After releasing its new primetime schedule, Kevin Reilly, Chairman of Entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company, held a conference call to talk about some of the changes and additions that were made. Even though a number of new drama series and comedies were announced, most of the attention seems to be focused on the return of 24, likely to return in May as a compressed 12-episode run that, if successful, could become a more regular event on the network.
During the interview, Reilly also talked about how they’re going to approach their comedy block this year, why New Girl gets the post-Super Bowl slot, and where Gleewill be heading in the next two seasons. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
KEVIN REILLY: They always had this idea of maybe someday doing a feature film, but as they got into the feature film, they all agreed that 24 being compressed into two hours is not 24. But, talking about it over the last couple of years, they got their juices flowing again. When we announced this new franchise, a little light bulb went off for Howard [Gordon] and he said, “Wait a minute, why are we trying to kill ourselves to crack a feature when this is the perfect form?” As he was designing the season, the spine of the 24 episodes was really about 12 hours. That was when the big events occurred, and then there were little twists and connective tissue in between.
So, he just said, “This is so liberating for us to take what we would see as the best 12 hours and go in chronological order of the day, but skip hours.” It may go from 7 am to 8 am to 10 am, and then 11 am and 12 pm to 3 pm. It will be dictated by the plot. Howard is really energized over it, and so are we. It came together very quickly. The franchise is less than six months old, and we’re getting a lot of top people. We’re getting a who’s who of Hollywood, coming in the door right now, wanting to participate in this. The word “event series” is being slapped on some left-overs or on things that they’re rushing to fit on the air, but we’re going to do these in a very significant way with big scope, top talent and top marketing budgets. Most of these will be in production for well over 12 months. So, these will be very significant programs. Rebooting 24, and kicking of an M. Night Shyamalan original, starring Matt Dillon, is a great way to do it.
What’s the time table for 24?
REILLY: It will likely premiere in early May, and it will probably be paired up with one of our original dramas. It will arc from May through the summer, where we will probably then premiere our second event series that will arc into the fall. That’s one of the ways we’re going to be able to link the season together, get out of this curtain call in May, and break down this notion of the fall season. We’ll have flexibility, but I think 24 will air before the M. Night Shyamalan series.
REILLY: You know, we all talked about going out strong. It was a miracle that that show was as vital and did as well as it did, given the complexity of the concept. Everybody was drained creatively and it felt like it was time. We wanted it to go out strong. It’s weird, but I can tell you that there is literally not a week, since I’ve been in this job, that someone doesn’t ask me about 24 and say, “Would you ever bring it back?” The outpouring of love we’ve heard since we’ve announced this has been unbelievable, and I think that speaks to the fact that we didn’t keep this limping for two or three more seasons. It went out creatively vibrant. There was still a lot of love for it. And now the fans get to have it in what I think is the perfect way to do it.
So, if it’s successful, this could be an annual event again?
REILLY: It could. I really do not see this becoming a regular series, but could it come back? Yeah. I don’t know if it would be annual. These event series are going to be stand-alone events. We want to give the audience something where they say, “That is an appointment show, and there’s going to be a beginning, middle and end. I don’t have to follow it season to season.” But some of these, and that will include 24, could have franchise-ability. There could be sequels. I don’t know if it would be yearly, but we certainly could reload something that comes back, 18 or 24 months later, and people are even that much more excited to see it. That would be great.
REILLY: We probably underestimated some of the pressure we were going to have. We didn’t know, at the time, that we were going to have eight other comedies stacked against us, and The Voice came out. Frankly, we needed to promote New Girl, in and of itself, a little bit more. This year, we do have incumbents. Mindy is a returning show with an established audience. New Girl weathered the storm. We were the last man standing, after all of that played out. I think we have the pieces of the puzzle right now, with Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg and the writers who are behind those shows. Last year, I loved Ben & Kate, but it was more fragile. I think my love for it made me not as objective about our ability to launch it. I think those shows are going to be a little bit easier to launch, and gives us more of a handle to launch.
What was behind the decision to give New Girl the post-Superbowl slot?
REILLY: I think that show still has a lot of growth ahead of it. Comedy can go on for a long time. I love the show. Particularly the second half of this season was really on fire. It’s a way to give New Girl a boost, and then give one of our new shows additional sampling or a shot in the arm.
REILLY: Yes, it’s just that some of the particulars of this year made that really hard. We will have some baseball preemption, once again. We’re going to get on a little early with it. The X-Factor and Glee will get out of the gate two weeks early, so we’ll get a run before we’ll get a couple baseball preemptions, but then we will be uninterrupted in the fall. But then, when we come back, the goal is to be uninterrupted when Glee comes back in, playing straight until the summer. More than anything, in this day and age, having preemptions and having to go off the air for a batch of repeats is one of the top challenges we have, frankly. It’s too much book-keeping for the audience. And with a young audience like Glee, that has not been a good thing for the show. So, part of our intention is to get it as original as possible.
With the two-season pick-up for Glee, are you marching towards an end? Do you see those as the final two seasons?
REILLY: I don’t want to say that we’re marching towards an end. We have two more seasons, which speaks to the confidence of the show and how important it is to us and our belief in Ryan [Murphy]. We’re going to take it two seasons at a time. But, there will be progression in the story. I think that will be the fun thing for the fans. It’s not going to be a static two seasons. We’re going to continue with graduation. When the show was really at its height, there were cross-over fans. The show has been very steady all year, and a really solid performer. The core fans were really happy with what went on there, creatively. So, we want to lock those in and keep them engaged in new things. New York was a really great addition to the show this year. So, there are going to be graduations and we’re going to be taking New York to the next step, in that adventure, and then there will be some really interesting mini-arcs, like we’ve done with our guest actors.
Do you have anybody planned already?
REILLY: No, we’re not going to announce anybody right now.