Jack Bauer, the swashbuckling lead in 24, had a mission for Peter Liguori, the president of Fox Entertainment: present Fox’s fall programming schedule to advertisers and the media in under an hour. “I’ve neutralized terrorists, I’ve taken down rogue agents, I’d take the world in less time than that. All you need to do is shorten your speech,” said Kiefer Sutherland, playing Mr. Bauer, in a pre-taped gag from the “24” set. “Lose the charts, keep it simple.”
The following took place between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. at City Center: They rolled out the president of sales and marketing to bumble on about sports programming (There was something about the Super Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl? We were looking for the Guac Bowl). Then the new and old Fox stars (from Carrie Fisher to Parker Posey) trotted out in a rushed procession across the stage before they cut to the chase: four new dramas and three new comedies for the upcoming season.
Fox is No. 1 in the ratings, due to “the Death Star” American Idol and doctor drama House, but the network often suffers from a ratings slump when the baseball postseason kicks in during the late fall and cancels out regular programming. Not to mention some development glitches like picking up Vanished and Drive last year.
“All candor, we were disappointed by our fourth quarter,” Mr. Liguori said. “We greenlit some series that we thought could be manufactured into commercial success, rather than going with shows that we felt were really great; shows that we loved.”
The love fest began with a preview of Back to You, a comedy about a chauvinistic newsman who suddenly has to co-anchor with an ex-lover starring cancelled show alums Patricia Heaton (from Everybody Loves Raymond) and Kelsey Grammar (Frasier). Sounds like it’s trying to hard to bank on Achorman.
But, on to another show that is kind of a big deal: The Return of Jezebel James, the laugh-tracked (ew!) new dramatic comedy from Gilmore Girls writer and producer Amy Sherman-Palladino. Despite the manufactured chuckles, the show looks promising. Hot-shot book editor, played by Parker Posey, asks her unemployed sister, played by Lauren Ambrose, to be her surrogate mother. Like “an incubator with Tivo!” Ms. Posey cheers in the preview. We’re rooting for this one, although we’re hoping Ms. Posey will be cattier than she is in the previews (she’s always been a better antagonist) and Ms. Ambrose will look less like bratty teen, like how she was in Six Feet Under.
The Rules for Starting Over, a new comedy produced and directed by the Farrelly brothers, will star NBC traitor Rashida Jones (we were always on Team Pam anyway) in a foursome of recent divorcees who have to stumble back onto the single scene. “These four friends are going to be dating in the world of the Farrellys,” Mr. Liguori added. That apparently includes chimps, leprechaun mascots, cotton-candy helmets and toilet brushes. Don’t ask.
K-Ville, a new drama about two cops trying to save New Orleans from drowning in crime and corruption in the aftermath of Katrina, will depend on two unlikely leading men: Anthony Anderson (Big Mamma’s House, Barbershop) and Cole Hauser (The Break-Up, 2 Fast 2 Furious).
New Amsterdam is about a man, played by Denmark-native and fun-named Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who was given the gift/curse of eternal life by a Native American woman. Until he can reunite with her as his “one true love,” he’s stuck using his “encyclopedic knowledge of Manhattan” to solve homicides, according to Mr. Liguori. Maybe he can tell us when Alphabet City starting looking like frat house row?
Finally, there’s Canterbury’s Law, in which Julianna Margulies will play a near-heartless attorney (meh) and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a Terminator spin-off (this is a little delayed, no?) about a “mother who becomes a warrior,” to save her son from a rampaging robot from the future, according to the preview. Looks like she’ll be fighting to keep audiences interested in this stale storyline.
“In all honesty, we didn’t need to pick up that many shows,” Mr. Liguori said, sure to slap on a little News Corp pomp before wrapping things up as that familiar 24 ticking clock sound pounded through Center City. “We’re the broadcast leaders. And we’re not satisfied with just winning. We want to increase our lead by investing our schedule, investing our network, investing the broadcast business.”
We see you, Mr. Murdoch!