Fox is a network of considerable strengths—assorted singing competitions, New Girl in the fall, Glee at one time—and a network of considerable weak spots that make it more vulnerable than it’s been at any time in its last several years. X Factor didn’t perform nearly as well as it might have. New Girl slowly lost much of its audience thanks to erratic scheduling. Glee very nearly freefell in the ratings, before hitting a plateau several levels below where it was even just last fall. The network has been unable to launch new dramas to save its life, and it’s now lost House, a longtime stalwart that was once one of the strongest shows on TV.
Fox finds itself in the very strange position of being a network that’s undeniably strong, but largely thanks to a few pieces that could sink the network if they start to fade. The fact that American Idol seems to finally be beginning what will be a long slide down the Nielsen curve is likely giving the network pause, and the fact that it sunk so much money into X Factor and Terra Nova for so little return probably isn’t helping either. It’s a network at a crossroads, and the 2012-13 season should reveal if the network will be strong for another five years or will soon be entering panic mode.
The schedule announced today makes some interesting moves, including one that seems likely to doom Glee, a show that’s only four years old. Yet the network—like everybody else—is betting big on comedy, and that’s probably a smart bet. The big question for Fox: Are singing competitions over? Because if they are, X Factor, always the weakest rated, will probably be the first to go. And that would be borderline disastrous for the network.
Here’s the schedule. New shows are in bold. Night-by-night analysis follows afterward.
8 p.m.: Bones
9 p.m.: The Mob Doctor
9 p.m. midseason: The Following
8 p.m.: Raising Hope
8:30 p.m.: Ben And Kate
9 p.m.: New Girl
9:30 p.m.: The Mindy Project
8 p.m.: The X Factor
8 p.m. midseason: American Idol
8 p.m.: The X Factor
8 p.m. midseason: American Idol
9 p.m.: Glee
8 p.m.: Touch
9 p.m.: Fringe
7 p.m.: Fox Sports Saturday
7 p.m.: Football
7:30 p.m.: The OT
7:30 p.m. midseason: The Cleveland Show
8 p.m.: The Simpsons
8:30 p.m.: Bob's Burgers
9 p.m.: Family Guy
9:30 p.m.: American Dad
Not currently scheduled: Cops, The Goodwin Games, Hell's Kitchen
Now let’s go night by night and see what’s going on.
Bones has quietly become one of the network’s most consistent performers, the kind of show that can pop up anywhere on the schedule and draw a decent number. (For a while, Fox was threatening to move it to Fridays, a move it never accomplished.) The only question now is just how much life Bones has in it. It’s entering its eighth season in the fall, and shows that old become more and more expensive. As the one drama on the Fox schedule that the network knows will draw an audience, it’s become incredibly valuable. But just how valuable is that?
The 9 p.m. hour is set aside for Fox’s two new dramas. Mob Doctor is exactly what it sounds like. It’s hard to imagine it taking the place of the grittier House, but if it’s as playful as it sounds, it could be a good match for Bones. The Following—a serialized serial killer drama from Vampire Diaries’ executive producer Kevin Williamson—is Fox’s big bet for the year in the drama field. Like many serialized shows this season, it’s being held for midseason and a shorter run that will play out straight through. It’s not a bad strategy, though it leaves the network in an interesting predicament if Mob Doctor somehow takes off.
If Raising Hope were stronger than it is, this would be some pretty smart scheduling. As it is, it mostly feels like the network trying to stretch out the goodwill it earned from New Girl and see if it can fill a whole night with it. Raising Hope is one of TV’s best comedies, but it’s simply not a self-starter, and even if its performance in the 8 p.m. hour wasn’t atrocious when Fox tried it out there, it still didn’t light the world on fire. Presumably, the network has lower expectations for Ben And Kate, a show about a brother and sister dynamic, than it does The Mindy Project, which gets the plumb post-New Girl slot. The big question at this point is if Fox will rerun New Girl over the summer. The audience eroded throughout the season, but that seems to have more to do with the network’s terrible scheduling than anything else. Summer reruns could be a good way to build that audience back up, especially if coupled with aggressive use of Hulu and other tools at the network’s disposal. If the network can get New Girl back to its fall level, it buys itself some breathing room. If it can’t, things get interesting.
Here’s where Fox prays that the soft numbers for all reality competition shows this season are just an anomaly and that the market hasn’t gotten saturated. Because if the audience really has turned on these sorts of shows, then having fully three hours dedicated to them every week of the TV season is going to become a problem very quickly.
