Hi, folks. Thanks for coming back for part two of this very special feature on FOX where Blossom ponders losing her virginity, yet again. No, no, no, obviously we’re going to talk about FOX’s recent surprising schedule moves and what we think is going on over there. Yesterday, of course, we reported on the renewal of Bob’s Burgers for a second season and left our readers with a cliffhanger as to the significance of this renewal for the network as a whole and why we are actually pleased about the renewal despite that we don’t like the show. So now it’s time to explain why and we’ll bring you back to when we fist heard about FOX moving Fringe to Friday nights.
As noted by our two pieces on Fringe‘s move to Friday (here and here) we’ve been very critical of FOX’s history of jumping ship on shows (especially new shows) that have had a run of, not even horrible, but average to mediocre ratings. Seriously, c’mon, FOX… Seinfeld wasn’t immediately a hit. It wasn’t even in the top 30 for its first three seasons and in its fourth season it was #25.
Anyway, in these pieces, we also expressed our skepticism with FOX’s stated commitment in the past to fan-favorite shows and of course this directly related to their campaign in January expressing the same commitment to Fringe. But, then, a few weeks ago, Virginia found out that there is indeed a Santa Claus and the announcement was made that Fringe not only had been renewed for a fourth season, but it was given a full season order… in March. We speculated as to why this occurred as EVERYONE, including us, assumed that after the ratings decline, the move to Friday and of course, FOX’s history, this show was destined for Cancellationville.
And of course, there is American Dad, a show that FOX execs have not historically supported and have been trying to replace for years and it got renewed for a seventh season… in February, again with a full season order of 22 episodes, no less.
When we heard the announcement about Fringe, we speculated as to the many reasons it may have been spared cancellation but came to the conclusion that we really didn’t care, we were just happy that the show was saved. But now, we’re hearing that FOX is on the verge of losing House, as well.
The network remains in last-minute negotiations with Universal Media Studios, which owns the series, in hopes of signing a new deal for an eighth season. The two sides are far apart in determining the percentage each will pay for the show’s costs.
UMS, owned by NBCUniversal, has given Fox an extension on the window of negotiation exclusivity. That ends Friday. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, UMS will offer the show to competing networks including, of course, the Peacock, which would likely be more than happy to take the series away from Fox.
So thanks to all of these developments, we’ve been dragged into the speculation game and we’re guessing that there are several issues at play here:
First, FOX has some serious issues with original scripted program scheduling coming this Fall and this is just based on what we know. Four new shows from 2010 – 2011 have already been canceled (Running Wilde, The Good Guys, Sons of Tuscon and Lone Star) and Traffic Light is certain to be canceled by May 16th. So, that’s five down right there (and chances for The Chicago Code being renewed for a second season seem to be getting slimmer by the day) and Human Target and Lie To Me are more likely to be cancelled than not. Add to that the fact that as of this posting FOX hasn’t been able to come to a deal to keep the perennial hits Bones and (as earlier noted) House (the deadline for a deal for House was last Friday), the network faces potentially being down nine scripted programs from 2010 – 2011 (Even though we are still trying to forget about Sons of Tuscon as if it never existed, and of course we aren’t counting 24 which was at the end of its run).
And here’s the thing about House: Universal may not come to a deal intentionally and may just turn House over to NBC who is desperate for a strong scripted drama, or strong scripted anything at this point. Whereas FOX axed four of their new shows (with a fifth coming for sure), NBC has axed five of their new shows with at least a sixth certain to be on the way out the door (Sorry, but as much as The Event has improved by following what we suggested it needed to do, it was too little, too late…so, adiós!). Let’s also not forget Chuck, which is on its way out the door as well. It’s so bad at NBC that less-than-positive performers such as Law & Order: Los Angeles and Harry’s Law are almost guaranteed to be renewed because, well, frankly, theyz gots nothin’ else and they certainly don’t have American Idol or Simon Cowell’s new series, The X-Factor, that is destined to be a ratings juggernaut, so at the end of the day, NBC is in way worse shape than FOX. So, here’s our bold prediction: House will be on NBC come Fall 2011 and a deal with Bones (in desperation) will be made and it will return to FOX.
But the effects of losing House on FOX will be devastating and even if they keep Bones, that show has seen a sharp decline in ratings over the past two season which means there will be only one truly strong live-action veteran scripted show and that would be Glee. Can FOX really be comfortable going into the new Fall season with the The Animation Domination Block, Glee, The X-Factor and American Idol being the only programming that is guaranteed to be stable? We don’t think they possibly could be satisfied with that situation.
So taking this a step further, based on what we know for sure about the Fall schedule and the three shows that were renewed – not only unexpectedly but early, as well – (Fringe, American Dad and now Bob’s Burgers), here’s what we think is going on and it crossed our minds when we first heard about Fringe‘s renewal: FOX is not just uncomfortable with the new scripted programing they have ordered for Fall 2011, they’re downright nervous and they expected to have had more success with their new shows from 2010 – 2011. They also certainly didn’t expect the possibility of looking at Fall 2011 with no House and to a lesser extent no Bones.
