As part of the TCA Press Tour presentation for Fox, President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly took some time to talk about the focus of their returning series for the Fall season, the possibility of further seasons for a number of those shows, and the role that their new line-up will play, in determining the future of the network. Here are the most interesting points:
- Season 3 of Glee will return its focus on the core characters and relationships, with three of the original cast graduating this season. There are not going to be any big guest stars this season, or tribute episodes.
- There is no doubt that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk will be able to manage their time on both Glee and their new FX drama series American Horror Story.
- Fox has made the unique decision to team up with Seth MacFarlane to produce Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, a 13-part sequel to the Emmy-winning 1980 PBS docu-series from Carl Sagan.
- The folks behind Terra Nova are right on track with where that show needs to be, in order to have the episodes ready for their air dates, and Fox believes they’ve got a real shot with the epic series.
- Kevin Reilly is happy with where things are at with both Fringe and Bones, and hopes both of those series will be continuing with future seasons. And, although they are considering a Season 8 for House, even involved wants to be sure to go out on top creatively, so no decision has been made yet.
- An option has been extended with the cast of Breaking In, so there is still some slim hope that that series could return, at some point.
Hit the jump for more of what he had to say:
Question: What steps are you taking, if any, to contain the noise that’s been surrounding Glee and keep it from impacting cast morale during what could be a very transitional season?
KEVIN REILLY: First of all, this show is such an undertaking, and the management of the whole enterprise, producing a weekly episodic show, is very difficult. Producing a drama is particularly difficult. Producing a one-hour show that has to reinvent musical numbers, and interpret those musical numbers with a large cast, is difficult. It is a big management undertaking, while you’re prepping an international live tour and shooting a concert movie. I think that Ryan [Murphy] and his group of associates there do a phenomenal job managing that, every day. The spin-off was in the wind and still is in the wind. We haven’t said we’re not doing it. We talked about it last season, and I can tell you that Ryan did talk to all the actors about it. I think the public nature of it took everybody by surprise. Ryan himself has said he regrets talking about it at all because, in the interim, we had decided to really focus on this year.
I sat down with Brad [Falchuk] and Ryan [Murphy], and talked about this season’s arc, and there were tears of joy, in terms of how good the stories are and some of the emotional stuff they had. The season feels so focused this year. You’re going to see a back-to-basics story this year. There are not going to be any big guest stars this season. There are not going to be any tribute episodes. We’re focusing on our core characters and relationships. They have an incredibly clean arc. There will be a graduation, at the end, with three characters graduating. How that’s going to play out, I’m not going to say. There are going to be surprises. It is not going to be predictable. They already have a really excellent idea of how that’s going to play out. The competition will be alive and well, and driving to that graduation. There will be probably a new character. Darren Criss is now in the show. You will have the winner from The Glee Project joining, at some point down the road. You’re going to see much more focus on the characters, which is really what the fans like.
REILLY: Well, even if I had that talk, he wouldn’t listen anyway, so no. The management has been so professional. They have really stepped up on that show. They got a jump-start on their material. Glee is produced with three people and written by three people. In my mind, I don’t believe there’s any other show on television that was written by three people. The fact is there are shows that have 14, 15 or16 people writing them. This is the first year that Glee will have a staff around them, and they are in a great place on their material. Of all of my concerns, that team managing two shows at once is not one of them.
If The X Factor doesn’t work, with all of the money and effort that you’ve put into it, will that hurt the network?
REILLY: The history of Fox has been a patchy Fall. We won the Fall, for the first time in the history of the network, two seasons ago. We did that with the momentum of Glee and some strong post-season baseball. Is The X Factor the mother of all shows? Absolutely! If that can do half of what we hope it would do in the Fall, Fox is going to be really, really difficult for the other guys to reckon with. With that said, one of the things that we’ve been trying to do over the last number of seasons, and that we have done, is have a highly competitive seven nights of the week. Even on Friday, where we had virtually been dark over many seasons, the Fringe/Kitchen Nightmares combo became a winning combo in the Spring. We’re not a one-show network. We are a seven-night-a-week network. I want to be a year-round network and continue to push out that May curtain call. We know about the noise that Terra Nova is going make. Whether that show will work or not, that show is just not going to come on quietly. It’s going to be really different than anything else on the air. We’re going to be a force in comedy this year. I haven’t loved all the moves we’ve made. We’ve had some misfires. Finally looking at the comedy profile that I’d hoped the network would have, we’re excited about Raising Hope and New Girl, and some of the things we’re going to be adding in the second half of the year.
What made you decide to do Cosmos with Seth MacFarlane?
REILLY: First of all, it is a very unique property. It really doesn’t feel like a natural fit on Fox. This is something that really impacted a generation. I think it was the most successful thing PBS ever did. Since we’ve announced this, I have more people come up to me and say, “I love that show.” And, not only do people love it as a show, the ancillary benefit is that you had a whole generation of people saying, “It made me actually want to study science. It made me more curious about those classes I had.” In this day and age, that would be a nice benefit. There is something about that brand that I think is enduring. We just like the challenge of it. We’re doing it in conjunction with our sister network, NatGeo. We are going to use a lot of resources at the company to get this out there. There’s talk about a feature component to it. So, will it be our biggest rating? Probably not. But, I think we can have real success with it, a long tail and a big cultural impact. That would be a pretty cool thing to be a part of, to have that kind of cultural impact that the original did.
