Amid a coronavirus pandemic, which ground filming to a halt, decimated broadcast pilot season and canceled the traditional May upfronts, Fox unveiled its fall 2020 schedule at the exact time it would’ve done it without the pandemic. It includes the network TV debut of Spectrum Originals’ L.A.’s Finest starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba, which the network has acquired from Sony Pictures TV.
Fox, the first broadcast network to announce a fall schedule this year, plans a regular late September launch of the 2020-21 season. Because it is unclear when TV production will be able to safely resume, series that are yet to film new seasons quite possibly won’t be ready for a late-September premiere. Fox is eliminating that uncertainty by relying on scripted and reality series already in the can — dramas Filthy Rich and NeXt, both held over from this season, new installments of MasterChef Junior and Cosmos as well as acquisition L.A.’s Finest, — animated series (The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Bless the Harts), which have been able to remain in production during the pandemic, wrestling and NFL football.
The only question marks on the schedule are The Masked Singer, whose upcoming fourth season has not been shot, and the NFL, which announced a full-season schedule but live sports are still cautiously forging a path to return.
Here is Fox’s fall 2020 schedule, followed by more information and analysis as well as detailed descriptions of the network’s new series.
FOX FALL 2020 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE)
8-9 PM — L.A.’s Finest (network television debut)
9-10 PM — NEXT
8-9 PM — Cosmos: Possible Worlds (network television debut)
9-10 PM — FILTHY RICH
8-9 PM — The Masked Singer
9-10 PM — Masterchef Junior
7:30-8 PM ET — Fox NFL Thursday Presented By Verizon
8-8:19 PM ET — GMC Kickoff Show
8:20 PM ET — Thursday Night Football Presented By Bud Light Platinum
8-10 PM — WWE’S Friday Night Smackdown
7-10:30 PM — FOX Sports Saturday
7-7:30 PM — NFL On Fox
7:30-8 PM — The OT / Fox Encores
8-8:30 PM — The Simpsons
8:30-9 PM — Bless The Harts
9-9:30 PM — Bob’s Burgers
9:30-10 PM — Family Guy
Midseason is shaping up to be a packed one for Fox with the planned return of its top dramas 9-1-1 and spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star, which have been renewed for next season, alongside new straight-to-series comedy series Call Me Kat, starring Mayim Bialik and executive-produced by Bialik and Jim Parsons; and new animated comedies The Great North and Housebroken.
Slated for 2020-21 (including summer), are Seasons 2 of animated comedy Duncanville, Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and Beat Shazam.
Fox is yet to make decisions on several current series and all of its pilots, whose production was suspended by the pandemic. Of the remaining series, dramas The Resident and Prodigal Son and comedy Last Man Standing are looking good to come back next midseason, contingent on making deals with the producing studios.
Fox is still planning to film some or all of its pilots, with drama Blood Relative and comedy This Country continuing to garner strong buzz but virtually all of the network’s six drama and comedy pilots are believed to be in contention.
Fox is wrapping the 2019-20 season as the projected No.1 network in adults 18-49 (even if its Super Bowl telecast is excluded), claiming the top four new series of the season in the demo, Lego Masters, 9-1-1: Lone Star, The Masked Singer: After the Mask and Prodigal Son.
Clearly impacted by the pandemic, Fox’s fall lineup features five series that probably wouldn’t have landed on its fall schedules under normal circumstances. That includes L.A.’s Finest, which is getting a slot on a major broadcast network’s fall schedule two years after NBC’s surprising pass on the pilot, developed by the peacock network for fall 2018 consideration.
Sony Pictures TV took the pilot to Charter’s Spectrum Originals where it became the platform’s first original scripted series, launching in May 2019. The drama, from the universe of the Jerry Bruckheimer Bad Boys franchise, has been renewed for a second season, which debuts on Spectrum in June.
Spectrum Originals’ business model involves a nine-month U.S. only exclusive window, after which the platform continues to carry a series on a non-exclusive VOD basis while the producing studio can take it anywhere else. I hear Sony TV executives had been speaking to Fox about taking a broadcast window on the first season before the start of the pandemic, likely as a potential summer original. The Hollywood shutdown reshaped the conversation, sending the series to fall.
The second installment of the Emmy-winning Cosmos, a collaboration between National Geographic and Fox, already aired on Nat Geo earlier this spring. I hear Fox had considered airing Cosmos: Possible Worlds in the summer as Olympics counter-programming. The Olympics were postponed over the pandemic, and Cosmos was held back for fall.
Deadline revealed last week of Fox’s plans to put Tate Taylor’s Filthy Rich, starring Kim Cattrall, and the AI-themed NeXt, headlined by John Slattery, on the fall schedule. As we reported, the network had been eying late spring/early summer debuts for the new midseason dramas when the coronavirus outbreak escalated, shutting down all filming by mid-March.
