Take Me To The Upfronts: Fox

In All, Television by David

Welcome back Take Me To The Upfronts. I have already talked about ABC’s,  CBS’, and The CW’s offerings, and now I am ready to take a look at Fox. Also, before we start, you can still see my thoughts on the pilots that vied for spots this season here and here. Let’s get to it.

Hey, Fox is trying again!

Fox’s Complete 2016-17 Fall Schedule

8 p.m. — Gotham
9 p.m.  — Lucifer

8 p.m. — New Girl
8:30 p.m. — Brooklyn Nine-Nine
9 p.m. — Scream Queens

9 p.m.  — Empire

8 p.m. — Rosewood
9 p.m. — THE PITCH

8 p.m. — Hell’s Kitchen

7:30 p.m. — Fox College Football

7 p.m.  — NFL on Fox
7:30 p.m. — Bob’s Burgers
8 p.m. — The Simpsons
8:30 p.m. — SON OF ZORN
9 p.m. — Family Guy
9:30 p.m. — Last Man on Earth

Fox’s Complete 2016-17 Midseason Schedule

8 p.m. — 24: LEGACY / Gotham (spring)
9 p.m.  — APB / Lucifer (spring)

8 p.m. — New Girl / Brooklyn Nine-Nine (spring)
8:30 p.m. — The Mick

8 p.m. — LETHAL WEAPON / SHOTS FIRED (spring)
9 p.m.  — STAR / Empire (spring)

8 p.m. — Rosewood
9 p.m. — Bones

8 p.m. — Masterchef Junior
9 p.m. — Sleepy Hollow

7:30 p.m. — Fox Sports Saturday

7 p.m.  — animation encores
7:30 p.m. — Bob’s Burgers
8 p.m. — The Simpsons
8:30 p.m. — MAKING HISTORY
9 p.m. — Family Guy
9:30 p.m. — Last Man on Earth

Initial Analysis:

  • Oh boy! Fox has been a punching bag for me lately, because the network has made less than stellar decisions the past couple of years as it has tried to transition from being the network that had American Idol. At one point Fox basically decided to do away with its pilot season entirely, and, well, that decision is one of the reasons why Kevin Reilly is no longer running Fox (though he moved to TNT, so he’s doing fine). Of course, what’s funny is that Reilly’s process led to Gotham and Empire, which are basically the backbone of the entire network now, so it’s not like he was entirely wrong. Then again, it also led to Red Band Society and Hieroglyph (which managed to get canceled before it aired, but not until after a portion of the show had been shot, so it was a colossal waste of money on all counts). Now Fox is back to embracing the pilot season, because the network has so many holes to fill that it has to try something. The number of new shows Fox is going to try out this year is pretty amazing, as is the fact that unlike most networks, Fox actually announced its midseason schedule rather than leaving the shows in scheduling limbo. This is likely because most of Fox’s new shows aren’t actually airing until the midseason, presumably to avoid dealing with the hiatus the network has to take to show the MLB Playoffs, and also to allow some of Fox’s older shows like Bones to end their runs. Fox needed to show off its midseason schedule or else it couldn’t really promote any of its new shows. It remains to be seen how well any of them will work for Fox, but at least the network is actually going for it this year, which is especially important since Empire, while still popular, was not quite the ratings monster in its second season as it was in its first, meaning it probably can’t carry the network the way it once looked like it could.

Decisions that made me happy and/or excited:

Fox Going All In On New Shows and Shorter Seasons

  • So yeah, the CW thought it was being cute, but Fox one-upped them completely. Fox is premiering nine shows midseason, and has really embraced the idea of giving shows runs of 10-13 episodes instead of 21-24, or at the very least in the case of Lucifer and Empire, tweaked the episode orders so that other shows can also run at times in the same time slot. Fox is clearly throwing everything it can at a dartboard and hoping something will stick, which normally I am not a fan of, but in Fox’s case, well, things can’t get really worse for Fox, so there is no reason the network shouldn’t just go for broke. With 12 new shows overall, if Fox can even get four to stick, the network will have done pretty well, but honestly there is a chance even more could work out. Fox did a really good job pairing its new shows with things that give the shows their best chance to succeed, with the exception of the odd Hell’s Kitchen and The Exorcist pairing, which still works because The Exorcist is protected by airing on Fridays, where expectations are much lower. (Hey, at least this will lead to some devilishly bad “next up” announcer puns. – Ed) Fox has been in need of a reboot for its network for quite some time, and it looks like now that American Idol is truly gone, they’re finally willing to do what it takes to rebuild. It’s bold, and something Fox used to do all the time, so it’s nice to see the network going back to its roots and taking the necessary steps to climb its way out of the deep hole Fox has been digging for years.

