The last time FOX made a big deal about its “year-round schedule,” it produced a summer filled with such gems as “Quintuplets,” “The Simple Life 2″ and “North Shore.”
Nine years after that 2004 attempt, the network is making a bigger — and on paper at least, better — commitment to keeping its schedule fresh throughout the year. This summer will play out with the usual mix of repeats and new unscripted shows, but starting with the fall and rolling into the summer of 2014, “our goal as a network is virtually year-round original programming,” says FOX Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly.
The strategy includes rolling out the 12-week return of “24” next summer and other shows sharing timeslots during the traditional season. “Bones,” for instance, will start off on Mondays in the fall, then move to Friday nights in November to serve as a lead-in for comedies “Raising Hope” and “Enlisted.” Some shows might have shorter orders — “there’s no magic number,” Reilly notes.
It also means “Glee” will have a split season. Reilly says the show will have a mostly uninterrupted run in the fall (give or take a handful of baseball playoff games), followed by a long hiatus in the winter during which the new drama “Rake” takes over the 9 p.m. Thursday spot. “Glee” will then return next spring and run into the summer of 2014. It’s a pattern the show has used before, back in Season 1.
“Historically on ‘Glee,’ we’ve split up the order in the past and launched it twice. So what we’re going to do is come out with a fall season of ‘Glee,’ put it on hiatus for a little bit and give ‘Rake’ a tryout,” Reilly says. “Then ‘Glee’ will be back in the spring. [We’ll] relaunch it with a creative twist in terms of the creative evolving, and that will play right into the summer as we’ve done once before. It will be part of our plate of pretty robust scripted programming, which will probably include our new drama ‘Gang Related,’ which will premiere in early May and also go into the summer.”
“Glee” and “The X Factor” are also likely to start their seasons a couple of weeks before the rest of the fall onslaught so they can each have several episodes under their belt before the baseball postseason disrupts FOX’s regular schedule. Reilly also says the network is looking to keep two-hour “X Factor” and “American Idol” episodes on Thursdays to a minimum: “We actually have that nailed down. It’s going to be clean.”
Shows sharing timeslots could cause some initial confusion for viewers, but Reilly thinks it’s a better solution than the traditional scheduling pattern that features a lot of repeats in the winter and spring.
“More than anything in this day and age, having pre-emptions, having to go off the air for a batch of repeats is one of the top challenges we have,” Reilly says. “It’s too much bookkeeping for the audience. … It’s not a good thing for the show. So that is part of our intention, to try to get it as original as possible.”