No “heads in assess” onstage references this time, but Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly still kept things entertaining during today’s network executive session at TCA with quick jabs and quips, some aimed at himself. The best one came in reaction to a critic apologizing for screwing up a question. “We all screw up — look at my fall,” Reilly said to loud laughter. He opened the session with a reference to the network’s pretty disastrous ratings performance this past fall: “Here at Fox we are leaping into the new year, no one is happier than us to turn the page.”
A large portion of the Q&A was focused on the potential link between violence on TV and the recent string of mass shootings, especially in light of the network’s upcoming launch of the very dark new serial killer drama The Following. “I think in general there have been more violent shows on TV,” Reilly said. “Clearly there is appetite, people like these things.” He repeatedly pointed to gritty and violent dramas on cable, like AMC’s megahit The Walking Dead, with which Fox now has to compete. “When you put on a thriller you have to compete at that level… We must match the intensity, otherwise we’ll pale in comparison.” That is especially important for Fox, which has the tradition of being the edgiest among the broadcasters. “Before there was cable, Fox was cable,” Reilly said. “It is a goal for me to get some of the (old) Fox back in Fox.” As for The Following, “this show adheres to broadcast standards,” Reilly said. While he stressed that Fox takes its responsibilities as broadcaster very seriously and is open to an industry-wide discussion about violent content, Reilly didn’t have concerns over putting the thriller on the air. “Everyone is looking for a scapegoat, or wanting to put a finger on one thing that’s the problem,” he said. “We are just in an age of complex issues. It’s no one simple thing.”
Speaking of The Walking Dead, Reilly shared an anecdote of how he originally bought Frank Darabont’s script while at NBC. “But we were at the bottom of the ratings. I told him: ‘Really Frank, a zombie thing?!'” After the session, Reilly admitted that had it aired on NBC, The Walking Dead “would have probably been a little less intense and a little less interesting to the audience.”
Reilly said is happy with the second season of The X Factor despite lower ratings. “Pound for pound, I thought X Factor was better this year,” he said. He was asked about new judge Britney Spears amid speculation that she night be cut loose. “She did a very good job,” Reilly said, noting that “we would be on board to bring her back.”
At Sunday’s TCA, NBC topper Bob Greenblatt took a swipe at Reilly over a November comment Reilly made that a lot of TV executives “have our heads up our asses,” which was actually in reference to the nets’ adapting with consumer behavior. “That may be true at the other places, but I can guarantee you we don’t have our heads up our asses,” Greenblatt quipped. Reilly was more subtle today when asked about NBC’s September decision to pit an original The Voice against the season premiere of X Factor. “It was slightly on the cheesy side,” Reilly said of the NBC move. “It went in the file for later reference,” Reilly added, indicating that the score will be evened in the future.
Fox’s midseason comedy The Goodwin Games may not debut until the summer as the network doesn’t want to mess with the Tuesday comedy block whose soft ratings performance Reilly described as “frustrating”. “If I thought it would be an injection of life, I would put it on,” Reilly said. “But I think it would further upset the block and acerbate things.”
After the session, Reilly was asked whether the just-picked-up Season 9 of Bones will be its last. “We’re going to take that one and see where we go,” he said. “It’s been a great run. I think it can keep going, frankly.” He confirmed that there won’t be Glee a spinoff as idea the idea was absorbed on the show with the New York storyline.