Fox’s presentation at the Television Critics Association tour was a relentless barrage of positivity—certainly not unusual for what is, essentially, a week dedicated to doling out spin for the people most immune to its powers. But in Fox’s case, it was a bit of a course correction: So much of the news has been dominated lately by behind-the-scenes fighting and hilariously pissy Ryan Murphy quotes that network president Kevin Reilly was forced to remain relentlessly upbeat, even at the cost of appearing self-delusional. “I hope are shows are really the headlines this year,” Reilly said up front, which is adorable. Because no one writes “Fox Show Enjoyed By All” headlines. They write headlines about actors quitting and Ryan Murphy angering people. But like that song from that show, don’t stop believin’.
As to the recent “controversy” surrounding Murphy announcing that three of his top Glee stars would be leaving at the end of this season, then those stars saying that it was sort of news to them, then the network denying that they were leaving and that maybe they were also getting their own spin-off, and then everyone saying that sounds ridiculous—well, Reilly wasn’t much clearer than the everyday back-and-forth has been. He did say that there is no “genuine” infighting, only that which has been inflated by the sneaky media posting verbatim quotes from people who work on the show which suggest that, internally, they are having disagreements. And he also didn’t rule out this rumored spinoff featuring the graduating Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith, saying it was still “in the wind,” potentially wafting up again toward the end of the season.
Meanwhile, he attempted to concentrate only on this year, which he avowed would be “back to basics,” whatever that means in the context of Glee. He also said that when they heard some of the script pitches, his fellow Fox employees had to “fight back tears”—which, again, just the pitches. We can only assume that this season will involve lots of murdered puppies. Of course, take all of this with a big grain of salt, as Reilly claims he actually also “saw fans with their knees quivering” because they were so excited to see that Glee: Live But Not Really Concert 3-D Thing, which suggests Reilly is incredibly sensitive and, quite possibly, a highly evolved empath. You should also probably understand that, in the assessment of our increasingly exhausted and potentially rapidly aging TCA correspondent Todd VanDerWerff, Reilly’s giant heart means he pretty much just accepts whatever Ryan Murphy says, including believing that Murphy’s commitment to the very ambitious FX drama American Horror Story won’t overly distract him from his Glee duties.
Anyway, did you know that sometimes Fox runs other shows besides Glee? It’s true, and in addition to its usual American Idol juggernaut in the spring, Reilly is really counting on Idol’s complement/bitter rival The X Factor as well as the broadcast of the American League Championship Series to help it win the fall, thus making Fox “really, really difficult for the other guys to reckon with.” That supreme confidence extends to Reilly’s belief that they are also a growing force in comedy, thanks to shows like Raising Hope and Zooey Deschanel Seems Like The Kind Of Girl Who Might Date You If You Got The Chance To Know Her (though he pointedly neglected to say anything about the reportedly terrible I Hate My Teenage Daughter). He also bragged a bit about Fox’s “distinct brand” and its taste for “adventurous shows,” which he brought up while talking about Bones, a procedural in which two hot detective-types bicker for a while and then eventually have sex.
But Fox does have some actual, more recognizably defined “adventurous” series coming—specifically the long-delayed, Steven Spielberg-produced, dinosaurs-and-time-travel series Terra Nova, which Reilly believes is going to be really big just as soon as they get all the effects done to where they no longer resemble, in his words, “hand puppets.” And he followed up the recent announcement about Seth MacFarlane’s Cosmos update by acknowledging that it’s also something of a gamble, but one that could potentially pay off in every way except ratings, perhaps even with a possible feature film component. Reilly is also looking ahead to Little In Common, the previously reported comedy from Party Down creator Rob Thomas about the parents of little leaguers. Provided it hasn’t already been canceled by the end of this sentence, it could have a potential place in a four-comedy bloc that may or may not also include a back-from-the-dead revival of the Christian Slater sitcom Breaking In, about which Reilly said, “Stranger things have happened,” because that is the frustrating, noncommittal way that TV presidents talk.
Finally, Reilly added that he’s happy with Fringe’s Friday night audience, so that’s reassuring, and remains proud that the success of its bigger, dumber shows means he continue supporting smaller, better shows like Fringe. But he sounded less confident about House, saying that they likely would decide in the fall whether to make this the last season. Oh, and the long-dead game show Million Dollar Money Drop is still dead. Unless maybe Ryan Murphy says it’s not, we guess.