The X Factor and Idol results shows stay put, but the network moves Glee out of its Tuesday home—where it was once one of TV’s most dominant shows—to a more protected timeslot, if one can call going up against the similarly female-skewing Grey’s Anatomy “more protected.” Now, Grey’s is long in the tooth, but it’s still TV’s number one drama with people under 50 (seriously!). What’s more, the ratings erosion for Glee this season is consistent with a show people are giving up on. It’s possible that Fox is just tossing Glee here to see if it can halt the skid. If it can, maybe it takes a chunk out of a vital competitor. If it can’t, well, at least it tried, right? We’re betting Glee lands in hot water and is yanked from the schedule, only to return to Tuesdays at some point.
The softly-rated Kiefer Sutherland drama Touch heads here, where it won’t be able to do much damage to the rest of the lineup. Fringe will play out its final 13 episodes in the same timeslot its occupied since midway through its third season. Now watch as Fringe’s ratings rise once it has an actually somewhat compatible lead-in.
Fox wants into the primetime sports game that’s been so profitable for ABC on this night. Could work.
There’s really not much to see here, aside from the fact that the network seems to have officially picked Bob’s Burgers as its Simpsons heir apparent. That’s a much better choice than The Cleveland Show, which seemed like it might be the one to beat for a while. It’s not immediately clear why Cleveland seemed to lose favor with the network so quickly. The numbers weren’t bad when it was in more protected timeslots, and Fox has a good relationship with Seth MacFarlane. Still, it has yet to be picked up for more episodes beyond its current order (though that order should keep it airing well into 2013 and possibly into 2014), which has to be concerning for those who work on it. The other animated shows all have episodes in the can, and we should know if the network wants more Bob’s by the end of summer (though it’s possible Fox will wait to see how it does in the fall before making that call).
And now, the network's press release copy about its new shows. Trailers will be uploaded later in the day, when available.
Ben And Kate: What happens when an exuberant, irresponsible dreamer who always says “yes” moves in with his overly responsible little sister to help raise her 5-year-old daughter? Ben And Kate, a new single-camera, young ensemble comedy, follows these odd-couple siblings as they push each other out of their comfort zones and into real life. Kate Fox (Dakota Johnson, The Social Network) followed the rules all her life… until she got pregnant in college and dropped out just shy of graduation. After the birth of her daughter, Maddie (Maggie Jones, We Bought a Zoo, Footloose), Kate put her 20s on hold. Now working as a bar manager to make ends meet and maximize her time with 5-year-old Maddie, she’s uber-prepared for every possible catastrophe—except for the arrival of her older brother, Ben Fox (Nat Faxon, Bad Teacher). Ben likes trouble a lot more than his sister does. His infectious energy makes you want to follow him into any number of bad ideas. He’ll totally screw up your life, but somehow, you’ll feel good about it. Where Kate is all about planning and preparing, Ben is big on spontaneity and out-of-the-box ideas. But don’t let the Velcro wallet fool you. He’ll probably be a millionaire someday. When Ben comes to crash on Kate’s couch for a few days, he finds a sad state of affairs. Kate’s surviving, but not living. Ben realizes that for the first time in their lives, Kate needs his help, and he’s determined to bring some much-needed chaos into her overly stable world. He starts by offering to help look after Maddie so Kate can get back to experiencing her mid-20s and making mistakes, since the one real mistake she’s made turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her. Always there to help with Ben’s crazy schemes is his partner-in-crime, Tommy (newcomer Echo Kellum), who worships Ben like a hero and nurses a serious crush on Kate. Kate’s British best friend, BJ (Lucy Punch, Bad Teacher), is a cocktail waitress at the bar that Kate manages and an all-around hot mess who would do anything for Kate, even if her advice is often questionable and occasionally illegal. From writer/executive producer Dana Fox (New Girl, What Happens in Vegas) and executive producer/director Jake Kasdan (New Girl, Bad Teacher), Ben And Kate is a heartwarming story of deeply mismatched siblings: a sister who needs to go for her dreams and a brother who needs to get his head out of the clouds.
