STRATEGY: Looking for Empire to produce bank notes, and male stars to drive laughs on Tuesday.
For Fox, a network long associated with the power of music to produce ratings, the message at last Mondays’ upfront seemed to be all about encores—the continued success of its already massive Empire, and a final curtain call for legendary but long-lagging American Idol.
“We do think [Empire] can continue to grow,” said COO Joe Earley, prior to Monday’s upfront at the Beacon Theatre, and the network, not taking any chances, will return Empire to its schedule this fall. Adding to the series’ punch and profitability, pop star Ne-Yo has committed to creating original music. The hit will keep its Wednesdays at 9 p.m. time slot, airing behind the very fortunate rookie crime drama Rosewood.
In addition, Fox will mix things up on five nights, including a completely revamped Tuesday slate.
The net will trade female-skewing comedies New Girl and The Mindy Project on Tuesdays for male-skewing sitcoms in Rob Lowe’s The Grinder and John Stamos’ Grandfathered during the 8 p.m. hour. Ryan Murphy’s horror-comedy Scream Queens will follow at 9 p.m. Fox Television Group cochair/CEO Dana Walden excitedly reported Murphy’s description of his series as “Heathers meets Friday the 13th.”
Batman prequel Gotham will get a new Monday companion with rookie drama Minority Report, while Sleepy Hollow moves to Thursday, airing behind Bones. MasterChef Junior will return to Fridays where it will air with World’s Funniest. Fox’s Sunday lineup remains unchanged with The Simpsons, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Family Guy, Last Man on Earth and Bob’s Burgers.
For midseason, American Idol returns for its 15th and final season; Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. will be back as judges. Fox said it is planning a season-long celebration of the show, which reset the TV ratings landscape before running out of steam.
Gary Newman, cochairman/CEO of the Fox Television Group, said execs “didn’t really think about” alternatives to pulling the plug. “We all just decided it was the right time to end it,” he said, his matter-of-fact tone an anticlimax to years of tabloid-worthy drama surrounding the show.
The network’s much-anticipated six-episode revival of The X-Files will launch out of January’s NFC championship game, before filling Gotham’s time slot during its midseason break beginning Monday, Jan. 25. It’s a nice bit of irony that Walden said execs know very little about the X-Files reentry.
New series being held until midseason include dramas The Frankenstein Code and Lucifer, as well as comedies Bordertown and Guide to Surviving Life, which will air alongside New Girl beginning in January. As previously announced, Fox will air a live production of Grease on Sunday, Jan. 31.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg— who will host this year’s Emmy’s—made an appearance, and kept to the musical theme in some of his comments.
“When Fox first asked if I would [host the Emmys], I said yes on one condition: That I also get to perform at this year’s upfront,” he said. “And so here I now stand on the same stage as countless Rob Thomas concerts. A dream realized.” —with Dade Hayes and Jon Lafayette