Upfronts Week — Fox's Fall Schedule
We've arrived at Upfronts Week, a time when networks unveil their new shows and fall schedules. The week kicked off with NBC's presentation and now we move on to FOX, the network with arguably the most work to do.
Best Scheduling Move:
I'll be honest, I don't love FOX's fall schedule, nor do I totally see the wisdom in it. But if I was going to give out kuddos, I guess it would have to be the decision to move "Empire" forward an hour, and hope to use its audience as the rising tide that lifts all ships. The first ship to experience the presumed lift is "Star," the clone from "Empire" creator Lee Daniels that tried to fill the "Empire" void in the winter and didn't quite achieve its goal. Still, the move makes some sense for a couple reasons. First, "Empire" is the best thing that FOX has currently. "Empire" may have seen its ratings really drop off in season three, and it's possible the show is running out of gas, but it's still by far and away the highest rated show on the network, so use it to your advantage to build a strong night. Second, scheduling it with "Star" feels like creating a night of compatible programming that could help generate a ratings boost.
Most Curious Scheduling Move:
While I'm willing to give the "Empire" move the benefit of the doubt, it's the move of another series entering year four that has me scratching my head as "Gotham" moves to anchor Thursday nights. "Gotham" was one of the hottest new shows three years ago, but it never really found the audience or traction that some expected. In fact, it's struggled in the ratings. But, at FOX, it can join the club. Still, it makes little sense to shift it to Thursday nights away from the Monday home it's occupied for three seasons. Thursdays are a premier night for networks, and with "Will & Grace" jump starting Must See TV for NBC, "Grey's Anatomy" holding it down on ABC and "The Big Bang Theory" as a ratings giant on CBS, Thursdays at 8 p.m. are a crowded lineup. In addition, in the fall, CBS and then NBC offer the NFL. So that's a big ratings draw right there to compete against. While shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Will & Grace" have a demographic that help them line up well against the NFL, "Gotham's" core audience would seem to be all too similar as the NFL, meaning ratings will likely take a hit in the fall. That won't help the new sci-fi series "The Orville," either. In fact, seeing the trailers and tones of the show, I wish FOX had paired "The Orville" with "Lucifer," which is lighter in tone, and paired "The Gifted," a more somber series, with the darkly somber "Gotham." But we get what we get...
Most Promising New Show:
Like NBC, FOX is launching just three new shows this fall. The safest money bet is "The Gifted," which is a Marvel series tapping the "X-Men" universe. It will probably be a success, and was a smart pick up from FOX even if it does feel a bit like "Heroes." But for the purposes of this piece, my pick is "The Orville." I know, I'm surprised, too. This live-action comedy from Seth Macfarlane ("Family Guy") is not a conventional choice. But maybe that's why I was drawn to it. It feels like something completely different and, the trailer is hilarious. I was a fan of Macfarlane's live-action films, and this send up of "Star Trek" feels like the kind of show that could be a welcome addition to the TV landscape. My only reservation is its time slot, Thursdays at 9 p.m. I wish it and "The Gifted" had their time slots switched. Still, if this show can live up to its trailer and potential, this could be one of the gifts of the new fall season.
Least Promising New Show:
Again, only three choices here and, honest, none of them feels like a guaranteed home run. But FOX had one of my favorite pilots from the 2016-2017 season, "Pitch," and that show flamed out, too. So you never know. But I'm targeting "Ghosted" here. FOX has really struggled to find comedies that work. "The Mick" got a second season, and "Last Man on Earth" is still limping along, but for the most part the last four years haven't been kind to FOX comedy production. I like Adam Scott and Craig Robinson, but this looks like a stretch. And wedged into Sunday nights between "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," I have trouble seeing how this fits. None of the FOX shows look truly terrible, but this looks like the one of the three most likely to miss the mark.