Fox is expected to have at least two new drama series on the fall schedule, Filthy Rich and NeXt, along with a full slate of animated comedies, while ABC is considering holding multi-camera comedy series United We Fall for fall. It is part of an effort by the broadcast networks to stockpile original content for next season as coronavirus-related Hollywood production is entering its third month with no end in sight. For that reason, CBS recently changed its scheduling plans for the latest season of The Amazing Race, leaving it in the can for fall.
When March rolled around, Fox still had its two high-profile midseason drama series, Tate Taylor’s Filthy Rich, starring Kim Cattrall, and the AI-themed NeXt, headlined by John Slattery, on deck with no scheduled premieres. Then the coronavirus outbreak escalated, shutting down all filming. In fact, NeXt became the first Hollywood production with a confirmed COVID-19 case when a crew member tested positive after Season 1 production had wrapped in Chicago.
As the health crisis deepened and it became clear that Hollywood production won’t be able to restart for months, Fox brass started to explore contingency plans, including keeping Filthy Rich and NeXt for fall when fresh content, especially scripted dramas that are the most elaborate to produce, will likely be scarce. But I hear the network had already earmarked spring slots for both shows and was not willing to just pull them and replace them with reruns.
The network’s unscripted team led by Rob Wade stepped in and fast-tracked two new series, Masked Singer: After the Mask, and the upcoming Celebrity Watch Party, which can be produced remotely. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox TV, the leading studio on both Filthy Rich and NeXt, reached out to the casts of both shows to extend their options, making it possible for the series to premiere in the fall. The process took weeks, but I hear everyone has been signed or in the final stages of negotiations.
Ironically, Filthy Rich was supposed to be on Fox’s fall 2019 schedule behind The Masked Singer but Taylor’s previous commitments prevented that from happening.
“Aside from the sports schedule, which is starting to take shape, our entertainment schedule in the fall looks incredibly stable thanks to a large amount of our programming already being filmed and edited and, to use an entertainment phrase, ‘in the can,” Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said on the Fox earnings call today. ‘The only open question in our fall schedule is whether we get Masked Singer back into production in time for the fall schedule or the mid-season schedule. The fact that the animation schedule is virtually untouched – -knock on wood – by COVID-19 has been a great boon to us. So, we are very confident and very pleased that we have a strong entertainment schedule in the fall.”
Fox has a roster of five current and two new animated series, all of which will be available for next season as animation is the one area of Hollywood production that is still going.
“Animation production has been less affected than live-action,” Murdoch added. “We expect to return in the fall with all-new seasons of The Simpsons, Bless the Harts, Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy.
Fox is still looking to pick up to series some of its pilots, with partially filmed comedy This Country and drama Blood Relative among its buzzier titles, along with straight-to-series comedy Call Me Kat.
As for United We Fall, starring Will Sasso, Christina Vidal and Jane Curtin, I hear ABC is considering running the eight-episode first season of the multi-camera sitcom in the fall. It is one of the scenarios that are being looked at, with a late summer run also a possibility, sources said. I hear the options on the cast have not been extended but that could be done in the next two months should ABC opt to go with the show for fall.
Filthy Rich, NeXt and United We Fall are the three remaining new midseason series from the 2019/20 broadcast season that had not been scheduled yet.
Written and directed by Taylor, Filthy Rich, based on the New Zealand series of the same name from Filthy Productions, is a southern Gothic family drama in which wealth, power and religion collide – with outrageously soapy results. When the patriarch of a mega-rich Southern family, famed for creating a wildly successful Christian television network, dies in a plane crash, his wife and family are stunned to learn that he fathered three illegitimate children, all of whom are written into his will, threatening their family name and fortune. With monumental twists and turns, Filthy Rich presents a world in which everyone has an ulterior motive – and no one is going down without a fight.
In addition to Cattrall, Gerald McRaney, Aaron Lazar, Aubrey Dollar, Corey Cott, Benjamin Aguilar, Mark L. Young, Melia Kreiling, Steve Harris, David Denman and Olivia Macklin also star.
Taylor is executive producing with his producing partner John Norris via Wyolah Films alongside Imagine’s Grazer and Francie Calfo. Overseeing for Imagine TV are Anna Culp and Jillian Kugler. Cattrall produces. The series is a co-production between 20th Century Fox TV, Imagine Television and Fox Entertainment.
Written by Manny Coto and directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, neXt is described as a propulsive, fact-based thriller grounded in the latest high tech research. It features a brilliant but paranoid former tech CEO, Paul Leblanc (Slattery), who joins a Homeland Cybersecurity Agent (Fernanda Andrade) and her team to stop the world’s first artificial intelligence crisis: the emergence of a rogue AI with the ability to continuously improve itself.
Coto, Requa, Ficarra and Charlie Gogolak executive produce. Fernanda Andrade, Michael Mosley, Jason Butler Harner, Eve Harlow, Aaron Moten, Gerardo Celasco, Elizabeth Cappuccino, and Evan Whitten also star.
United We Fall comes from Making History creator Julius Sharpe and Seth Gordon, Sony Pictures TV and ABC Studios.
Written by Sharpe and directed by Mark Cendrowski, it is a profoundly realistic family sitcom that follows the trials and tribulations of Jo (Vidal) and Bill (Sasso), parents of two young kids, as they try to make it day-to-day as a functioning family. Bill’s very judgmental live-in mother (Curtin) and Jo’s large Latinx Catholic family will never hesitate to let our couple know they’re seemingly screwing up, but Bill and Jo will always have each other’s backs, united against everyone – other parents, teachers, doctors, specialists, coaches, co-workers, and especially their kids.
Ella Grace Helton also stars.