To FOX: A Suggested Fall Schedule (Here's How You Work Around Baseball and "IDOL")

posted Feb 21, 2013, 9:26 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 21, 2013, 9:32 AM ]

Last week Les Moonves, the grand poobah of CBS, was speaking to analysts about his #1 ranked network. He claimed that they weren’t going to need very much for the fall by way of new programming.

While CBS is still by far the most stable of the networks in terms of both ratings and programming, such a claim would have been more true a couple of years ago than today.

I started thinking about what CBS is really facing and what I would suggest for the fall. I decided I had to do the same thing for NBC, ABC and FOX. I don’t bother with the CW. I don’t consider that a broadcast network its niche targeting and inability to effectively program TEN primetime hours (less than half that of the Big Three) without resorting to clones and remakes.

These suggested schedules are built on three things: what I think the best pilot premises are and existing shows worth renewing. I largely veered away from concepts that sounded derivative, limited in premise, too high-concept or unnecessarily violent. You’ll notice that I am a bit of a purist when it comes to marrying formats together between multi-camera comedies and single-camera comedies.

I don’t take into consideration any deals with producers and studios or other financial matters because I either don’t know, don’t care or just abjectly hate the concept they’ve managed to pitch to pilot. I also don’t take into consideration the execution of the pilot because I’m probably not going to be able to see it before it airs. Keep in mind that all of this is based on the information I have at my disposal -- largely from

Lastly, I don’t take into consideration A1849 ratings because it’s an outdated demo that the networks all need to abandon in favor of A35+, a more relevant demographic given the fact that those “valuable and elusive younger viewers” do not watch television the same way adult viewers do AND NEVER WILL.

New shows are highlighted in yellow. Returning shows with new time slots are CAPITALIZED. New show descriptions follow each night with rationale for why a certain show was scheduled for a certain time slot or otherwise moved to a new one.

General network notes come at the end.

We’ll see how my schedules compare to the actual fall schedules when they are unveiled in May.



The fall for FOX is always precarious for them because a) they don’t have the now-in-decline American Idol to rely on, b) the highly disruptive baseball playoffs and World Series make it difficult to launch new shows and c) the highly disruptive baseball playoffs and World Series make it difficult to air regular a schedule.

There is a conditional d) but that is predicated on the teams which make it to the playoffs. Popular teams in the playoffs and the World Series generally translate to high ratings and provide great promotional opportunities for new shows – especially if the series goes to seven games. Match ups that don’t generate as much viewer interest don’t generally deliver such high ratings but still provide those promotional activities. However, the longer those series go, the harder it is to recover ratings-wise.

They’ve tried launching their seasons early. They’ve tried launching their seasons late. And they’ve tried staggered launches.

So FOX generally suffers through the fall until American Idol returns in January. The launch of The X-Factor in 2011 provided some stability for the fall. Though it is the network’s #3 show in viewers behind Idol and The Following, ratings for Factor came in well below expectations.

Now with a highly-competitive singing competition on NBC and the still-chugging-along Dancing with the Stars on ABC, viewer fatigue is starting to set in. It has affected The X-Factor – although the show’s behind-the-scenes turnover doesn’t help. Even the once-impenetrable American Idol has also suffered stiff declines – due in part to its own revolving door of judges in recent years, the fact that the venerable franchise is twelve years old and the gluttony of similar competition programs on the other networks.

So this is troublesome – but not detrimental -- this season.

This schedule doesn’t factor in baseball. But I do suggest the following: hold off all new programs until AFTER baseball. Though the TV season will be well underway, late October launches allow for heavy promotion during baseball. Established returning shows such as Raising Hope, New Girl and The Mindy Project (however marginally-rated) and the reliable Bones, can better absorb such disruptions in their seasons than a new series. Additionally, as baseball season heats up, those shows will have more of an episode backlog for encores.

- FOX only programs two prime-time hours each night and three on Sundays for a total of 15 to the other three networks’ 22.

