As part of the TCA Press Tour presentation for Fox, President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly took some time to talk about where things stand with some of the new comedies and dramas, as well as old favorites, Glee and Fringe. During the interview, he spoke about their new comedy block which includes New Girl, Raising Hope, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project, what Glee 2.0 will look like, the importance of giving Fringe a final season, how they’ll approach genre programming in the future, their hope for Primetime Emmy nominations next year, and the likelihood of Seth MacFarlane returning to live-action on the network. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: How did you finally get these four half-hour comedies — New Girl, Raising Hope, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project — together on one night?
KEVIN REILLY: Well, since I took this job at FOX, I’ve been talking about my desire to get our comedy brand going again, and we’ve had a mixed bag on that. Last year is when it really all started to come together, with New Girl joining Raising Hope. And I’d say that we finally have the development that feels like it fits.
We developed Ben and Kate internally. We have a close relationship with the producers of that show, who were working on New Girl. Dana Fox was a consultant on New Girl, and Jake Kasdan directed the pilot for both and was executive-producing both. So, we had our eye on that one, all year long, as the one we hoped would just fit the bill, and I think it does perfectly.
And then, The Mindy Project was a really great stroke of luck, frankly. I’ve had a personal relationship with Mindy [Kaling] since I cast her on The Office. I’ve watched her star rise, both in front of and behind the camera. I saw her diligence as a multi-hyphenate, and as somebody who could walk off the camera and then be disciplined in the writing room and turn out a great script, and keep the machine going. For whatever reason, NBC decided this didn’t fit their bill. Universal had House on our air for many years. It was their most profitable show, and it was a huge hit for us. So, replicating that is only good for everybody, and I certainly expect that we will.
There is some concern about how Glee is going to pull off juggling Ohio and Rachel’s (Lea Michele) story in New York with all the subplots for the characters who graduated that Ryan Murphy has said will continue on the show. What can you say about how that’s going to look next season, for Glee 2.0?
REILLY: Now that I’ve read the first three scripts, I am very happy with how seamless it is. There’s going to be thematic links between the two. Although we have not severed relationships with anyone, obviously we’re not going to be servicing that large a tapestry of characters. We are adding some characters in New York. We’ve cast two new guys already — one in New York, one in Ohio. We have fresh faces joining Ohio, so this is the natural mirror of real life, where people graduate and new faces come in. But, also like real life, this is set in a small town in Ohio, with very important and close relationships. Just as in real life, people tend to not stray too far away from that. Some people settle down in their hometowns. Some people go away, but they come back for holidays and reunions. And because we have a very good relationship with all the actors, some of whom have very vibrant careers now on the outside, the idea is to keep that relationship where it can be fluid, in terms of who is going to show up when. We really have a core of some of the returning characters and some of the new ones that we’ll be servicing every week, and then limited deals with some of the other actors who will be joining, here and there, throughout the season that will make for a fun surprise on some episodes. Clearly, we can’t be in two locations, moving a huge tapestry of characters forward. I think it’s going to be a real breath of fresh air, for the show. I love the New York flavor that’s going to be joining, and we get that coming-of-age in a new chapter of life. The scripts are really clean and good.
Will most episodes focus in Ohio, and then include New York, or is it mostly going to be shot in New York? Where exactly will the focus be?
REILLY: We will be in both locations, in most shows. There’s not a rigid formula. When Ryan first introduced the idea of graduating some characters, we weren’t sure. At one point, I even thought we would split the season down the middle and go from Ohio, and then do the other half of the season in New York. Ultimately, I don’t think that’s the way the fans are going to want to watch the show, and I think that might just be too abrupt. Frankly, if we re-populate Ohio and then, all of a sudden, in the middle of the year, we then go to New York, or vice versa, it really could have been jarring. So, what Ryan said was, “Let me get in with the writing staff. We think this is going to work, very seamlessly, back and forth. Let us try it.” And it is working seamlessly, back and forth. Some episodes may take place half and half. The ones we’ve read so far do cut back and forth. They have thematic linkage between the two and, because you’re following characters we already know to New York, it’s not completely like, “Where are we? What are we doing here?” Those characters did, in fact, graduate and are going to continue to study. It all feels very natural, if you’ve been a fan of the show.
