie” for this single-camera comedy about Phil Miller (Mr. Forte), who in 2022 may be the last living human on the planet.
“Weird Loners”: Becki Newton (“Ugly Betty”) and Zachary Knighton (“Happy Endings”) are among the underdog 30-somethings living in the same Queens, N.Y., townhouse.
“Bordertown”: An animated comedy about two families – one Caucasian, one Hispanic – who live in a Southwest desert town along the U.S.-Mexico border
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.