'American Idol' and more: FOX execs face the critics

kevin-reilly-fox-320.jpgThe press tour session with FOX executives Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly Monday (Aug. 2) is likely to be dominated one topic. Three guesses as to what it is (hint: It rhymes with "Shlamerican Shlidol").

We're live-blogging the session, so stay tuned and keep hitting refresh.

11:09 a.m. PT: Rice acknowledges that "Idol" is what everyone wants to talk about and starts by talking about Ellen DeGeneres' departure and talks they had over the summer. They finalized her departure last week -- in part because of this session. "I felt it would be disingenuous," he says.

11:11: The only thing Rice can tell us is that "no one has signed a deal" to join the show next year, either in front of ( Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler) or behind the camera ( Nigel Lythgoe). "Much of the information that has been written is accurate, and some of it has been wildly inaccurate" -- but he won't tell us which is which.

11:12: "I truly wish we could walk out a panel of judges for next year," but that's not how it's broken. He's not going into speculation or a "blow-by-blow" account of casting the show.

11:16: After a non-"Idol" question, we get to a question about Lythgoe ("no deal") and we ask about the auditions and a little bit of sausage-making on the show: While huge crowds have shown up for auditions already, the judges aren't there for it. What we'll see on TV in January with whoever the judges are will be filmed in September.

11:18: Kara DioGuardi? Not gonna say anything. Even about whether she's called to inquire about her status on the show? Nope.

11:19: Why's it so tough to close a deal when so many prominent names have put themselves forward? No comment. We're sensing a pattern.

11:20: Is the goal to replace the "emotional function" that Simon Cowell and DeGeneres played? "The goal is first to make a great television show," Rice says, and also to find people who have great chemistry with one another and connect with the audience.

11:21: Does the "Idol" show itself need a makeover? Kind of a non-answer from Rice about hoping to keep the show vital and be celebrating its 20th anniversary a decade from now.

11:24: Non-"Idol" question! Critic contends that "Lone Star" is not "a FOX show," but Reilly disagrees. "There's a lot of octane in this concept, because it's provocative," he says.

11:26: Does the showmanship aspect of "Idol" need a boost? "First let me start by telling you who the judges are going to be this year ..." big laugh. What the questioner wants to know is whether he's concerned that the past couple winners have been sort of middle-of-the-road performers. Reilly says the talent level was high this year, but there may not have been the "alchemy" that kicked it up in past years.

11:27: Question (ish): "You can mess around with 'American Idol' all you want. Do not mess with 'Fringe.'" Reilly: We don't intend to. He told the showrunners the network wouldn't have "an itchy trigger finger," and lived up to that promise. He notes that the show's DVR audience is pretty strong, and he expects the same this year.

11:29: Does the looming specter of "X Factor" bring any threat to "Idol"? Rice says they'll be in different parts of the year and won't compete.

11:30: Reilly is asked about the launch strategy for "Terra Nova" -- it will preview next May and launch in fall 2011 -- and the reasons are both hype-based (building interest over next summer and the like, a la "Glee") and practical. For the amount of visual effects that will be used in the time-travel show, "it needs to be ahead."

11:33: "Late night is never off the table," Reilly says, but it's not a high priority at the moment. He's concentrating on primetime.

11:35: Was the "Glee" reality show -- originally planned for FOX this summer but now on Oxygen next year -- pushed off because of fear of overexposure? No, Reilly says. It had more to do with logistics -- the show had a fairly short hiatus, and adding that on top of it would have been too much.

11:36: Part 2 of that question: Are you worried about "Glee" flaming out? Reilly calls it a "high-class problem" but acknowledges that if some of the hoopla died down, that'd probably be a good thing.

11:37: What Reilly has heard so far on "Glee" "has been outstanding." Rice adds that co-creator Ryan Murphy's pledge to focus a little more on character this season has been positive.

11:39: Reilly says that running "Glee" is a balancing act given the big cast and the musical numbers, but outside pressure from the music industry and elsewhere hasn't added to the burden. People want to see more of the characters, he says, and that's a good thing.

11:40: Diversity question -- FOX's new shows are pretty monochromatic. Rice says the crop of pilots FOX ordered this year did have a good amount of diversity, but they weren't the ones that were picked up. "It wasn't by design that we have a sea of lily-white faces across the network," Reilly says. He also notes that the midseason drama "Ride-Along" has a more diverse cast.

11:42: Reilly is asked about his friend Steve McPherson's departure from ABC. He doesn't want to talk about him leaving, but says they're close friends and that "he's a loyal and good friend" and in work he's not afraid to stand by his convictions. "It's been upsetting to me," Reilly says, but he's focusing on being a friend.

11:43: Circling back to "Idol" -- Randy Jackson? [See above for all "Idol"-related answers.]

11:44: How will you handle the scheduling of "Lone Star"? Reilly expects at least 13 episodes of the show in before "Ride-Along" takes over its Monday timeslot post-Super Bowl.

Last question: Will "Idol's" promos celebrate its 10-year anniversary? "I think we want to get the judges in place first," Rice says.

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Photo credit: FOX