This brings us to the Stephen Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment produced, epic Sci-Fi series, Terra Nova, which as we noted when we reported Fringe‘s renewal, has been delayed yet again and is set to debut in Fall 2011. There are some serious issues with Terra Nova that we think FOX is starting to get as concerned about as we are. First, the delays are insane and we are not confident at all that it will debut in the Fall as promised. Second, Terra Nova may be the most expensive show in history with the first two episodes alone costing $16 million and whereas the average episode of scripted drama costs $2.5 million, Terra Nova per episode cost will come in at $4 million and the show is rife with rumors of cost overruns although the producers deny this.
Third, this is the biggest risk that FOX has ever taken on any series, nevertheless a Sci-Fi series, in an era where epic Sci-Fi is DEAD on network television. And we’re sure that it doesn’t help when veteran television Sci-Fi writer and producer Brannon Braga (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise) who is exec. producing/writing Terra Nova is doing the “pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain” Great and Powerful Oz routine denying the fact that it is indeed a Sci-Fi series when you’d have to be blind not to see it:
But it’s not a sci-fi show.
“It’s really about this frontier family trying to survive,”
Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization.
No, there’s absolutely nothing Sci-Fi about that premise at all. It’s just like Little House on the Prairie… but with time travel… and dinosaurs… and automatic weapons… with lasers.
So, if we go with the premise that FOX isn’t really sure whether or not Terra Nova is going to actually debut on the Fall 2011 schedule as planned and it finally occurred to them that this kind of Sci-Fi is highly questionable for network television and of course there’s the issue of the costs involved, we can come to only one conclusion: FOX is worried that they aren’t going to have much going on this Fall, Monday through Friday, other than Glee and The X-Factor and they’ve decided that keeping some of these shows that have established, stabilized audiences even though they’ve seen ratings drops, may be their only option. For goodness’ sake, and we cannot stress this enough, they saved three shows that everyone expected to be canceled, and again, this is FOX we’re talking about.
We alluded to this theory yesterday, in part one, our commentary on the Bob’s Burgers renewal:
We think FOX is starting to realize that it may be better for them to deal with the devil that they know as opposed to the one they don’t…
So, that’s where we think all of this is going and in our opinion, this is nothing but a positive turn of events. FOX has lived very well over the past decade with their scripted programming, reality program and sports. If new show, “A” didn’t work out as well or as quickly as they had hoped, they’d just dump it and replace it with new show “B” and if that didn’t work out they’d replace it with show “C” and so on and they’d usually find gold eventually. But let’s be honest about this; the crop of decent scripted shows out there over the past couple of years on ALL of the networks has been thin to say the least. So considering the lack of quality, sustainable shows, all the losses in shows that they’ve had in the past year, the possible losses of their perennial hits to other networks, and a questionable Fall 2011 lineup, it appears that FOX execs have been forced to put on the big boy pants and change their strategy so that they have something that’s at least slightly stable in their lineup, and will actually work to build up those shows by subsidizing them with their juggernauts, particularly American Idol and The X-Factor.
Now, although FOX may not be particularly happy about taking this approach (because of course, everyone likes the quick and easy buck), all of these developments and this new approach is nothing but positive for viewers and fans of the many quality scripted programs that FOX does have to offer, but probably wouldn’t have been given an opportunity like this if this was, oh, say, two or three years ago. Heck, we suspect that if Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles were in its second season in 2011 instead of in 2009, it already would have been renewed for a third season by now.
And this is EXACTLY why we are so happy about Bob’s Burgers being picked up for a second season (as much as we dislike it) because it’s show number four that was not only renewed by FOX but picked up early when no one expected it to be. This in turn gives up hope for the remaining three likely to be canceled shows, Lie to Me, Human Target and The Chicago Code. We can almost guarantee that FOX will not cancel all three of these shows, in fact, they may only cancel one of them but we are going to go with the premise, based on everything we’ve laid out over the past two days that they will keep at least one of them and we think it will be a toss-up between Lie to Me and Human Target.
Don’t get us wrong, we love The Chicago Code and we don’t particularly like the clichéd and predictable Lie to Me but we have to be objective about this. If FOX or any other network is going to pick up an underperforming show to keep for another season, they are going to pick one that has an established audience for at least a couple of seasons over a mid-season replacement that hasn’t been able to find any stability with their audience. The fact that The Chicago Code is a serial doesn’t help its chances of gaining a stable audience a season later, either. Now, obviously, Bob’s Burgers doesn’t have a multiple-season established audience BUT it did have the highest ratings of any new show premiere of the season and its audience numbers, though not great, have stabilized and it does have very strong lead-ins and lead-outs with The Simpsons and Family Guy, respectively, whereas The Chicago Code dos not.
So there you have it. Our wild speculation on why the big change in strategy at FOX. You can take it for what it’s worth, and call us crazy but do the research for yourself and see if you come to any other conclusions because we’d love to hear your take. Remember folks, May 16th is the big day for FOX. That’s when we find out who’s going and who’s staying.