Fox is considering returning to a terrorism-threat backdrop for its potential new take on the 24 franchise. Chairman Gary Newman says there are a few paths being explored, noting, “I think terrorism is uniquely suited for 24 because the timeliness and urgency is built in. You could be in the medical field or the legal field where a clock is ticking and something has to happen. But I wouldn’t bet against terrorism” as a theme.

At the INTV conference in Jerusalem today, Newman and I touched on that project’s development, as well as renewal possibilities for some major series, the revival of American Idol — on ABC — and speculation about his future role.

Of a 24 franchise return, Newman offered, “Clearly, Kiefer (Sutherland) is not coming back… If he were available and wanted to, that would be pretty good. But we think that the franchise is still really valid.”

Fox
The project, which has received a script commitment, hails from executive producers Howard Gordon and Imagine’s Brian Grazer, as well as Jeremy Doner and 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV. As Deadline has previously reported, a new iteration could be built around a legal conspiracy as a female prosecutor must work against the clock to save a death row inmate. 

Newman says that’s still a possibility, but there are other ideas in the works. Despite the ticking-clock inside the series, they don’t want the road to a reboot to have “any pressure to go faster than it needs to.”

Looking at renewal possibilities for ongoing series, Newman sounded a positive tone on Gotham, LA To Vegas and Empire while allowing that The Last Man On Earth and The Exorcist are on the bubble.

Of the latter, he said putting the horror series on Friday nights was “tough for that show. We had hoped that we would be able to tap into a moviegoing crowd who didn’t want to go out to the movies… and we did get some viewership. I thought the show was incredibly well produced, the stories were great.” While Newman says there’s great pride in Exorcist, it’s “clearly a show that’s on the bubble.”

Of the “unique” and “wildly creative” The Last Man On Earth, Newman offered, “It’s a bubble show, but we do love it. I think now we would have to say we would love to bring it back, and it’s really going to be a matter of, as we sit down and schedule, what kind of room do we have? How do our pilots pan out?”

There’s better news in Gotham. “We asked a lot of it this year moving to Thursday nights and I thought it did a pretty good job of opening up that night for us. I feel like Gotham should have a place in our schedule.” That will “purely be a matter of scheduling. Thursday is not available in the fall, so where do we use it? Hopefully there’s more years of Gotham.”

As for airline industry comedy LA To Vegas, which in January received an order for three more episodes, Newman said, “It’s hard to know now, but it feels like a show that should be on our schedule.”

Flagship drama Empire is due to return for the back half of its 4th season later this month, and Newman hopes it continues to return. “Boy, as long as the audience continues,” he responded when I asked how long it can run. “Our cast loves doing the show. We’re so proud of that show; it’s so clear that it served an audience that was under-served. We asked a lot of it this year, moving it to 8PM. Some of the themes of that show might make it want to be a 9 o’clock show, but at some point we have to schedule in a way where you create opportunities for other shows too.”

Meanwhile, a resurrected American Idol premiered on ABC last night. At the time Newman and I sat down today, the ratings weren’t yet available. But he expected there would be “a curiosity factor” about the former Fox property. “I expect they’ll have a good night. The show always came back strong.” Newman hasn’t seen the new version, but says, “From everything I’ve read, other than a change of judges, it’s the same show and we’ll see what the audience thinks of that.”

Fox pulled a scheduling stunt on Sunday night, setting two-hour special, O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?, to air directly against the Idol debut. Newman says, “The music competition area is very competitive. We’re very happy with The Four and bringing it back for Season 2 this summer, so putting a show like O.J. on Sunday night was calculated.”

Newman would not be too far led on what Fox will look like after a sale of key assets to Disney, nor speculation that he would re-up to run Fox Broadcasting post-merger. “I think Disney would be a great opportunity for someone who loves the television buisness. It will have an enormous amount of production capabilities with great broadcast and cable brands. Bob (Iger) has obviously talked about the over the top platform as well. I think it’s going to be a very vibrant place that’s going to aggressively look to build its place in the television industry. I think it would be a fabulous place to work.”