Picking Up The Pitch

I’ll admit this may be my most anticipated show for the upcoming season.

  • I don’t know if this show really fits on Fox, but I am glad the network was willing to take a chance on a show that could actually expand its brand. The Pitch pairs well with the great relationship Fox has with the MLB, and is a story that could appeal to a wide audience as it explores the idea of the first woman to play in one of the big four sports leagues. I talked a bit about this in my pilot piece, but it helps that this show seems aware of all of the steps it would require for such an event to happen, and is not running away from them. This will make the show feel much more realistic and have a good chance of connecting well with the audience. The Pitch is a show that Fox might have been hesitant to pick up in the past, but now the network is in a position to take risks without worrying too much about the consequences of failure, so it is good the network was willing to, uh, swing for the fences. Fox also showed some foresight by changing The Pitch‘s place on the schedule. Originally, this was set to air on Tuesday in the midseason, which would have actually been a solid night to be fair, but now the show is being moved up to Thursday in the fall. This makes a lot of sense because it will allow the show to synergize much better with the MLB playoffs, and build buzz for a show that is mostly generating a positive response. This is the type of show Fox could really use as a building block going forward, so it is good that Fox is taking the steps to help it succeed.

Fox Learning Lessons From Empire

  • When Empire became the smash hit, I was interested to see how networks would react to that. The 2015-2016 pilot season was already too far into development to see any real impacts from a creative perspective, but it did lead to Fox doing a much better job with diversity in its casting. So this season was always going to be a much better look at Empire‘s impact. Luckily, it seems that Fox at least somewhat got it. First, it picked up another Lee Daniels show, Star, which looks to draw on the same diverse creative spark from Empire, but from a different perspective. The Pitch feels infused with the hip hop energy of Empire while also looking like it is willing to delve into both race and gender issues. Shots Fired may just be a mini-series, but it looks to be an event series that could really delve into the issues of mistrust occurring right now between African Americans and the police (or be a complete disaster if it misses the point entirely, but the trailer seems to suggest the creators have enough of a handle on things that the show only needs to worry about being good). Even the new 24 looks ready to come at things from a different perspective, and in general the network has continued to cast its shows in a way that reflects how America actually looks. Sure, there are still things like APB, which looks too much like the story of a rich white man who is going to fix crime amongst the minorities, or everything wrong with Sleepy Hollow, but at least Fox actually learned the right lessons from Empire and is willing to continue to try and make shows that appeal to a diverse set of television viewers.

Decisions that made me sad and/or confused:

Renewing Sleepy Hollow

We are all just as befuddled as you are, Ichabod.

  • Just… everything about this is wrong. I can think of few shows that have ever been as mishandled as Sleepy Hollow. Admittedly, it probably didn’t help that the show had three different creative voices in three seasons and none of them seemed to agree on anything (other than that Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane is cool). This show went off the rails creatively in season two and never really recovered, but that could be forgiven. If it was simply a bad show, it wouldn’t really matter, bad shows air all the time. But no, this is a show that alienated one of its two main stars in Nicole Beharie, as the second and third season showrunners kept treating her like she was not as important as Tom Mison. It’s a show that pretended to kill off her character in the midseason finale of season three before bringing her back and then actually killing her during season three’s finale. (Oh right, spoilers. Except fuck that, this show gets no spoiler protection.) The stupidity of this decision was immense, especially because Sleepy Hollow wasn’t even guaranteed to be picked up, so if it had been canceled the show would have killed off Abbie Mills for literally no reason as a ridiculous hail mary to get picked up for another season. This almost happened with Castle as well, but thankfully ABC realized that that show was dead, and canceled it before the creators could do anything too stupid. What makes all of this worse is that Beharie’s death wasn’t even a good death. She basically dies saying that her purpose was to make Crane a better person and a hero and more nonsense like that, so she in facts gets fridged so that Crane can have more character development. Making matters worse is that the show actually ended at a point that, purely from a writing perspective, could lead to a lot of fun in the fourth season, but the show doesn’t deserve viewers because no one involved deserves to be trusted to make any kind of good writing decision going forward. Everything about this is dumb. This show should no longer exist, and everyone involved should feel bad.

