Fox TV Group chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman literally walked into the spotlight this morning when they took to the stage for their first TCA overseeing the Fox network. “It’s nice to finally see your faces after watching the backs of your heads for so long,” Walden quipped, a reference to the duo’s usual spot as studio executives in the back of the room.
While acknowledging that Fox is still the No.4 network in need of a rebuild, Walden and Newman had something to crow about with two strong freshman dramas, Gotham and Empire, which today were picked up for a second season, along with a third-season renewal for comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
The two were asked about the future of some series that didn’t make the list of early renewals today, dramas Bones and Sleepy Hollow.
“We are in conversations on both,” Walden said. “Hopefully Bones will return, we can’t announce because the deals with Emily Deschanel David Boreanaz are up and we have not closed new ones.”
“On Sleepy Hollow, we are going to wait a little bit longer. We are excited about some creative changes on he show. We want to get back to something that feels a little bit more episodic in nature, it has become overly serialized. We are trying to return the fun to it a little bit. This is all about calibrating the show, not making dramatic changes. Hopefully it will come back as well.”
Fox’s course change in reality TV from racy to family-friendly fare with American Idol, MasterChef Jr. and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? is apparent. Is that a long-term strategy? “We are looking for a balanced slate of development,” Walden said. “Our focus right now is building on what we have — MasterChef Jr. and American Idol — that’s tonally what we’re hoping to populate our schedule with.”
Newman was asked to do postmortem on Utopia. “We’ve encouraged our team to take big, bold swings,” he said. “While we weren’t part of the decision to do it, Utopia was a big swing, an effort to have a game changer. We tried different things on the air to try to create more urgency, which was one of the problems with it. A lack of urgency, no eliminations or contest… it just didn’t’ work out.”
As for Howard’s off-screen history of accusations of violence against women, Walden said that “working with Terrence now for just about a year, has been a fantastic experience, he’s been a leader among that cast, hard-working, a great partner.”
“This (the accusations) wasn’t part of the conversation when we cast him. I can only tell you that it was in December when we became aware of it, it didn’t come into the conversation.”
Fox is in the Howard business in a big way, he also stars in the Wayward Pines limited series. When casting him at 20th for Empire, Walden said her casting executives sought feedback from the network where executives also spoke highly of their experience working with the actor.