Fox: ‘Glee’-fully Building on Its Success

STRATEGY: Executives say they’re using “laser-like” focus to place new bets that will be launched with the help of strong lead-ins and compatible programming blocks.

Pitching itself as “aggressive challenger” rather than “complacent top dog,” as Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly put it during the top-rated network’s upfront presentation, Fox unveiled seven new series for the 2010-11 TV season. The new-season slate features a push behind new hit Glee that includes a post-Super Bowl slot in its sophomore season, and a move this fall to the 8 p.m. anchor position for a night of comedy on Tuesday.

The Glee-anchored Tuesday lineup, with new comedies Raising Hope and Running Wilde, “is the best lineup we’ve had in a long time to be a platform for new comedies,” Reilly told reporters on a press call. “I love the night. I think it’s our chance to turn the lights on again in live-action comedy.”

The network also slated a shift for American Idol to 90-minute performance shows on Tuesday and paring results shows on Wednesday down to 30 minutes. Idol, of course, remains the top-rated show in TV but has seen ratings declines of late—a fact Reilly addressed head-on in the Fox upfront with a joke that he would like to age so well.

Fox also faces the task of mounting Idol next season without judge Simon Cowell, who is segueing to Fox’s X Factor. The new season of Idol will start shooting in September, Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment at Fox Networks, said on the call. “There’s no bigger question for the summer that we’re going to have than replacing Simon Cowell,” Rice told reporters.

According to Reilly, it was not Fox’s strategy to spend more on development net-net this year; rather, the network shifted things around, going more “lean” on the drama side with three new drama series, while it “beefed up” on comedy, where there are four new series this season. The budget shifting also allowed for a big swing on highconcept midseason entry Terra Nova, a prehistoric-set drama from Steven Spielberg, Peter Chernin, Brannon Braga and David Fury, which does not yet have a premiere date.

Reilly said that Bones and Fringe will come back on Thursday in the same place as this season, marking the first time that night has come back completely intact. He added that the overall stability of the schedule, protecting shows with strong lead-ins and compatible lineups, will best position Fox to market its lineup. “Nothing is hanging out there on its own,” he said.

The two new comedies that will follow Glee on Tuesday are Raising Hope, about an unlikely new father, from writer-executive producer Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl), at 9 p.m.; and at 9:30, Running Wilde, the new romantic comedy starring Will Arnett and Keri Russell, from Arrested Development’s Jim Vallely, Mitch Hurwitz and Arnett.

After Glee airs following Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, it will make its spring premiere on Wednesday following American Idol, a time slot Reilly says will likely become Glee’s home.

The other two new comedies, animated series Bob’s Burgers and live-action Mixed Signals, will air in 2011. One of the new dramas, Lonestar, will debut this fall on Monday at 9 following House. Lonestar, set against the backdrop of big Texas oil, is from Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, writer Kyle Killen and director Marc Webb. It stars newcomer James Wolk as a brilliant schemer.

The other two dramas, set to debut next year, are Ride-Along, from creator Shawn Ryan, and Terra Nova. Ride-Along is slated to take Lonestar’s slot after that show runs uninterrupted. It is shot entirely on location in Chicago.

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