REILLY: Absolutely! Look, I don’t like to just pull the plug on any show because many of our failed shows have had many, many millions of fans. But Fringe has a particular fan base. We have a checkered history with genre, at best. We’re one of the only networks that has consistently tried genre, and genre is hard. The Fringe producers have delivered a fantastic show that we are as passionate about today, as we were the day we put it on. It’s done a job for us on Friday. A few seasons ago, we had a test pattern on Friday between Kitchen Nightmares and Fringe. We’ve won most Fridays. It’s been a really contemporary show, for which most of the fans are there, but they’re there on their DVRs. This year, at one point, we hit a 73% lift over the Live 7 number, so people watch it. If they don’t catch it live, they definitely catch it on their DVR. But, I’m hoping this puts to bed the “ghost of Comic-Con” sentiment, if you will, which is, “Damn you, FOX, you put these shows on and then break our hearts.” Hopefully, we’ve got a little bit of cred for seeing one through that really deserved it.
REILLY: Yeah. If you look back to The X-Files being one of the tentpoles of making FOX the contemporary FOX it is today, we’re attracted to the genre. Whatever word you want to associate with us whenever you do brand studies, people do expect the unexpected at FOX. They like to see something a little bit bolder and on the edge, and that quite often leads to genre. Every television show is hard to do, but when you’re in genre and you’re recreating worlds and mythologies, they’re particularly hard. So, when you get a team like we’ve had at Fringe, they should be rewarded. We didn’t dip into it this year. The Following had a great show at Comic-Con. I think it’s already in the thriller-horror genre. We’ll talk more about that show in January. But, they’re hard. We’ve tried them now over the last few years, and with mixed results.
The Primetime Emmy nominations are out. In the drama category, none of the shows are on the broadcast networks, even though (Mad Man creator) Matt Weiner said that all of those shows were pitched to the networks. Why do you think all these shows are going to basic cable and pay cable, instead of being on the networks?
REILLY: Well, first of all, I love most of those shows that were nominated. I’m hard-pressed to think of one that would work on a network. In fact, many of them on a cable network are also fairly low-rated. So, taking nothing away from the creative achievement of it, we are in a different business. Those shows worked for their particular cable networks. There are certainly cable shows that are now getting upwards of some of our network ratings. But, if you laid a chart of those shows over the network shows, you’re going to see those cable hits not even make the cut in the network ratings, in the network universe. That’s the business we’re in. With that said, I think that we had a long run of some seminal network shows, including House and 24, that cycled out. For me, I notice that that tends to be when the new hits come in. People select things. They put them on their plate. They invest in shows, like Lost, Desperate Housewives, House and 24, and then they get a little old and cycle out. It’s our job to repopulate it. So, I don’t like having no shows there, but as far as FOX goes, I think we will have some, next year.
What show do you think that’s going to be?
REILLY: I think we’ve got two great shots. On the returning side, Touch is a really fine television show. I have very, very high hopes for Touch. I was happy we could bring it back. In the first season, it didn’t quite hit the ratings I was looking for, but the performances and quality of that show are outstanding. And I really like our pilots for the new shows that we’re putting on the air. I don’t want to point to one right now, but I think we have a really fertile slate this year. The Mob Doctor is on in the Fall. I love the fact that we’re doing a 15-episode model with The Following. When it comes to serialized shows, interrupting those shows for the audience is a real challenge for them. One thing that cable has done is trained the audience that, when a TV show is on, it should be on. We have a larger tapestry to manage. We do have to take preemptions. But, we’re going to try to keep highly serialized shows in continuous production on our air, as much as possible, the way we did with 24. That’s the way we’re doing The Following. I like the fact that we’re now doing a more limited episode run with of 15 episodes with that. That is something we’re going to probably do a little bit more, as well. I’d like The Following to stick and be a huge hit next year, and I’d like to define the Fall version of that with 13 or 15.
With an almost $200 million movie out, what is the likelihood of Seth MacFarlane returning to live-action? Is that a priority for you? Do you think his humor, outside of animation, can work on Fox?
REILLY: Look, I love the guy, personally and professionally. He has just been a blast to work with. He’s one of a kind. And I think he’s proving it again now, with his feature success [with Ted]. He’s busy, no bones about it. But, right after he got done promoting the movie and I came back from vacation, he was one of the first calls I had. He’s not dialed out, but he’s busy. We have no plans to do anything new, in the short run, but he is a very, very ambitious guy, and he’s very creatively restless. I don’t want him straying far from the fold, and my hope would be that we would do a new show with him, at some time. I don’t have any in the pipeline, at the moment, but I don’t think he’s done with television.