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 a contingency plan of keeping Filthy Rich and NeXt for fall. In order to do that, the network set out to find replacement original programming for the two dramas on the spring/summer schedule. The network’s unscripted team led by Rob Wade fast-tracked two new series, Masked Singer: After the Mask, and the upcoming Celebrity Watch Party, which are produced remotely. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox TV, the 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.
Ironically, Filthy Rich was supposed to be on Fox’s fall 2019 schedule but Taylor’s previous commitments prevented that from happening.
This will mark Masterchef Junior’s first September premiere since Season 1. The Masterchef offshoot, heading into its eighth season, has been used as a midseason replacement for the past three cycles but it too has now been held back.
Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch said during the company’s earnings call last week that the Fox network was targeting a fall debut for Season 4 of its flagship series, The Masked Singer, despite the current COVID-19 production shutdown. “Should conditions allow for it, we are planning production in early August of Season 4 of The Masked Singer, which we’ll target for a fall debut,” he said.
I hear Wade and his team are already deep into prep work on protocols for making the filming of The Masked Singer feasible amid a pandemic. While scripted series shut down around the world, a number of studio-based competition reality shows in Europe remained in production on their regular sets without audience.
Besides stalwarts The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers (officially renewed for Season 11), which are always well ahead on their orders because of lengthy production cycles, Fox’s fall Sunday lineup includes Bless the Harts, which received an early renewal in October to be able to have new episodes ready for next fall. Because of the increased volume of animated series next season, the network will likely open a second animated block on a different night in midseason.
“The effects of this global health crisis leave no business unaffected. As a media company that prides itself on an entrepreneurial spirit and the focus that comes with doing fewer things better, we mobilized, swiftly creating an entirely new, original-programming lineup for the fall to share with our partners this upfront,” said Charlie Collier, CEO, Fox Entertainment “In remote meetings with advertising and marketing partners over recent weeks, we sought to listen first and understand each partner’s unique concerns. Our primary goal is to help them back to business, so in turn, the message we’ve shared is one of relative stability on FOX, combining the best of primetime sports and entertainment with which to help our partners and their customers back to market.”
NEW FOX SERIES
From creator and executive producer Manny Coto (“24: Legacy”), executive producer Charlie Gogolak (“This Is Us”) and executive producers and directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (“This Is Us”), NEXT is a propulsive, fact-based thriller about the emergence of a deadly, rogue artificial intelligence that combines pulse-pounding action with a layered examination of how technology is invading our lives. The event series stars Emmy Award nominee John Slattery (“Mad Men”) as a Silicon Valley pioneer, who discovers that one of his own creations – a powerful A.I. – might spell global catastrophe. He teams up with a cybercrime agent (Fernanda Andrade, “The First”) to fight a villain unlike anything we’ve ever seen – one whose greatest weapon against us is ourselves. The series also stars Michael Mosley (“Ozark”), Jason Butler Harner (“Ozark”), Eve Harlow (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Aaron Moten (“Mozart in the Jungle”), Gerardo Celasco (“How to Get Away with Murder”), Elizabeth Cappuccino (“Jessica Jones”) and Evan Whitten (THE RESIDENT).
FILTHY RICH is a southern Gothic family soap in which wealth, power and religion collide – with outrageously soapy results. When the patriarch (Emmy Award winner Gerald McRaney, “This Is Us,” “24: Legacy”) of a mega-rich Southern family, famed for creating a wildly successful Christian television network, dies in a plane crash, his wife (five-time Emmy Award nominee and Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe winner Kim Cattrall, “Sex and the City”) 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. From writer/director Tate Taylor (“Ma,” “The Help,” “The Girl on the Train”), the series also stars Melia Kreiling (“Tyrant”), Aubrey Dollar (“Battle Creek”), Corey Cott (“The Good Fight”), Benjamin Levy Aguilar (“Straight Outta Compton”), Mark L. Young (“We’re The Millers”) and Olivia Macklin (“LA to Vegas”), with Emmy Award nominee Steve Harris (“The Practice”) and Aaron Lazar (“Quantico,” “The Strain”). Kim Cattrall also serves as a producer on the series.
From the universe of the Jerry Bruckheimer “Bad Boys” franchise, the one-hour series L.A.’S FINEST follows Syd Burnett (Gabrielle Union), last seen in Miami taking down a drug cartel, who has seemingly left her complicated past behind to become an LAPD detective. Paired with a new partner, Nancy McKenna (Jessica Alba), a working mom with an equally complex history, Syd is forced to confront how her unapologetic lifestyle may be masking a greater personal secret. Taking on the most dangerous criminals in Los Angeles while skirting the rules, and speed limits, Syd and Nancy become a force to be reckoned with – on the streets, and in each other’s lives.