Fox summons 'The Exorcist' to dispel the ghost of 'Idol' in Fall 2016

Facing its first post-"American Ido"l season in a decade, Fox goes heavy on midseason shows, including a horror remake and Lethal Weapon

"It’s been a great year at Fox," noted Gary Newman, Chairman & CEO, Fox Television Group, during a conference call prior to the official unveiling to advertisers on Monday (he may have had his fingers crossed during this proclamation).

Fox, the No. 4 network, faces an immediate and very public uphill battle in 2016-17. For the first time in a decade, Fox won’t have "American Idol" arriving in midseason (or at all, for that matter). Even a deteriorating "Idol" rated well above most of the network’s other fare, so it makes perfect sense to take a particularly aggressive stance in midseason with eight new shows (including revival "24: Legacy," which will debut out of "The Super Bowl"). But, Earth to Fox: what about the fall lineup?

Mirroring NBC, Fox — potentially overconfident —  will only introduce only three new series this fall: dramas "Lethal Weapon" and "The Exorcist," which are based on the theatricals of the same name, and animated/live action comedy hybrid "Son of Zorn." Four shows ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "New Girl," "Rosewood" and "Bones") are moving to new time periods. The changes will impact five nights of the week (Monday and Saturday remain unchanged).

Read: NBC announces only three new series for fall 2016

The new shows in midseason are dramas "24: Legacy," "APB," "Star," "Pitch" and "Shots Fired"; comedies "The Mick" and "Making History"; and non-scripted "Kicking & Screaming." See the grid below for the fall and midseason schedules, followed by the new fall show descriptions. 

"This fall, Fox will be the most stable it has been in four years with a returning show on every night of the week," Newman continued on Monday’s call. What he failed to mention, of course, is that most of Fox’s returning series are generating very little interest. Don’t expect that to change next season.

Part of Fox’s strategy will be to continue to break up "Empire" and "Gotham" into two mini-seasons, despite the damage that approach seems to have done to to the shows’ ratings last season. Instead of making the wiser decision to move "Empire" into the Wednesday 8 p.m. hour, where it could have been used to support a new drama at 9 p.m. ("Star" from "Empire" creator Lee Daniels would be an obvious choice), Fox will risk losing more "Empire" viewers to sandwich "Star" in between the two half seasons. Why not learn from past mistakes?

A better option would have been to invest in more original episodes of "Empire" and let it run continuously. And a smarter overall strategy this fall would have been to architect a schedule chock full of new programs instead of pretending that everything smells like roses. When you’re down, the path to improvement must include a new breed of potential hits.

Instead, Fox is simply rearranging the low-rated programming deck chairs this fall, including shifting "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" on Tuesday into "New Girl" and moving sophomore "Rosewood" to Thursday, claiming the "Empire" audience on Wednesday will follow present lead-in "Rosewood" to Thursday. Oh really?

"Gotham," unfortunately, is no longer capable of anchoring Monday; "Hell’s Kitchen," with Gordon Ramsay on Friday, is nothing more than time-period filler; and those animated Sunday staples "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" are just plain exhausted. While I will give Fox a thumbs up for at least trying to offer a new drama on Friday care of "The Exorcist" (science fiction on that night has worked for Fox in the past), I have to call the network out for simply standing on the sidelines this fall in favor of a more potentially competitive schedule in midseason (where it can use the upcoming "Super Bowl") as a promotional platform.

As the broadcast networks continue to stress the importance of programming all 12 months, they need to be equally aggressive throughout the year. And that is not the case for Fox…or NBC.

What follows is Fox’s primetime schedule this fall (with the new shows in bold), followed by the midseason line-up:

Monday
8:00 p.m. "Gotham"
9:00 p.m. "Lucifer"

Tuesday
8:00 p.m. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (new time)
8:30 p.m. "New Girl" (new time)
9:00 p.m. "Scream Queens"

Wednesday
8:00 p.m. "Lethal Weapon"
9:00 p.m. "Empire"

Thursday
8:00 p.m. "Rosewood" (new day)
9:00 p.m. "Bones" (new time)

Friday
8:00 p.m. "Hell’s Kitchen"
9:00 p.m. "The Exorcist"

Saturday
8:00 p.m. Fox Sports Saturday

Sunday
7:00 p.m. NFL on Fox
7:30 p.m. The OT / "Bob’s Burgers"
8:00 p.m. "The Simpsons"
8:30 p.m. "Son of Zorn"
9:00 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30 p.m. "The Last Man on Earth"

What follows is Fox’s primetime schedule in midseason, followed by new series descriptions for this fall:

Monday
8:00 p.m. "24: Legacy" / "Gotham" (spring)
9:00 p.m. "APB" / "Lucifer" (spring)

Tuesday
8:00 p.m. "New Girl" / "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (spring)
8:30 p.m. "The Mick"
9:00 p.m. "Kicking & Screaming" / "Pitch" (spring)

Wednesday
8:00 p.m. "Lethal Weapon" / "SHOTS FIRED" (spring)
9:00 p.m. "Star" / "Empire" (spring)

Thursday
8:00 p.m. "Rosewood"
9:00 p.m. "Prison Break" (return)

Friday
8:00 p.m. "Masterchef Junior"
9:00 p.m. "Sleepy Hollow"

Saturday
8:00 p.m. Fox Sports Saturday

Sunday
7:00 p.m. Animation encores
7:30 p.m. "Bob’s Burgers"
8:00 p.m. "The Simpsons"
8:30 p.m. "Making History"
9:00 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30 p.m. "The Last Man on Earth"


New Program Descriptions

Comedy

"Son of Zorn"
Studio: 20
th Century Fox TV
Team: Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Reed Agnew, Eli Jorne
Logline: Upon arriving home for the first time in 10 years, Zorn finds that reconnecting with his live-action son, Alan, and ex-wife, Edie, while suffering through a mundane office job and the banality of suburban life, is harder than waging actual war in his distant, mystical homeland of Zephria.
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Johnny Pemberton, Cheryl Hines


Dramas

"The Exorcist"
Studio: 20th Century Fox TV/Morgan Creek Productions
Team: Jeremy Slater, James Robinson, David Robinson, Barbara Wall, Rolin Jones, Rupert Wyatt
Logline: More than four decades after the Academy Award-nominated film, "The Exorcist" returns in series format as a psychological thriller following two very different priests tackling one family’s case of horrifying demonic possession.
Cast: Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Geena Davis, Brianne Howey, Hannah Kasulka, Kurt Egyiawan

"Lethal Weapon"
Studio: Warner Bros TV/Lin Pictures/Good Session Productions
Team:  Matt Miller, Dan Lin, McG, Jennifer Gwartz
Logline: "Lethal Weapon" rides along with classic cop duo Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh as they work a crime-ridden beat in modern-day Los Angeles.
Cast: Clayne Crawford, Damon Wayans Sr., Keesha Sharp, Jordana Brewster, Kevin Rahm

 

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