The upfronts are all about presenting the network’s best face so advertisers are eager to buy airtime to sell products to the millions watching — so, in essence, these events are all about courting you, the viewers. How’s FOX — a network one step away from last place only because The CW qualifies on a technicality — planning to woo you? Let’s take a look.
1) More “Empire” and Sooner
“Empire” is the show-stopping success of the half-season, making it only natural for business folk to wonder what FOX would do with the series come Season 2: stick with what works and keep “Empire” to 12 episodes per season (which, by the way, is what creator Lee Daniels wanted) or expand the series with more episodes to cover more of the calendar year? We got our answer Monday when FOX executives announced Season 2 would clock in at 18 episodes and premiere in the fall.
Many saw the fall premiere coming, but the episode total was up for grabs. 22 is the standard order these days for broadcast programs, so “Empire” could have been even bigger. (It also could have moved to an earlier time slot, but FOX is keeping it at 9pm on Wednesdays.) Instead, it will have more episodes spread out over a longer period of time — a decision likely to affect its current ratings streak. Will fans keep tuning in live after “Empire” goes on hiatus? Can the show’s melodrama withstand a heftier run time and sustain its addictively dramatic heights? Can guest stars Lenny Kravitz, Ne-Yo, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson keep it musically enticing (plus Chris Rock)? We’ll see soon enough.
2) “The X-Files” Gets a Premiere Date!
As we mentioned earlier Monday, “The X-files” event series is set to debut January 24, 2016. The two-night series premiere will knock out one-third of the episodes quickly, but FOX TV Group Chairman Dana Walden said, “everyone will be happy with what [Chris] has planned.” With stuff like this floating around the upfront presentations, it’s easy to believe her.
[Editor’s Note: Gillian Anderson will be dying her hair red to reprise the role of Scully. Do not panic and assume she’s gone blond in the years since we last saw her beautiful face.]
3) “American Idol” is ending.
Indiewire does not report on reality television, but we can hope the long-running music series will be replaced by two brilliant scripted comedies.
4) “Scream Queens” is Ryan Murphy’s Version of “Ten Little Indians”
No, the “American Horror Story” creator didn’t say as much on Monday, but the announcements flying in about his buzzed-about new anthology series take us to the same place. Based on a children’s rhyme and made popular by Agatha Christie’s play-turned-films (starting in 1939), “Ten Little Indians” works around the premise that 10(ish) people are trapped in a space together and one of them is a killer. One by one, each character dies until only the killer and one innocent remains.
So how is “Scream Queens” connected? Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Emma Roberts, Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele, Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas and more, at least one cast member will be killed off each week when “Scream Queens” premieres in September, plus one cast member will eventually be revealed as the killer. That makes Murphy’s new attempt to tap into the horror zeitgeist essential weekly viewing rather than wait-and-binge material — at least for anyone who cares about spoilers. No wonder FOX is so excited about the 15-episode first season.
5) It’s a Whole New Tuesday on FOX
Paired with “Scream Queens” on Tuesdays this fall are two comedies. No, “The Mindy Project” isn’t returning and “New Girl” won’t show up until midseason. Instead, FOX is offering two new series starring John Stamos (in “Grandfathered”) and Rob Lowe (in “The Grinder). Both are TV royalty, but only one is dipping back into the past to muster up some synergy. Former “Full House” co-star Bob Saget will guest on Stamos’ “Grandfathered,” pairing the two up in advance of their reunion on Netflix via “Fuller House” (both are attached to guest star).
As for “The Grinder,” FOX TV Co-Chairman Dana Walden said it’s the funniest script she’s ever read. She’s been reading scripts professionally since the ’90s, so she’s probably had “Modern Family,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Office,” and maybe even “Friends” cross her desk. That makes her statement — even as an obviously biased plug — a pretty big deal.
Watch the trailers for “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder” below.