Here is a link to all the pilots ordered by FOX. See if you agree with my choices.

8pm – RAISING HOPE / Dads
9pm – Gang Related

- This night skews a bit male. Raising Hope returns to lead off the night (and breaking up the Tuesday comedy block) for what will probably be its final, marginally-rated season. Hope leads into Seth McFarlane’s first foray into live-action comedy with a multi-cam. Given McFarlane’s popularity among young men, should not only improve on Hope with that audience but also in total viewers – which is why I am breaking my format rule here as well.

- Despite the popularity of The Voice on NBC and Dancing with the Stars on ABC, this hour targets an entirely different audience that is not likely to be watching the aforementioned competition shows or CBS’s multi-camera comedies.

- Things will get interesting by the winter/spring when NBC’s female-centric comedies replace The Voice and ABC’s family-oriented comedies replace Stars. With something for everybody, Mondays at 8pm should be great for television as a whole.

- Hope and Dads lead into one of FOX’s three new dramas – the male-skewing Gang Related, which will serve as great programming alternative to CBS’s multi-camera comedies, NBC’s fantasy-oriented Grimm and ABC’s female-centric Body of Proof.

Dads: Two successful guys in their 30s have their lives turned upside down when their nightmare dads unexpectedly move in with them. Six episodes have already been ordered. (multi-camera comedy)

Gang Related: A gang member is sent in to infiltrate the San Francisco Police Department and rises through its ranks but must balance his obligations to his crime family with an increasing sense of loyalty to his new “family” — the SFPD’s Gang Task Force. (drama)


9pm – Rake

- With Ben & Kate unfortunately cancelled and Raising Hope moving to Mondays, what is left of this season’s comedy block, the female-centric New Girl and The Mindy Project, both shift up one hour to lead into Rake, starring the female-friendly Greg Kinnear.

- As is the case with Monday, this hour airs opposite The Voice and Dancing with the Stars results shows in the fall. But neither they nor time slot leader NCIS should present a competitive problem as they will all attract different audiences.

- In the spring, NBC debuts its male-skewing hour of multi-camera comedies and ABC launches its hour of female-skewing comedies. NBC’s hour is of no consequence. There could be some audience overlap with the ABC hour, but those comedies have more of a family angle than the FOX hour.

Rake: The series follows the chaotic and comedic life of criminal defense lawyer Keegan Joye. Brilliant, frustratingly charming, and with zero filter, Keegan is one of life’s great addicts. His staggering lack of discretion and inability to self-censor land him the cases that nobody else wants, but behind that lies a resolute optimism and belief in justice that fuel his dogged determination to defend those who seem beyond redemption. In addition to Keegan’s cases within the justice system, the show follows his personal trials and tribulations, including his ongoing battle against the IRS, his mounting debt to his bookie, overlapping affairs and liaisons with women, a hormonal son, an exhausted ex-wife and the evolving relationship between his two married best friends. Based on the Australian series. (drama)


(fall)                                                                (winter/spring)
            8pm – X Factor                                               8pm – American Idol 

- Nothing should air after these programs. While it takes away from the ability to provide exposure for new shows, it will still allow for cross-promotion of those new and returning shows. This strategy stabilizes the night while also eliminating FOX’s penchant of releasing nearly week-by-week schedules to accommodate the formatting on X-Factor and American Idol while also attempting to launch new programs. Viewers lose interest when they’re made to keep track of what’s airing where or when.

- Additionally, as we’ve seen time and again, Idol isn’t the best launching pad for new series. Glee may have been the only exception because they more or less had the same core audience. Most of FOX’s other programming does not.

- Getting the most mileage out of these two programs is better done on the nights they air than by expanding to other nights as had been done in earlier Idol seasons. Fortunately, the ratings declines on Idol make this less tempting for FOX.

- Unless The X-Factor can finally settle on its hosts, this should be the last season. Contrary to popular belief, hosts do matter – if for no other reason than consistency.

