Fox: '24' Ways to RetoolWith Comedy, Spectacle - Broadcasting & Cable

Fox: '24' Ways to RetoolWith Comedy, Spectacle

Network spends big on five new comedies and four dramas, revives its ticking-clock smash
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Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2013

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Click here to view the fall primetime schedule grid.

Click here to view pilot clips and trailers from the networks' new shows.

STRATEGY: With its stalwarts showing fatigue, Fox opens wallet for five new comedies and four new dramas and expects revival of 24 as a 12-episode event series to cap a comeback year.

If at first you don't succeed, try comedy again. After getting results with only part of its big comedy push in 2012- 13 (which followed a similar emphasis the previous year) and suffering a year of ratings slippage, Fox is ushering five new comedies into its 2013- 14 lineup, continuing its four-comedy block on Tuesdays and awarding New Girl and a comedy to be named later the coveted slot after Super Bowl XLVIII in February.

Those new shows, along with four diverse dramas, comprise an originals push that is the priciest in the network's history. Monday (drama) and Tuesday (comedy) are shaping up as the most pivotal nights.

"This was not our best year," Fox Entertainment Group president Kevin Reilly told ad buyers at the network's May 13 upfront presentation. "But I am confident we will be back at No. 1 this season."

Along with comedies on Tuesdaysâ€"where the Parks & Recreation-pedigreed Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the Seth MacFarlane-produced Dads get launchedâ€"Fox is putting drama chips down on Mondays. The night, fortified with breakout The Following this season, will add the J.J. Abrams sci-fi/cop hybrid Almost Human as well as timetraveling mystery Sleepy Hollow, from Star Trek/Transformers screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

Reilly noted the net "will play with order patterns," citing the reduced, 15-episode order for The Following, which broke out to become 2012-13's most-watched new show. "There's no magic number," Reilly said. "Shows will premiere and be staggered throughout the year."

Fox also pointed to multiplatform adoption, touting The Following's time-shifting strength, which reached a peak with 80% of viewing occurring outside its Monday time slot. "We're really going to try to break out of the confines of the traditional broadcast season," Reilly said.

Broadcast nets still have unmatched reach, Reilly argued, noting The Following has racked up 17 million viewers across all platforms, better than all basic cable series save AMC's The Walking Dead. "We live by a different standard," Reilly said. "We cancel shows that most cable networks would declare a success and would live with."

Taking new risks is important. But as any touring band knows, it's also important to play the hits. So Fox believes the timing is right to embark on a 12-episode revival of its Bush-era staple 24, compressed into an "event series" next May with Keifer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer. Another event series from M. Night Shyamalan called Wayward Pines stars Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent unraveling a mystery in an Idaho town. Even without action footage of 24, the mere glimpse of the title on the screen and producer Howard Gordon describing the comeback drew a hearty cheer from Fox's upfront audience.

On Thursdays, Greg Kinnear toplines Rake, a characterdriven drama based on an Australian series, from exec producers including Rescue Me's Peter Tolan. Rake will take over for Glee at midseason. Fridays in the fall will see pint-sized chefs compete in a new reality series with the working title Junior MasterChef. At midseason, long-runner Bones will shift to Friday, along with returning comedy Raising Hope and new single-camera comedy Enlisted from Kevin Biegel (CougarTown, Scrubs).

Wednesdays and Sundays remain intact as showcases for The X Factor/American Idol and a signature animation block, respectively. Idol backstage-watching continues due to the 12-year-old warhorse's double-digit ratings plunge this season. At a press briefing, Reilly would only acknowledge Randy Jackson is leaving, though rumors swirl around the other judges. The net's focus will be on retooling the show's format, Reilly said. Still, a dollop of Idol intrigue leaked into Fox's otherwise watertight presentation. Introducing the reality talent roster, Reilly seemed surprised when Simon Cowell turned to ex-Idol mate Ryan Seacrest and jabbed, "Where's Randy?" Seacrest fired back, "Ask Kevin." Reilly shrugged and said, "Oh, Simon. Always taking the risk."

E-mail comments to dhayes@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @dadehayes

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