“We have been looking at Thursday for a long time,” Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell said. “It is a tough nut to crack, and if you want to crack it, you have to make a big move there.” Idol has been the biggest show on television for 8 years, so why make this move now? It was CBS’ surprising decision in May to take another reality juggernaut, Survivor, off Thursdays that set the Idol shift idea in motion, Darnell said. With Idol itself going through a major transition with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and without Simon Cowell, Fox brass decided to wait and see how the show’s production was going and, happy with what they’d seen so far, they pulled the trigger on the scheduling change. “It felt like the right time to make the move,” Darnell said. “Now we can own Thursday.”
Seeing the door opening at 8 PM on Thursday with Survivor gone was a major but not the only factor for the Idol move, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. “At the same time, we’re looking at what’s going on on Tuesday where we are winning the night with Glee, which, after airing after the Super Bowl, will probably end the season as the highest-rated scripted series.” Glee was originally slated to air behind Idol on Wednesdays in midseason. “Glee doesn’t need the protection, and we also have the making of comedy block with Raising Hope taking root on Tuesdays,” Reilly said.
As for the decision to bump Fringe to Fridays where no scripted Fox series has survived in a long time, “Fringe has a very particular, loyal audience,” Reilly said. With the show picking up almost half of its viewership via DVR, he doesn’t expect the sci-fi series to take a big ratings hit in moving to Fridays where it will be paired with solid reality performer Kitchen Nightmares. “If (Fringe) could stay near the current levels, we’ll get a big trade-up on Friday and will solve our problem there.”
As for the show Fringe will be replacing on Friday, The Good Guys, and another low-rated series, freshman comedy Running Wilde, while they have not been officially canceled, Reilly confirmed that the network won’t be giving Wilde a back order or pick up more episodes of Guys.
Asked whether he had any concerns about Idol facing former judge Paula Abdul’s new dancing reality series on CBS for a few weeks in January, Darnell was blunt. “No. We love Paula, but it’s not a concern.”