Making History‘s Terrible Trailer

  • There was no pilot that I was more excited about than Making History. Sure, it was just a description, but that description sounded like something really unique. Instead what we get is something that looks generic as hell, and utilizes the most juvenile humor ever. Adam Pally plays a character who goes back in time to, of course, get a girlfriend and be cool, because why the hell not. Speaking of said girlfriend, the fact that Leighton Meester is stuck playing a girlfriend role instead of being on a more equal footing with the other characters is ridiculously disappointing. Admittedly, her character looks like she could be a lot of fun, especially during the scene in which she reveals that she made the main character a bear hat out of a real bear that she killed, but still she gives off way too much of a love interest, “I’m not a real character” vibe. The jokes seem really obvious and this comedy feels way too broad, when it could have been a hell of a lot more clever. Now, this is just a trailer, and really it is my own fault for having too high of expectations for something that was merely a concept, but if this show ends up being live action Family Guy with time travel I will be so disappointed. This is why, even when I have yelled at networks for picking up or not picking up a pilot, I have tried to be somewhat understanding, because who is to say if a pilot is actually any good? Good concepts can be undone by bad creative people, and I worry in this case that, while Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s involvement may have gotten this show picked up, actual showrunner Julius Sharp is not ready to make this actually good. I hope I am wrong, but I am very befuddled about what to think about this show now.

Fox Dwelling Too Much On Its Past

  • As thrilled as I was to see Fox trying so many new shows, I was dismayed at the network being afraid to make a clean break from its past. Everything with 24 was done and the show should have been left to rest, but the network couldn’t resist doing a soft reboot with 24: Legacy. Though at least the new 24 is going to embark on new stories with new characters, which is better than Prison Break, which is being brought back for a fifth season even though the show was not nearly beloved enough to justify this. Admittedly, part of me may just be mad that this show’s return may have led to what happened with Wentworth Miller on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (which is spoilery as hell, so I am not going to link it), but also this just seems so pointless. I understand where Fox is coming from, I really do. With so many new shows, it can make sense to go with things that are more familiar. It is probably for similar reasons that Fox went with Lethal Weapon and The Exorcist, as both have name recognition from movie franchises, but man, this feels like such a step back for a network that is otherwise really trying to take new steps forward and recreate its brand. This all started with the X-Files reboot, whose success only made going back to the network’s past seem all the more appealing, but X-Files had been gone for almost a decade and a half, and thus had been building desire for a return for years. This is not the case with either Prison Break or 24. There just feels like a danger here that, instead of trying to embrace the new, Fox will simply keep mining its past. Next season the network could simply look like it did in the mid 2000s, but without American Idol there to hold everything together, which would be a real shame after Fox really seemed to be ready to try something new.

Failed Pilots:



Pilots I Wished Would Have Been Picked Up: Umm, nothing really, because Fox basically picked so many shows that everything left must really be trash, but I guess Chad: An American Boy would have at least been interesting to have on TV.

Overall Thoughts:

  • This could be a make or break year for Fox, as the network looks to finally make some real changes with its schedule. How many of these new shows succeed could really decide how Fox moves forward in years to come. Last pilot season, Fox picked quite a few conventional shows with minor twists, but this year the network seems to be trying to find a unique voice that they haven’t had in quite some time. It’s a shame that the network couldn’t make room for another season of either The Grinder or Grandfathered, especially with things like Sleepy Hollow returning, but the network at least seemed to pick up any pilot that looked to have a chance to be successful. Fox still seems a bit lost in terms of what it thinks will actually work, but at least the network feels more focused. Sure, they are throwing darts at a board, but they are at least throwing darts with purpose, as opposed to throwing them aimlessly. This puts Fox in a far better position than it has been in for quite some time, and sets up the network to finally build upon its success with Empire and become a real force once again. At the same time, it is possible every one of these new shows could fail miserably, and that Fox will be in even more chaos next year than it was before, but at least Fox is interesting again, which is more than could be said for last year.

That’s it for Fox. In the final installment of this series, we have NBC. After years of steering into icebergs, NBC finally seems to have righted the ship. Does this trend continue this upcoming season or has the peacock network regressed to its old self? Find out when we return.