Friday, 14 April 2017

Fox 2017-18 Season: News & Updates

Fox continues to decline and now that Empire has cooled off significantly and American Idol is no longer on the schedule, it is easier to see how much Fox needs more hits to bolster the network's ratings average and their place in the television pop culture landscape. Apart from Empire, occasional reboots of old series and their ageing animated comedies, has all but diminished completely. 

UPDATE 1 (4/05/2017): Fox has cancelled Scream Queens and Pitch.

UPDATE 2 (9/05/2017): Fox has cancelled Rosewood and Sleepy Hollow. X-Men drama The Gifted will bring mutants to Fox next season! This makes Fox the only network to have DC and Marvel properties.

UPDATE 3 (10/05/2017): Fox has picked up two new comedies: Ghosted and LA to Vegas. Medical drama The Resident has also been picked up.

UPDATE 4 (11/05/2017): After only one season each, Son of Zorn, Making History and APB will not be returning next season.

UPDATE 5 (12/05/2017): Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been renewed! According to reports New Girl, which was a likely renewal is now on the bubble and could go either way...

UPDATE 6 (14/05/2017) As I predicted, New Girl has been renewed for a seventh and final season!

Gregory's Thoughts:

Empire's ratings have continued to decline (-31% season to season) but it remains a key part of Fox's schedule (it is their only hit show) Star will return next season but it's low ratings must remain stable. Despite it's tone being similar to Empire, Star failed to come within an inch of the highs of the the former.

Since its debut as a mid-season show last season, Lucifer has been surprisingly stable and has performed well alongside fellow DC-comics series Gotham. Fox should have never taken both shows off the air for the low rated flops 24: Legacy and APB, the latter which is highly unlikely to return and the former, the buzzed about 24 spin-off which received the  post-Super Bowl slot has failed to live up to expectations. According to insiders, The Exorcist still has a chance at being renewed despite its poor ratings. Pitch, Sleepy Hollow, Scream Queens and Rosewood have pitiful ratings and are unlikely to return.

On the comedy side, The Mick is the closest thing to a hit comedy Fox has had in years and managed to remain mostly stable leading out of New Girl which continues to plummet and has yet to be renewed. Fox should bring the show back for a short final season to tie up the character's story lines. Brooklyn Nine-Nine will probably be renewed as Fox's utility player but the show has never been the ratings, critical or pop culture stand-out it should and could have been. Last Man On Earth has failed to become the pop culture phenomenon it was probably pitched to be, like the low rated Son of Zorn and Making History. At least one will return due to all three coming from Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob's Burgers (which has already been renewed for next season) will likely be on the network's schedules for many years to come to to their stable ratings. 

Next Season...

Over the years Fox has slowly lost its identity both in the drama and comedy field. One reason for this is due to years of poor decisions including the network's inability to schedule and air good shows (Surviving Jack and Enlisted say hi). Their comedies are either too broad to attract audiences each week, especially when there are dozens of other options on other networks and streaming services, or too niche (like Last Man on Earth, Son of Zorn etc.) which are good at accumulating a small dedicated fan base that do not reflect in the show's ratings. 

The best thing for Fox to do would be to clean house and re-develop their comedy brand. Fox used to be seen as the "cool" "youthful" network, an image it can get back if it develops, orders and schedules the right shows. It's not a matter of Fox not being able to find and develop good comedies; their sister studio 20th Century Fox produces some of the most popular and critically acclaimed comedies and dramas... for other networks including the likes of ABC's Modern Family, Fresh Off The Boat and Speechless, NBC's This Is Us, CBS's Life In Pieces. Just listing these shows reveal a common theme: family, which Fox has all nut reject from their shows apart from the animated ones (which perform well!) Fox should stop trying to reboot Friends and The Office with their tepid 20-something ensembles and unfunny work place comedies and rejuvenate their comedy brand.