The Mindy Project: The Mindy Project is a new single-camera comedy from Emmy Award-nominated writer/producer and New York Times best-selling author Mindy Kaling (The Office) that follows a woman who, despite having a successful career, desperately needs to break bad habits in her personal life. After all, how many doctors make inappropriate toasts at their ex-boyfriend’s wedding, nearly drown at the bottom of a stranger’s pool, and get arrested for disorderly conduct just moments before having to deliver a baby? Funny, impatient and politically incorrect, Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) can quote every romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan that exists. She loves the good ones and the bad ones, because the girl always gets the guy. Mindy is determined to be more punctual, spend less money, lose weight and read more books, all in pursuit of becoming a well-rounded perfect woman… who can meet and date the perfect guy. Mindy is a skilled OB/GYN and shares a practice with a few other doctors, none of whom make life any easier for her. Jeremy Reed (British writer/comedian Ed Weeks) is the walking definition of total bad news. He not only shares a practice with Mindy, but sometimes her bed as well, despite her best efforts to resist. He is funny, self-absorbed and super sexy. In contrast, Danny Castellano (Chris Messina, Damages) is a hothead and guys’ guy who has a habit of stealing Mindy’s patients. Danny criticizes her for everything, including her struggling love life and her lack of professionalism, even though it’s obvious to everyone except Mindy that he secretly admires her work. His blue-collar childhood gives him a big chip on his shoulder, but he is a dedicated physician, which Mindy can’t stand to admit because he’s always getting on her case. Rounding out the office staff are the receptionists—Betsy Putch (Zoe Jarman, Huge), young, earnest and easily excitable, who thinks the world of Mindy and is always trying to impress her; and Shauna DiCanio (newcomer Dana DeLorenzo), a self-assured Jersey Girl who is indifferent to Mindy, always knows where the cool party is, and carries a poorly concealed torch for Danny. Mindy is in constant communication with her beloved best friend from college, Gwen Grandy (Anna Camp, The Good Wife), who also happens to be the governor’s daughter. Gwen is a hilarious, sometimes too-blunt friend, and secretly a former carefree party girl (which only Mindy seems to remember). Although Gwen is now happily married to a financial analyst, with a 6-year-old daughter, this lawyer-turned-Pilates mom remains squarely in Mindy’s corner. As Mindy attempts to get her career off the ground and meet a guy who passes her red flag test (no drug habits, no skinny jeans and no secret families, among others), only time will tell if she gets her romantic comedy ending.
The Mob Doctor: For most physicians, the Hippocratic oath is sacred. But for one Chicago doctor, who is indebted to the mafia, saving lives isn’t her only concern. The Mob Doctor is a fast-paced medical drama featuring a brilliant young female cardiothoracic surgeon who is split between two distinct worlds as she juggles her promising medical career with her lifelong debt as a doctor to Chicago’s Southside mob. Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro, My Boys) is a top resident at Chicago’s Roosevelt Medical Center. Smart and self-assured, she’s heralded as one of the country’s most promising young surgeons. But family ties keep her glued to her Southside roots. To pay off her brother’s life-threatening gambling debt, she makes a deal with the devil and agrees to work off book for the mafia men she once despised. During the day, Grace must deal with the emotionally compelling cases at Roosevelt Medical—a toddler in need of a heart transplant, an elderly man desperate to donate a lung to his sick wife, the mass chaos in the wake of a two-train collision on the “L.” But in her other, vastly different world, she must juggle an onslaught of mob-related demands, including operating in mob-sanctioned locations, removing bullets from dead bodies to hide incriminating evidence, saving a juiced-up race horse and covertly helping an aging mobster with his erectile dysfunction. All the while, Grace must keep her dual life a secret from everyone: her protective best friend, Nurse Roberta Ro Angeli (Floriana Lima, Glory Daze); her handsome, blue-blooded boyfriend, Dr. Brett Robinson (Zach Gilford, Off The Map, Friday Night Lights); her boss at Roosevelt Medical and Chief of Surgery, Dr. Stafford White (Zeljko Ivanek, The Event, Damages); her rival, Dr. Olivia Watson (Jaime Lee Kirchner, Necessary Roughness, Mercy); even her well-meaning screw-up brother, Nte (Jesse Lee Soffer, As the World Turns), and her overly dramatic mother, Daniella (Wendy Makkena, NCIS). The only one who knows the true scope of Grace’s activities is the man to whom Grace owes her debt: the charming and diabolical Southside mob boss Constantine Alexander (William Forsythe, Boardwalk Empire), an oddly compassionate killer whose relationship with Grace is more than it seems. Recently released from prison, the former head of the Chicago mob looks to reclaim his place in the organization, with the help of his right-hand associate—and Grace’s ex-boyfriend—Franco (James Carpinello, The Good Wife). As Grace tries to heed the demands of these two conflicting worlds—not to mention the needs of her own slightly dysfunctional family—her moral center comes into direct conflict with the very immoral things she’s asked to do. But with nerves of steel and a tough-as-nails exterior, she somehow manages to make it all work—at least for now.
