Until the debut of The WB and UPN (now The CW), FOX was the new kid on the block. And because they were the unproven fourth network, they had some catching up to do in order to be considered a real player.
Their strategy – target younger viewers (not quite The CW young) with edgy comedies like Married… With Children and The Simpsons and air shows featuring characters in their teens and twenties like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place. FOX also carved out a nice niche in the sci-fi game with a little show called The X-Files.
Now I wouldn’t say that those three genres still define the network, but I would say that the network’s early success in those areas still influences the types of shows we are seeing on FOX today (i.e. Family Guy, Glee, Sleepy Hollow).
Besides skewing young, like The CW, FOX also programs less primetime hours per week than CBS, NBC, or ABC, so the # of freshman series picked-up and cancelled is also less. Reality programs like American Idol and The X-Factor have also occupied a good chunk of the primetime schedule as has the MLB playoffs in the Fall, so even though the success rate for freshman series over the past four years has only been 33%, there hasn’t been too many holes in their schedule.
Here’s the year-by-year breakdown for all of you fellow TV nerds- 2010-2011: 37.50%, 2011-2012: 25%, 2012-2013: 50%, 2013-2014: 28.57%.
The Mindy Project
|Lone Star Running Wilde
The Chicago Code The Good Guys
Traffic Light Allen Gregory
The Finder I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Napoleon Dynamite Terra Nova
Alcatraz Ben and Kate
As you can see from the table above, and from what we’ve seen with the other networks, comedies can be a fickle thing. Nine didn’t lasted more than one season. On the flip side though, I’d argue that most of their renewed comedies have been pretty solid for FOX, either in ratings and/or critical adoration, so bonus points for sticking with shows people actually like and for cancelling Dads. (Sorry Enlisted fans, I know you’re still bummed.)
However, finding a new animated comedy to help sustain the Animation Domination block has proven to be even more difficult. In the last four years only a handful of animated comedies have made it to air and only Bob’s Burgers has survived. This year will actually mark the first year since 2007 that cartoons and live action comedies will coexist on Sunday nights. Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the new comedy Mulaney will air this Fall at 8:30pm and 9:30pm respectively.
Other freshman series renewals over the last four years included Touch, which starred Kiefer Sutherland a popular guy with FOX thanks to 24 (the gift that keeps on giving), Kevin Williamson’s The Following starring Kevin Bacon, and Sleepy Hollow, an unexpectedly fun sci-fi romp from a couple of guys with a seriously impressive list of TV and movie writing credits.
With only three one-hour “dramas” lasting more than one season, it’s clear that FOX has had an even more difficult time finding replacements for shows like House M.D. or suitable scheduling partners for shows like Bones. Despite the fact that they are both pretty damn procedural, they haven’t been easy to replicate. A good number of the shows in the cancelled list feature prickly protagonists, crime solving duos, or morally ambiguous situations.
And finding solid sci-fi programs hasn’t been a cakewalk either. For every Fringe and Sleepy Hollow there was an Alcatraz, Terra Nova, and Almost Human. Still sometimes the risk is worth the reward. Genre shows tend to attract loyal audiences. Numbers may be small but sometimes consistency is key.
In the last four years FOX has never debuted more than 8 scripted shows in a TV season. They really haven’t had to, the reasons for which have mostly been explained above. However, they’ve got a few more holes in their schedule to fill this year.
The X-Factor was cancelled in May, Glee will conclude with a shortened 6th season in 2015, and FOX has continued to experiment with year round shorter-season programming.
They’ve still got the MLB playoffs in the Fall so just 4 new scripted shows will debut in 2014: Gotham, Red Band Society, GracePoint, and Mulaney.
Gotham will pair with Sleepy Hollow on Mondays, visually it looks like a perfect match for FOX but it’ll be interesting to see how a show with Bruce Wayne, not Batman, will work. I mean we all know the city of Gotham isn’t going to become a safer and less corrupt place before he grows up.
Red Band Society could be FOX’s attempt to find the next Glee. There won’t be nearly as much singing and dancing, but it is about a group of teenagers from various cliques that band together to support each other through their time at a hospital. It also stars Octavia Spencer. I’ve already seen the pilot, but I really have no idea if it’ll succeed or not. On one hand The Fault in our Stars was wildly popular and Chasing Life has been solid for ABC Family, but on the other hand the show is told from the perspective of a kid in a coma so it’s a bit strange.
Gracepoint is a remake of a British crime drama called Broadchurch, which actually already aired in the US on BBC America. So if you just want to see it now or you don’t feel like waiting week-to-week, I recommend just watching the original.
And then there’s the sole comedy of the bunch – Mulaney which has a bit of a dated vibe to me. It’s a multi-camera ensemble comedy revolving around John Mulaney who does stand-up. From the previews, it kind of looks like Seinfeld, episode structure wise.
Others shows ready for the 2015 TV season include: Backstrom, Bordertown, Empire, The Last Man on Earth, Wayward Pines, and Weird Loners.
To see previews for all of their new shows, reality and scripted, click here.