It’s not over yet for surprise Fox reject Breakout Kings. The pilot, which has been a sentimental favorite for industry insiders this season and took on a surprising frontrunner status after that famous great early studio testing, has already been sent out to the other broadcast and most cable networks, including TNT, USA, A&E and Spike.
But just how did Breakout Kings lose out on a spot at Fox after such strong buzz for its script and execution? Ultimately, it came down to the network’s decision to stick with both of its bubble dramas, Lie To Me and Human Target. Fox’s creative meeting with the Lie To Me team last week went very well, and the network is said to be happy with the show’s creative direction in the episodes that are to air in the summer. On the other hand, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly had repeatedly said he is a fan of Human Target, and the show also helped its case by stopping the ratings bleeding in its midseason run. It is true what they say – if you replace even a modestly rated existing show with a new one, in 9 out of 10 cases the new one will perform worse because current series have locked-in audiences that remain loyal.
Still, if Fox had opted to pick up one returning and three new dramas instead of two and two, Breakout Kings would’ve made the cut. But with two open slots, Fox went with soap Lone Star, which, while not a perfect pilot, was a favorite of Reilly’s with its distinct voice, very appealing lead, Jimmy Wolk, and nice direction by Marc Webb. And then there was the Shawn Ryan factor. After taking a very long time to cast his cop drama Ridealong because of the Chicago shooting location, the pilot was delivered at the last minute. But it came in very very strong, taking the second available slot. One other thing that Lone Star and Ridealong had going for them and Breakout Kings didn’t was a big promotable lead. Breakout Kings is a classic ensemble show with no breakout star as a hero. The pilot’s most talked about character was sidekick Lloyd played by Jimmi Simpson. That is the character that tested off-the-charts in the testing at producing studio 20th TV. The network followed that with larger testings of its own, screenings and scheduling deliberations before ultimately taking a pass on Breakout Kings. But with a lot of good will towards it in the industry, the project may just live up to its name and become a breakout hit somewhere else.