- Comedy and drama encores can air between the fall cycle of X-Factor and the winter/spring cycle of Idol.




                                (fall – after results shows)                                    (winter/spring – after results shows)
                                8pm – X Factor                                                      8pm – American Idol
                                9pm –  Goor-Schur Show / I Suck at Girls        9pm – Goor-Schur Show / I Suck at Girls

- As is the case with Wednesdays, where FOX is often tempted to air what seems to be a different schedule every week, only X-Factor in the fall and American Idol in the spring will air until the live results shows. At that point, the new hour of male-skewing comedies will premiere.

- Though this will split up the season for new shows Goor-Schur and I Suck at Girls (from Justin Halpern -- the guy behind Shit My Dad Says), there should be enough establishment the fall and enough time for promotion during the Idol audition rounds in the spring for this to not be a detrimental as such breaks typically are. Plus, these are comedies. Their non-serialized nature can better absorb such breaks and encores can be used to ease viewers back into the series.

- CBS and ABC both have solid-performing dramas in the hour. NBC is the only other network with comedies, but those comedies are more family-oriented than this male-skewing hour.

Goor-Schur Show: About a diverse group of detectives in a precinct at the very edge of New York City. (single-camera comedy)

I Suck at Girls: The story of a boy becoming a man, and a man becoming a father, in a time before coming of age was something you could Google. Based on Justin Halpern’s book, the follow-up to Shit My Dad Says. (single-camera comedy)


8pm – BONES
9pm – The List 

- Since The X-Files was relocated to Sundays in the mid-1990s, FOX hasn’t had much by way of stability on the night. Bones, which seems to bring its audience to any night of the week, is the only show that doesn’t take a ratings nosedive by airing on Fridays. So it’s been returned here to lead into the new drama The List. 

- CBS is the only other network running dramas on the night. NBC and ABC have turned the night over to unscripted programming.

The List: The series centers on Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Shaker who, when members of the Federal Witness Security Program start getting killed, leads the hunt for the person who stole “the list” – a file with the identities of every member of the program. (drama)


8pm – Sports / COPS

- Though it’s nice that FOX runs a variety of sports programming, including NASCAR and college football, they may as well just turn this night over to the stronger affiliates and/or make programming arrangements with the weaker affiliates.

7pm – FOX TV Classics
8pm – The Simpsons / Bob’s Burgers
9pm – Family Guy / American Dad 

- It has been more than a decade since FOX has had anything besides animation working on this night (The X-Files). There’s no reason to attempt to change that now. Though the night is in decline, it’s FOX’s most stable night of programming.

- Their only issue is the 7pm hour, where they’re currently running animation encores. I don’t see why they couldn’t air some time-slot appropriate FOX shows from the past such as Tracey Ullman, In Living Color, Roc, Malcolm in the Middle, The Bernie Mac Show and/or Arrested Development.

General notes:

- Since FOX hasn’t ordered any new episodes of The Cleveland Show, there will either be a hiatus for the season or a full-on cancellation. Therefore, it is not on this schedule. 

- The tired Glee is also not on this schedule. The only way I would renew it at all, perhaps for midseason, would be if they just shifted completely to NY or remained in Lima full-time instead of toggling between the two. My suggestion would be the former since the new crop isn’t as great as the old crop save for the underutilized Unique.

- The Following is also not on this schedule because at 15 episodes already with this storyline, where else would you go with the premise? However, if it is renewed, it could be great to have waiting in the wings come midseason.

- I don’t see Touch making it to season three.

- And how much longer than the Gordon Ramsay schtick be exploited? I’d rather see reruns of old FOX shows.

- Most importantly, FOX has figure out an exit strategy for American Idol within the next couple of years and make plans for a post-Idol existence. 

Monday: CBS
Tuesday: NBC
Yesterday: ABC

Coming Up:
All Four Schedules: Night-By-Night