Remember my point about poor scheduling? Fox needs more consistent scheduling in order to ensure the continued success of its series. Meaning no more mid-season hiatuses.

Find an identity - Fox is now the only network without an identity or a clear brand. ABC has its family sitcoms and soaps, The CW has comic book fare, NBC has Dick Wolf's Chicago franchise and This Is Us, and CBS is known for its old-skewing old school multi-camera sitcoms and procedural dramas. What does Fox have?  It's long running animated sitcoms The Simpsons and Family Guy, despite having good ratings for the network, are not provoking enough conversation in the political sphere as they once did and Bob's Burgers has always been an underrated critically acclaimed underdog. 

Pilot Previews:

Thin Ice: This pilot hails from Liz Meriwether the brains behind the network's former hit comedy New Girl. Good Luck Charlie star Bridget Mendler plays a woman who starts a new job in Antarctica. The script has its funny moments and the emotional beats play out like an indie movie (think  Two Lovers and a Bear) and the setting will mean set designers will have to push their creativity to the limit in order to make this show work (especially if production remains in LA if its picked up to series). One of my main concerns is how will this show survive in the long run? It seems as though you can only have a limited number of stories with such a complex setting. Hopefully Fox gives us the chance to find out...

Ghosted: A fairly standard high-concept / not very funny comedy pilot combo right here. Though Son of Zorn, Making History and Last Man on Earth failed to grasp viewers, Fox continues to invest in the same type of science fiction/fantasy comedies which fail to truly grasp their concept or to be funny beyond the show's central gimmick. In this pilot, the gimmick is the supernatural. The description sounds like a testosterone fuelled parody of The X-Files

"A cynical sceptic and a genius "true believer" in the paranormal are recruited by the Bureau Underground to look into the rampant "unexplained" activity in Los Angeles - all while uncovering a larger mystery that could threaten the existence of the human race..."

Linda From HR: This pilot is apparently a lock for a pick-up and I can see why. The workplace setting allows for dozens of story lines and it has a cast of familiar faces. Without giving too much away, the pilot reminded me of ABC's Selfie pilot from three years ago. A "disastrous" event in a public setting changes the life of the central character forever...

LAX ---> Vegas: Don't let the cool stylised title fool you, this show is not new or original. Yet again we have Fox going after the same demographic for their comedies (young males) even though they clearly are not responding to their current slate of shows. This pilot is no different. It is somewhat similar to Ghosted in the sense that it has a central gimmick: the episodes are set on the weekend flight from LAX to Vegas (hence the title) and deals with all the exploits of the central characters, their successes and failures, their relationships and breakdowns etc. etc. Think ABC's Mixology.

Behind Enemy Lines:  Military dramas are all the range this pilot season. According to this is because networks want their shows to appeal to "middle-America" - the blue-collar Trump supporters basically. Behind Enemy Lines is based on the film of the same name and is an interesting pilot. The pilot was written to feel like a show on a very large scale which should make the themes of espionage and patriotism thrilling for the target audience. Military dramas (and films) have never interested me but what did interest me about this pilot was the soapy drama. The complex relationships between the characters, the conflicts between the different groups, the serialised plot and all the action in between.

Controversy: Fox is trying once again to emulate the critical success of ABC's anthology series American Crime (which just aired what could be its last episode EVER.) This season Fox premiered Shots Fired which follows the fallout of what happens when a black cop shoots a white teenager (see what they did there ;)) and though the show is solid, it does not hit the same creative feats as American Crime. The plot for Controversy reads as follows: 

"The junior Counsel of a prestigious Illinois university must deal with an out-of-control scandal when a young co-ed accuses several star football plays of sexual assault."

For the few of you who have seen American Crime, you will know the second instalment of the show dealt with a very similar theme almost perfectly. Controversy is not as sophisticated or raw as American Crime. That does not mean it is a bad show (I do not know whether its good or bad yet) but what I do know is it does nor live up to its potential.

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