Today’s FOX executive conference call, as part of the FOX Upfront presentation for advertisers beginning at 4 pm this afternoon in New York City, didn’t offer any huge announcements regading the shows we cover here at the blog, but there were a couple of small, but significant changes.
FOX Chairman, Kevin Reilly, would not confirm recent reports that all 4 American Idol judges are leaving the show, other than the departure we already knew about—Randy Jackson. But when asked if there would be a return to a 3 judge panel next year he answered, “Likely”! That’s a good start, isn’t it? Work on format changes will begin once the season ends this week. He refused to blame the judges for the show’s ratings woes, but did point to the extended middle rounds as a culprit. Expect tweaks to the format to be announced at a later date. No word on whether Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Wawick will continue to produce the show.
FOX is not ready to announce who will join Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato on the X Factor judges panel, but Reilly assured reporters that announcements will be coming soon.
Glee will premiere in the fall after the X Factor results show, as it did last season. However, it will take an extended break in the spring to make room for Rake, a new legal drama starring Greg Kinnear. Glee will eventually return to the schedule and finish its season into the summer months.
This is very similar to the schedule Glee followed its first season. Reilly didn’t reveal any specifics about how the extended school year will play out. He confirmed that the current McKinley High class WILL graduate. I wonder if Nationals/Graduation will take place in the fall, with a time jump to the next school year occurring after the spring hiatus?
At any rate, Reilly promised that both X Factor and Glee will run with fewer interruptions this fall. You all probably remember that baseball/elections really messed with the scheduling–particularly with X Factor–last year. Reilly promises a cleaner run for both.
The goal for FOX in the 2013-2014 season is to run “virtual year round programming.” Shows will premier and “stagger throughout the year” according to Reilly. The proliferation of delayed viewing and VOD platforms such as Hulu has FOX rethinking traditional scheduling techniques.
Here are some highlights from today’s conference call:
Will Idol be back to 3 judges next season? “Likely,” revealed Reilly.
Is it confirmed that the 4 current American Idol judges will not be coming back? To what extent did the judging panel had anything to do with the ratings this year? “It’s confirmed that one judge is not coming back, Obviously Randy. It’s not a complete shock. We’ve talked to Randy about things and it feels like it was time to move. We didn’t know the exact timing of it. He’s been a great partner for 12 years. There’s not an ounce of ill will there either way. [On the judges contributing to the ratings downward spiral] I really can’t comment on that. I think there is a confluence of things …I think even more so than any other one factor is…the age of the show. But I think maybe the format this year–we expanded some of the middle rounds. We did a boy/girl thing that went over 3 weeks. That is really where the ratings kind of took their biggest hit so if I were really to point to any one thing, it might have been that format. The only thing I will confirm is next year that we will be, without getting into any specifics–our next season begins on Friday morning after our finale. And that’s when we’re really going to go to work in earnest. Because I think the format, more than anything, will have a few fresh twists next year that we already identified that I think will really be a nice little jolt for next season.”
Would the other 3 judges be welcome back, or is that still an open decision? “Welcome back? Absolutely. But everything at this point is on the table and we’ll talk about it starting Friday.”
With the 2 season pickup of Glee, is FOX marching towards an end? “I don’t know about marching towards an end. I would say we have two more seasons and that speaks to the confidence of the show and how important it is to us and our belief in Ryan (Murphy, executive producer) so we’re going to take it 2 seasons at a time. But there will be progression in the story. I think that will be the fun thing for the fans. It’s not going to be a static 2 seasons. We’re going to continue with graduation. When the show was really at its height, there were crossover fans. But I think when we got down to the core fans, this season–and the show’s been very steady all year, and a really solid performer–the core fans were really really happy with what happened on there this year creatively. We want to lock those in and keep them engaged with new things. New York was a really great addition to the show this. There’s going to be graduations, there’s going to be taking New York to the next step on that adventure. And then some interesting little mini-arcs like we’ve done with some of our guest actors.” FOX is not ready to announce guest actors yet.
Fall schedule details. X Factor will once again air Wednesday/Thursday in the fall: ” X Factor is going to be a very important part of the schedule. They did a 3.6 rating last year. It was a top 15 show. I’m really looking for that again [to] really help hold us together and perform. I don’t have any new judges to talk about…but we will shortly given that we’re going to be on the road in a couple of weeks to start the next season.”
“Rake will go over to Thursdays. Historically on Glee we’ve split up the order in the past and launched it twice. What we’re going to do is come out with a fall season of Glee. Put it on hiatus for a little bit and give Rake a tryout, then Glee will be back in the spring, Relaunch it with a creative twist in terms of where we’re going with the creative evolving, and that will play right into the summer as it has done once before.”
On Glee/Rake scheduling. Glee got bounced around a little this year by baseball and supersized X factor/Idol episodes. Will the Thursday shows stay at one hour to help Glee/Rake have a more sustained run? “That was some of the particulars of this year that made it really hard, when you factor in the election and everything. We will have some baseball pre-emption once again. X Factor and Glee will get out of the gate two weeks early. So we’ll get a run before we get a couple of baseball preemptions. But then we will be uninterrupted in the fall. When we come back, the goal is is to be uninterrupted when Glee comes back in, playing straight through the summer. More than anything, in this day and age, having preemptions, having to go off the air for a batch of repeats, I think it’s probably…one of the top challenges we have. It’s too much bookkeeping for the audience. A young audience like Glee, that has not been a good thing for the show.” Reilly promises that The X Factor run will be “clean” this fall, without the constant interruption of last season.
FYI: A new special event series of 24 consisting of 12 episodes will debut in early May and run through the summer. 24: Live Another Day will have a 12 episode run. How will the continuity work? “If you were to design the season, the spine of the 24 episodes was really about 12 hours. Those were when the big events occurred, and then there were little twists and connective tissue in between…take the best of the 12…and go in chronological order of the day. But it will skip hours. It will be dictated by the plot.” A who’s who of Hollywood are lining up, willing to participate, says Reilly.