News Corp. wasted no time naming a successor to Fox Broadcasting Entertainment President Gail Berman, who resigned March 21 for a top creative slot with Paramount Pictures. Three days later, FX Networks CEO Peter Liguori was named to the post, putting him in a tight spot because he has to pull together next season's schedule in time for Fox's May 19 upfront presentation in New York.
The good news, says Liguori, is that the slate of more than two dozen pilots ordered by Berman and her development team looks strong. “I respect that team a lot, and what Gail has put in place,” Liguori says. “We'll make a decision together.”
Liguori's successor has not been announced yet, but sources inside Fox say the leading candidate is the network's head of development, John Landgraf. FX is in good shape creatively; Liguori has recently ordered two dramas and two comedies.
Don't expect any quick changes in strategy over at Fox, Liguori says. He plans to take his time settling into the new gig. “I've got to spend a lot of time listening to the good team over there before I start talking on that front.”
His mission is to develop hit programs capable of pulling in strong ratings even when American Idol isn't on the air. (Until Idol returned in January, Fox was in fourth place among 18-49s this season.) Plus, Fox's schedule was heavy on reality shows, many of which bombed.
Liguori is known to be a stickler for quality in programming. He focuses on every aspect of production—from concept to casting, writing and direction. His biggest successes at FX have been The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me, and there's already buzz about the network's next big drama, Steven Bochco's Over There, the first series about the war in Iraq.
Liguori's entrance, coupled with Berman's ambitious plans for next season's dramas and comedies, may be a sign that Fox has had its fill of sensational reality shows.
When the current season ends in May, thanks mostly to the Idol factor, Fox may claim its first ratings victory among 18-49s.
Beyond Idol, the Fox shows that endured have an original premise and distinctive voice—from The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle to 24 and The O.C.
Look for Liguori to launch programming in that same vein.