At the January 2014 TV critics’ press tour, FOX Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly famously declared pilot season dead.
Now that Reilly himself has left the network, the question about whether FOX would continue Reilly’s plan to rethink how it develops shows came up at the summer press tour on Sunday (July 20). The answer is yes — mostly, when it makes sense.
“I think that was a little misinterpreted,” FOX Networks Group chairman and CEO Peter Rice says. “I think a lot of people felt it was Kevin saying he wouldn’t make pilots anymore, and that wasn’t his intention. We talked about it a lot before he made the statement, and I agree with him completely.”
Rice says the key to Reilly’s idea, and what FOX will try to do in the future, is be “as elastic as possible” in the development process.
“We will make pilots; sometimes we’ll go straight to series. We will make pilots in February, but sometimes we’ll make them in September,” Rice says. “We’re looking for the best projects, we’re looking to encourage the most creative people to come to FOX.”
Last week FOX hired Dana Walden and Gary Newman, the heads of 20th Century Fox TV, to lead a combined studio and network operation. Rice says he’s had discussions with them about how to approach development, and they agree that the “rigid” pilot season of years past is not the way to go.
“Having a rigid system where you go through the year in this way, make all of your pilots at the same moment, you pick from the same talent pool — it doesn’t make for the best shows,” Rice says. “The broadcast networks had sort of locked themselves into this rigidity, which was fine when that was the only system. When you’re competing with people who aren’t working in that system — talent have flocked to those other systems because they feel it’s a more creative way to make their shows.”
Just like a traditional pilot season, FOX’s new process will inevitably have its misses. It already has, actually, as the network pulled the plug on drama “Hieroglyph” after giving it a straight-to-series order. Rice says the network looked at the first episode and “decided it didn’t really live up to the ambitions we had for it. Rather than keep plodding through and hoping to fix it on the fly, we decided to stop.”