TV

Fox rolls out six new programs, including Sykes talk show

David B. Wilkerson
MarketWatch (MCT)

CHICAGO — Fox Broadcasting said Monday that it will add six new shows to its primetime schedule in the coming season — four comedies and two dramas — and hopes to move summer reality hit "So You Think You Can Dance" to the fall to jumpstart the slate before "American Idol" returns in January 2010.

Notable cancellations include "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" and "Talkshow with Spike Feresten."

Returning series include "Idol," "24," "House," "Family Guy," "The Simpsons," "Fringe," "American Dad," "Kitchen Nightmares," "Bones," "'Til Death," "Lie To Me," "Cops," and "America's Most Wanted."

Fox parent News Corp. also owns Dow Jones & Co., which includes The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Dow Jones Newswires and MarketWatch, the publisher of this report.

By moving "So You Think You Can Dance" to the fall, Fox hopes to attract more women and establish a "rhythm" on Tuesday and Wednesday nights designed to segue viewers into "American Idol" in January, which remains in its slots on the same two nights of the week.

Though Fox has now won the highest ratings in the coveted adult 18-49 age group in each of the last five years, the network traditionally has difficulty garnering strong ratings in the fall, only picking up steam when "Idol" and "24" appear on the schedule at midseason.

"So You Think You Can Dance" should help Fox because it reaches a younger and harder-to-reach audience than television's most successful dance program, ABC's "Dance With The Stars," Reilly said.

Among the new comedies is a Saturday night talk show for Wanda Sykes, the comedian who made news earlier this month for her comments during the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

"You've got a lot of talking heads in late night television doing the same spoofs and the same sketches," said Kevin Reilly, president of Fox Entertainment, during a conference call with reporters. "Wanda's voice has really been embraced lately, and she's really come into her own."

Reilly described Sykes' new show as a one-hour, "topical roundtable" program that "perfectly sums up the week by taking the issues everyone's talking about and giving them a whole new spin."

"The Cleveland Show," based on the popular "Family Guy," follows the adventures of the Cleveland Brown character as he moves to Virginia to reunite with a lost love and encounters strange neighbors. The show was announced for the 2008-09 season, but the writer's strike delayed its production, and Fox opted to let the show debut this coming fall.

Another new comedy, "Glee," appears during the second half of the season. The comedy musical series looks at the weekly misadventures of a high school glee club that has become a haven for misfits and social outcasts.

New dramas include "Human Target," based on a DC Comics graphic novel about a private security guard hired to integrate himself into the lives of his clients and become a human target. Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley star.

"Past Life" is the saga of two detectives who investigate whether problems plaguing people today are the result of who they were in a previous life.

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said Monday that certain programs with low ratings under Nielsen Media Research's traditional measurement can be renewed if they have strong numbers among viewers who watch those shows on their digital video recorders.

One returning show, the drama "Dollhouse," fit this pattern, Reilly said. "The DVR numbers are a marker that audiences want to watch something," he explained, adding that "Dollhouse" got progressively better DVR ratings each week.

In "Dollhouse," from Joss Whedon, producer of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Eliza Dushku stars as a member of a highly illegal and underground group, each of whom has had his or her personality wiped clean in order to be imprinted with various personas.

Fox hasn't entirely scrapped its "Remote Free TV" experiment, in which it showed the drama "Fringe" with fewer, and shorter, commercial breaks, executives said Monday. While the network won't implement the initiative for one show each week, it will go to the format "strategically" throughout the season, said Jon Nesvig, head of advertising sales at Fox.

Nesvig called "Remote Free TV" a success, saying advertisers and viewers responded favorably, and that it might've been more viable as a weekly initiative in a stronger economic environment. See related story.

Reilly said the network will pursue other new ideas, such as the addition of short interstitials made by the producers of a given Fox show that can air between ads within a commercial break.

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