The last time Fox’s Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly appeared at the TV Critics’ Assn. press tour in the summer, the drama surrounding the search for new American Idol judges had hit fever pitch, galvanizing the Fox executive session. With no swirling controversy this time around, the Rice-Reilly panel was mostly introspective, with the two asked to reminisce on Fox’s troubled fall, marked by the quick cancellation of Lone Star and the underwhelming run of Running Wilde.
Neither Rice nor Reilly tried to spin the fact that Lone Star was a big failure, one that “changed the complexion of our fall,” as Reilly put it. But neither had regrets about picking up the show, which received great reviews but was rejected by the audience. “I’d much prefer to fail with a show we are proud of than with one we are embarrassed by or don’t believe in,” said Rice. Reilly, who worked at FX before taking over entertainment at NBC and now Fox, addressed the conversation at Fox the morning after Lone Star‘s dismal premiere. “One discussion we never had the next day was: we’re never going to do that again; there was no Monday morning quarterbacking,” adding ‘I don’t think for a second that the best shows are on cable.”
As for Mitch Hurwitz/Will Arnett’s oddball comedy Running Wilde, “it was struggling to find itself, I think it finally did but it was probably too little too late,” Reilly said.
Reilly was also asked whether the other networks are stupid to try to replicate Fox’s biggest scripted series, musical dramedy Glee by developing similar projects. “Some of them are,” he responded.
With The X Factor locked for next fall as Idol alternate, Fox may have “the most stable schedule” in a long time as the network won’t have to reshuffle the deck in midseason to make room for Idol, Reilly said. But, despite having smaller needs for fall because of the series orders for X Factor and Terra Nova, Fox has not scaled back its development for next season. “We’ve spent the same money on development this year than last year and maybe more,” Rice said. Comedy-wise, Fox is not giving up on multi-camera sitcoms and plans to order “a few” such pilots this season, Reilly said.
Addressing prehistoric extravaganza Terra Nova, Rice denied any budget overages on the big-scale series. “It is a very expensive, very ambitious show, but it is on budget,” he said, adding later that the Steven Spielberg-Peter Chernin-produced sci-fi drama is the most expensive show ever on Fox.
In terms of returning shows, Fox this morning announced the renewal of freshman comedy Raising Hope. Beyond that, Reilly indicated that veterans Bones and House are likely to return. “Both shows are creatively important, and I anticipate both to be back. We want them both, the question is whether we can make a deal.” He also noted that Lie To Me and Shawn Ryan’s new cop drama The Chicago Code, which are sharing the Monday 9 PM slot this season, won’t compete for one spot on the schedule for next season and could both be renewed. Additionally, Reilly said he would be “heartbroken” if Fringe went away following its upcoming scheduling move to Fridays.