NEW YORK —Kiefer Sutherland is back as Jack Bauer, Seth MacFarlane has his first live-action TV comedy, and Andy Samberg and Greg Kinnear are joining the lineup as Fox looks to dig its way out of this season’s 20 percent ratings decline.
In what Fox suits claim is the network’s largest new programming investment ever, the network has picked up 11 new shows, as well as two “event series” — the new Hollywood-speak for “miniseries.”
Those event series are Sutherland’s return in a shortened “24,” which will probably debut in the May 2014 sweeps and run into the summer; and M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, “Wayward Pines.”
The flailing singing competitions “The X Factor” and “American Idol” will again get three-hour chunks of the network’s 15-hour prime time — “X” in the fall, “Idol” in the spring.
Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly confirmed that the “Idol” panel will be shrunk to three judges; he declined to discuss whether Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban are returning, other than to say they would be welcome to. Original judge Randy Jackson has already said he’s out, and Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, has given interviews that seem to suggest his wife is thinking about exiting, too.
About the return of “24”(officially titled “24: Live Another Day”): On a conference call with reporters Monday morning, Reilly confessed that when the show produced 24 episodes — each representing one hour in a really bad day for Jack Bauer — the writers actually had only about 12 good hours in which big events occurred, and that viewers sat through 12 more hours of “connective tissue.” Busting the show down to a 12-episode cycle will be “liberating for us,” he said, so that “24” can skip the boring hours.
Fox has aggressively programmed its summers with reality TV for many seasons, so this upcoming “24: Live Another Day” launch marks a major investment in programming scripted fare year-round — a strategy that the network has been paying lip service to for years.
Speaking of scripted fare, “Bones” will be back to kick things off on Monday nights. That show will be followed by the new “Sleepy Hollow” (which Reilly called a “wildly inventive show”), in which the coward made famous by Washington Irving two centuries ago returns — only re-envisioned by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, of “Star Trek,” “Transformers,” and “Fringe” fame. Ichabod is now a hero, resurrected 2 1/2 centuries later to find the world on the brink of destruction.
In the late fall (Fox-speak for “post-baseball”), “Almost Human” will take the “Bones” time slot, and “Bones” will move to Friday nights at 8. After that swap happens, the serial-killer drama “The Following” will return “midseason” (early next calendar year) at 9, replacing “Sleepy Hollow.”
Still with me?
“Almost Human,” from J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman (“Fringe”), is set 35 years in the future and follows a part-machine cop teamed with a part-human robot — the explanation of which (in the first episode, no doubt) you will not want to miss.
Fox will take another whack at creating a four-comedy block on Tuesdays. In the fall, that kicks off with MacFarlane’s first live-action, multi-camera comedy, “Dads,” and a single-cam comedy called “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” starring Samberg and Andre Braugher as a hotshot detective and his superior, respectively.
“Dads” stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as successful gaming entrepreneurs whose pain-in-the-neck dads, Martin Mull and Peter Riegert, move in.
These two guy-coms are the new lead-in for returning “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.”
Oh, and “New Girl” will get the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot next season.
On Wednesdays, “The X Factor” is back in the fall; creator Simon Cowell has survived, as has judge Demi Lovato and host Mario Lopez.
In January “American Idol” will be back. But who will survive is anyone’s guess — Ryan Seacrest, and maybe one or two others.
On Thursdays, “The X Factor” results show is back, followed by “Glee.” After “X” wraps its run, the “American Idol” results show takes over, followed by the new drama “Rake.”
“Rake” stars Greg Kinnear as a brilliant, charming, chaotic, self-destructive criminal defense attorney — think “House” with courtrooms.
The latest addition to Gordon Ramsay’s TV empire, “Junior Masterchef,” will star Friday nights in the fall, followed by “Sleepy Hollow” repeats — that’s to increase viewer sampling on that new drama.
Later in the season, two comedies will follow “Bones” on Fridays: the returning “Raising Hope,” and the new “Enlisted.” In the latter show, Geoff Stultz stars as a soldier returning home to reconnect with his two younger brothers on a small Florida Army base, where he’s going to lead a group of misfits — because if he were leading a group of well-trained professionals, it would be a drama and star Kiefer Sutherland.
And the Sunday-night lineup in the fall will be: the tail end of a football game at 7 p.m., post-game at 7:30 and the return of Fox’s animation lineup: “The Simpsons,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”
Last but not least, Fox announced “Wayward Pines,” which is based on the best-selling novel “Pines” from Blake Crouch. This thriller is about a Secret Service agent (played by Matt Dillon) who shows up in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, to find two missing federal agents.
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Earlier in the day, Seth Meyers was a no-show at NBC’s clambake at Radio City Music Hall.
The “SNL” longtimer will move to “Late Night” when Jimmy Fallon takes over the “Tonight Show,” after NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
NBC decided that Meyers rated his own announcement Sunday, which it sent out awhile before sending out a second announcement, unveiling its other plans for next TV season.
Instead, after an hour or so of blah-blah-blah-ing, and trailers for a whopping 17 new series, it was left to poor Jay Leno to bring down the house full of ad execs and TV station suits.
Leno, who’s being pushed — again — from the “Tonight Show,” once again gamely sang a duet with Fallon, celebrating his own ouster. This time, it was a videotaped reworking of “Les Miserables’ ” “One Day More.” Their version was called “Eight Months More” — as in, the number of months (sort of) between now and when Fallon takes over “Tonight.”
Wild applause from the advertisers, who had given everything else they saw at the presentation varying degrees of polite applause. Michael J. Fox’s new comedy, “The Michael J. Fox Show,” and James Spader’s new drama, “Blacklist” got maybe the highest levels of the polite applause.
Not coincidentally, “Blacklist” is getting NBC’s best time slot, following “The Voice” on Monday. And the Peacock Network has scheduled “The Michael J. Fox Show” in the formerly great Thursday-at-9:30-p.m. half-hour, because NBC believes that’s the show’s best shot at making its Thursday a “Must See” again.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to Jay Leno,” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt told the packed hall. He opened the festivities by joking that he was stepping down in 2014 so that Leno could run NBC’s programming development. Greenblatt had also gotten just polite applause from the ad execs. “I’m glad I made it to the podium before the applause died,” he joked.