The Goodwin Games: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And when that will’s worth more than $20 million, you can bet someone’s going to find a way to get the cash. From the executive producers of How I Met Your Mother, The Goodwin Games is a single-camera comedy that tells the story of three grown siblings who return home after their father’s death, and unexpectedly find themselves poised to inherit a vast fortune—if they adhere to their late father’s wishes. If any of the Goodwin kids feel like they deserve the money, then it’s Henry (Scott Foley, Grey’s Anatomy, Felicity), the eldest child and an overachieving surgeon. He sees himself as a role model for his less successful siblings—and reminds them every chance he gets. Returning home will force Henry to question the choices he’s made, especially as he reconnects with his first love and true soulmate, Lucinda (Felisha Terrell, Days Of Our Lives). Middle sibling Chloe (Becki Newton, Ugly Betty) was a child prodigy in math, and her unofficial role as the smart one of the family still sends Henry into fits of jealousy. But long ago, Chloe gave up academics in favor of being the popular girl. Now, through a series of hidden messages, her late father will lead Chloe back to her old love of numbers—and back to the person she’s meant to be. Of the three siblings, the youngest, Jimmy (Jake Lacy, Better With You), could use the inheritance the most. A small-time ex-con and dull-witted guitarist who’s deep in debt to a loan shark, Jimmy may be the family screw-up, but he has more heart than anyone. Like his siblings, Jimmy’s also returning to something in this town: his 8-year-old daughter. Pulling the strings from beyond the grave is the children’s late father, Benjamin (guest star Beau Bridges, The Descendants), a college math professor. Guilty over not parenting his kids better, Benjamin has left behind a series of unique challenges—administered by his estate attorney APRIL (newcomer Melissa Tang). Through these tasks, Benjamin hopes he can get his children to rediscover their true selves and learn the lessons he failed to instill in them while he was alive. Their potential reward? More than $20 million—a fortune that they never knew their father had—and the chance to become the people their father wanted them to be. So let The Goodwin Games begin!
The Following: The FBI estimates there are currently over 300 active serial killers in the United States. What would happen if these killers had a way of communicating and connecting with each other? What if they were able to work together and form alliances across the country? What if one brilliant psychotic serial killer was able to bring them all together and activate a following? Welcome to The Following, the terrifying new thriller from creator/executive producer Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Dawson’s Creek, the Scream franchise). When notorious serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy, Rome) escapes from death row and embarks on a new killing spree, the FBI calls former agent Ryan Hardy (Emmy-nominated actor Kevin Bacon, X-Men: First Class) to consult on the case. Having since withdrawn from the public eye, Hardy was responsible for Carroll’s capture nine years ago, after Carroll murdered 14 female students on the Virginia college campus where he taught literature. Hardy is a walking textbook of all-things Carroll. He knows him better than anyone; he is perhaps Carroll’s only psychological and intellectual match. But the Ryan Hardy who broke the Carroll case years ago isn’t the same man today. Wounded both physically and mentally by his previous pursuit of this serial killer, it’s been a long time since Hardy has been in the field. This investigation is his redemption, his call to action. In contrast to nine years ago, Hardy isn’t calling the shots on this case. He works closely with an FBI team, which includes all-business and tough-as-nails Jennifer Mason (Jeananne Goossen, The Vow, Alcatraz) and young, razor-sharp Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men). The team considers Hardy to be more of a liability than an asset. But Hardy proves his worth when he uncovers that Carroll was covertly communicating with a network of killers in the outside world. It quickly becomes obvious that he has more planned than just a prison escape, and there’s no telling how many additional killers are out there. The FBI’s investigation leads Hardy to Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea, Justified), Carroll’s ex-wife and mother of the criminal’s 10-year-old son, Joey (newcomer Kyle Catlett). Close during Hardy’s initial investigation, Hardy turns to Claire for insight into Carroll’s next move. The tension rises when Carroll’s accomplices kidnap his intended last victim from nine years ago. Hardy becomes ever more determined to end Carroll’s game when he realizes that this psychopath intends to finish what he started. The thriller will follow Hardy and the FBI as they are challenged with the ever-growing web of murder around them, masterminded by the devious Carroll, who dreams of writing a novel with Hardy as his protagonist. The reinvigorated Hardy will get a second chance to capture Carroll, as he’s faced with not one but a cult of serial killers.