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Fox: Post-Idol Premieres and Program Farewells

Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori said Tuesday that, if and when the network re-enters the late-night arena, it will do so very carefully.

“It is highly unlikely that we, all of a sudden, come out with a big announcement, a big proclamation, a big piece of talent, and do what has been done in the past,” he told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Fox is looking to get back into the late-night wars after its December hiring of former Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn executive producer Todd Yasui as senior VP, late night programming.

But Liguori said the network will proceed with extreme caution.

“Once we find someone we want to do a show with, or find a show we want to put in late night, [we’ll] launch it in a more measured fashion, maybe in a protected time period, late night Saturday night or Friday,” he said.

The Yasui hiring marked the second time in recent years that Fox has looked at a late-night talk show, after the network in 2002 went after NBC’s Conan O’Brien, who subsequently decided to stay with NBC.

Liguori also answered several questions about Arrested Development, the critically acclaimed but ratings-starved comedy that is on its last legs on the network.

“I have to be frank with you, it is highly unlikely the show is coming back, but no definitive final answer has been made,” Liguori said.

While Liguori said moving the show to sister cable network FX is something they “have though about,” he insisted it wouldn't make economic sense. But he thinks the rumored move to Showtime (ABC is also said to be interested) could possibly work.

“I know nothing about those negotiations,” he said.“From a numbers standpoint, if Showtime were able to migrate the absolute numbers Arrested gets on Fox to Showtime, that would be by far and away its No. 1 show.”

Among other news from Liguori’s session with reporters Tuesday:

Fox will use the Wednesday American Idol results show to launch two new series in March. Free Ride premieres Wednesday, March 1, after Idol, then moves to its regular Sunday at 9:30 slot on March 12. The Loop premieres Wednesday, March 15, after Idol, then moves to its regular Thursday at 8:30 slot March 16.

The network has yet to schedule what will permanently get the plush post-Idol results-show time slot beginning March 22, but Liguori said some reality ideas currently in development are possibilities.

That ’70s Show will air its 200th and final episode Thursday, May 18.

Malcolm in the Middle will close its seventh and final season Sunday, May 14.

The network is still considering whether or not to bring back King of the Hill. If it returns, it would be for January 2007.