In an upfront call today Kevin Reilly confirmed our story that American Idol will reduce its hours and change its air pattern for the upcoming fourteenth season. Touting a “more streamlined” format, he said that Season 14 will be 37 hours, about two-thirds of the current run of close to 60 hours. Next season will likely kick off with the traditional twice-weekly pattern during the audition rounds before transitioning to a “two hour show on one night for most of its run,” Reilly said. He also confirmed that “we’re getting good indication from all” of the current judges that they will return next season. Reilly dismissed a notion that Fox is looking for an Idol turnaround. “It will not come back to being the rating champion it once was but… it can be a vital, potent unscripted show in its time period, like CBS’ Survivor,” he said. “That’s the mode we’re in and we believe [Idol] will be on the air for many years to come.”
Also on the call, Reilly confirmed that Sleepy Hollow’s second season would consist of 18 episodes that will air mostly uninterrupted. The order for new Batman prequel series Gotham is for 16 episodes. “It hasn’t been written in stone tablets that TV has to be done in 13 and 22-episode increments,” Reilly quipped, adding, “We handcraft them here at Fox.”
Reilly hinted the possibility that the final season order for Glee, currently at 22 episodes, could be trimmed, especially with the show not on the fall schedule. “We’re going to sit down and talk [with exec producer Ryan Murphy] about how to end the show and how many that is,” he said. He also confirmed that the network’s upcoming remake of the British drama Broadchurch, event series Gracepoint, will have a different ending than the original.
Reilly also addressed the decision to end the two-hour Tuesday comedy block and the all-animated Sunday block, which will feature live action comedies Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mulaney. He referred to the latter as “going back to our roots,” with such signature Fox live-action comedies like Married With Children, Malcolm In The Middle and That ‘70s Show starting on Sunday in the company of animated series. He also stressed that “having protection is important” for comedies, which hampered the network’s comedy efforts on Tuesday last season and led to the decision to give lead-in protection to both New Girl and The Mindy Project on Tuesday with new social experiment reality series Utopia and to Brooklyn and Mulaney on Sunday with The Simpsons and Family Guy, respectively. To gain traction, Utopia will launch six weeks before the beginning of the season.
Reilly also acknowledged Fox’s ratings woes this season, despite having the Super Bowl. “This season has been a tough one for us,” he said. “Some returning series didn’t perform as well as we’d hoped.” That includes the cancelled The X Factor as well as American Idol and Glee.