REILLY: We are planning to go to a four-comedy block in the Spring. We’re in pre-production on a pilot that we’re re-doing through Warner Bros. Rob Corddry is starring in a show called Little in Common, that’s about to go into production. We’ve got I Hate My Teenage Daughter on the schedule. We all liked Breaking In. Part of the challenge we had this year is the high-class problem. There are shows that we, unfortunately, had to cut this year that would have made the cut on other networks with bigger challenges. We had to make a judgment call. Breaking In fell a little bit in that camp. We had a very passionate group of producers and actors who wanted to try to keep it going. I think it’s part of that four-comedy block. It still has a shot. They’ve agreed to extend an option, so we’ve kept it alive. Stranger things have happened. We have not ordered anything right now, but who knows? Family Guy was cancelled once. Seinfeld started with four episodes. You never know. So, we’re going to revisit what makes up that four-comedy block, a little later in the Fall, and then we’ll officially look at Breaking In.
Terra Nova has been a long time coming. Are you confident that they’ll be able to produce episodes in a timely way, going forward?
REILLY: I’ve seen five hours of it now. It’s been an interesting experience, coloring on such a big canvas. By the very nature of defining the show as epic and groundbreaking, it raises expectations up to a place where, unfortunately, when it came to the special effects in particular, you do not want to put anything out prematurely. So far, they’re right on schedule of where they need to be.
What do you think that show brings to Fox?
REILLY: We’re in a very tough environment. I’m not just competing against my broadcast networks, but other broadcast networks. We would like to continue to be the top broadcast network. We’re increasingly in a less linear universe where people are consuming these things on their own schedule and their own time, and we have got to demand their attention. Is Terra Nova a big bet? Yes, it is, but that’s the business we’re in. Ever drama is a big bet. There is no inexpensive drama on television, and that includes cable. Drama is an expensive business. Terra Nova was bigger, in terms of the upfront commitment that we had to make and the pilot that we produced. But, when you put that over the course of the 13 episodes, it’s not that much of a bigger bet. It is separated from the pack. It’s a different genre. The thing I actually like the best about it, frankly, for all of the spectacle, is the cast. It is a very talented and likeable group of people. In the most challenging work I’ve even seen on that show, I still like those people and I want to watch those actors, and that’s always the best thing you have going for you in series television. I think we’ve got a real shot with it.
How do you feel about where Fringe is right now, and what are your expectations for the coming season?
REILLY: One of the good things about having a strong network is that you can support creative shows that deserve to be on the air. These guys have been doing extraordinary work, and it was really one of the great victories for us last season. As much as we were cheering the rejuvenation of American Idol, we were cheering the Friday night victory for Fringe, and the fact that that audience was so loyal and stayed with it. I don’t expect Fringe to grow. It’s a pretty complex show. We welcome any viewer that wants to get in. There are ways to catch up on it, and you really should. It’s interesting how these things are on the air, and sometimes three years later somebody goes, “You know what’s a great show?,” and people do discover them down the line. I don’t expect explosive growth, but if Fringe can do exactly what it did last year, we’re going to be very, very happy with it. And, we’ll see where we are in May, but they’re right in the pocket again, creatively. These guys are just really, really good.
Have there been any discussions as to whether or not Bones is going to go to Season 8? Is that something both you and they want?
REILLY: Yes and yes, but we haven’t had any discussions yet. I think the producers would like to keep it going. We’d like to keep it going. We are introducing The Finder this year, which was that planted spin-off. That’s off to a really great start. I could see those shows being compatible and feeding off of each other a little bit. We’re going to revisit that later in the year, but we’ve been pretty darn happy with the performance of Bones on Thursday night. As CSI was fading, Bones was looking as resilient as ever. It’s just a really valuable show to us. We have nothing coming in the pipe that could replace it, other than The Finder, which I think can play hand-in-hand.
Will this be the last season for House?
REILLY: I can’t confirm that it’s the last season. We’ve talked pretty publicly about the potential for that. Hugh [Laurie] is mulling it over, and the producers are, too. Unlike many shows that get into their seventh and eighth season, where you’re on your third creative regime, these are the original creators. This is the original team through the ranks, that have been there from the get-go. I think it’s something that’s kept the quality so strong. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but I’ve spoken to them and they want to go out strong. So, we’re going to revisit this later in the Fall and decide whether this is the last year for the show on Fox or not. And then, Universal [Media Studios] will have a decision as to whether they would like to try to keep the show going somewhere else, and the producers may make that decision. But, my sense is that this is also a show that wants to stay creatively vibrant and go out strong, and not limp along for four more years, a vestige of what it was. But, we’ll make that final decision later in the Fall.