NEW YORK (AP) — Fox, facing the ebbing ratings power of “American Idol,” is betting big on its first miniseries showcase starting with a limited-edition “24,” and shows from heavyweight producers Seth MacFarlane and J.J. Abrams to invigorate its schedule.
The network is making its largest original-programming investment yet with a crop of 11 new series along with a miniseries from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan for the 2013-14 season, Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment chairman, said Monday. That’s more than double the five series it announced last year.
Fox was the second of the major broadcast networks to announce its schedule for next season, following NBC’s unveiling Sunday of an even heftier load of 17 new series.
After changing the TV landscape with “American Idol,” Fox is jumping on the miniseries bandwagon that started rolling with the History channel’s hits “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible.”
Although producers of “24” had contemplated bringing the canceled show back with a big-screen movie, they decided that Fox’s planned “event series” would be the right place for it, Reilly said.
“I couldn’t be more excited … Jack is back!” he said.
The miniseries, “24: Live Another Day,” will clock in at half the original series’ running length and the 12 episodes will be chronological but will skip some hours, he said. It likely will kick off the event franchise in the summer.
The next announced miniseries is “Wayward Pines,” from Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”). Based on the best-selling novel “Pines,” it stars Matt Dillon in what Fox called a “mind-bending thriller” about the search for missing federal agents in an Idaho town. It will air in midseason.
Additional limited series announced by Fox include a Civil War drama; a dramatization of O.J. Simpson’s murder trial; a remake of the “Shogun” miniseries based on James Clavell’s novel; and a Billy the Kid project.
Nonfiction also is in the works, with a new version of Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS series “Cosmos,” this one hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and produced by a serious-minded MacFarlane.
“It might encourage a new generation to take a deeper interest in science,” Reilly said.
Other broadcast network miniseries are reportedly in the works, following cable’s success with the genre that once was a TV mainstay but had gone dormant. Reilly said the miniseries will help Fox toward its goal of year-round programming
“American Idol” is staying put on Wednesday and Thursday nights when it returns for its 13th season next January. The same can’t be said for its judges: Original panelist Randy Jackson said he won’t be back, and speculation has newcomers Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban exiting as the aging series seeks a reboot.
Reilly refused to discuss their futures, saying “everything is on the table” for next season, including a likely return to the original three-judge panel. Decisions will be made shortly because the show starts taping for next season within weeks, he told a telephone news conference.
MacFarlane, a key Fox supplier with the animated comedies “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show,” will be trying his hand at a live-action sitcom. “Dads” stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as best friends whose fathers (Martin Mull, Peter Riegert) become their new roommates.
Abrams (“Lost,” “Fringe” and the “Star Trek” movie franchise) is among the producers of “Almost Human,” described by Fox as a high-tech action series set 35 years in the future, when officers are teamed with humanlike androids. The drama debuting this fall stars Karl Urban, Michael Ealy and Lili Taylor.
The second new fall drama is “Sleepy Hollow,” a retelling of Washington Irving’s classic 19th-century tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Timid schoolmaster Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is resurrected 250 years in the future and discovers he must save the world from destruction.
“The Following,” the Kevin Bacon drama about an alliance of serial killers that proved a hit for Fox in its freshman year, will be back on the schedule in midseason.
Fox’s Tuesday-night comedy block, introduced last year, will get two new occupants this fall, “Dads” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which pairs Andy Samberg (“Saturday Night Live”) and Andre Braugher (“Men of a Certain Age,” “Homicide: Life on the Street”) as a hotshot detective and veteran captain.
“The Mindy Project” and “New Girl” will return to Tuesday, and the latter sitcom has earned the prized post-Super Bowl spot next February, Fox said.
Their block mate, “Raising Hope,” is moving to Friday for its fourth season, where it will be paired with “Enlisted,” about a man who returns home to reconnect with his two brothers and take charge of a group of misfits on a small Florida Army base.
Its cast includes Geoff Stults, who starred in the now-canceled “Ben and Kate.”
Other series canceled by Fox include “Touch,” “Goodwin Games,” “Mob Doctor” and the long-running “Cops,” which has been picked up by the Spike network.
One new reality show, a cooking competition for youngsters ages 8 to 13 and with the working title, “Junior Masterchef,” will debut in the fall with Gordon Ramsey among its coaches.
In midseason, Greg Kinnear will take on his first continuing broadcast series role in “Rake,” a legal drama based on a hit Australian series of the same name. The actor, whose movie credits include “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Baby Mama,” starred in the cable miniseries “The Kennedys.”
Fox’s other new shows, all set for midseason, are:
“Gang Related,” about a gang task force in Los Angeles confronting the city’s most dangerous criminals, stars Terry O’Quinn (“Lost”) as the task force’s leader and rapper-producer RZA, founder of the Wu-Tang Clan, and Ramon Rodriguez as members.
“Us & Them,” a comedy based on the British hit “Gavin and Stacey,” stars Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”) and Alexis Bledel (“The Gilmore Girls”) as a young couple who find their relationship complicated by family and friends.
“Surviving Jack,” based on Justin Halpern’s semi-autobiographical book, is set in 1990s Southern California and stars Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) in a coming-of-age sitcom about a man and his son.
“Murder Police,” an animated comedy about an inept detective and his colleagues, features the voices of Will Sasso, Chi McBride, Jane Lynch and Jason Ruiz, one of its executive producers.
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