Fox Is Soft On Crime

The Fox network had one more cancellation to announce: America’s Most Wanted! They said it was “no longer profitable,” but I don’t see them releasing any figures so I have to assume, until told otherwise, that they simply knuckled under to the powerful crime lobby and pushed John Walsh out the door because he was catching too many crooks. I eagerly await Fox News’s report on the liberal network that is making America safe for scumbags.

In seriousness, just when you thought Saturday night couldn’t be more of a graveyard on network TV – and remember, this is the night where big hits like All In the Family used to air – Fox goes and cancels one of the last long-running Saturday night shows, and its stated reason for doing so is that it wants to use the hour for reruns of shows from earlier in the week. The loneliest night of the week, indeed.

The rest of the Fox schedule seems pretty sensible; it’s one of two networks (the other being CBS) whose scheduling moves usually give the impression of making sense. (They don’t always work, but you can explain them. ABC has a combination of explicable and inexplicable moves; NBC has no idea what it’s doing.) Even the risks are risks that make sense: putting Terra Nova on Monday where House used to be is a risk, but since this is House‘s last season, the network needs to try and establish a new beachhead on Monday. So it’ll put give Terra Nova a 13-episode season in fall, then put House back in its usual spot for the end of its run.

The scheduling of comedies also makes sense, which is not to say it will work. Fox picked up one single-camera comedy (The New Girl) and one multi-camera comedy (I Hate My Teenage Daughter). The “obvious” thing to do would be to schedule Teenage Daughter with Raising Hope, because both are family comedies and because Teenage Daughter‘s star, Jaime Pressly, just guest-starred on Hope. Instead they seem to have realized what NBC didn’t – single-camera goes with single-camera, multi-camera with multi-camera, and never the twain shall meet – and put The New Girl after Glee and before Raising Hope, and the multi-cam show after The X Factor (not a sitcom, but a performance show with a live audience). Both new comedies will have good and compatible time slots and will succeed or bomb on their merits, but at least the network isn’t stacking the deck against either of them the way NBC stacked the deck against several of its comedies.

Of course Fox’s individual scheduling decisions don’t matter a hell of a lot; all that matters is The X Factor. If it’s a hit, then the network will essentially have American Idol all the year round, giving the competition no escape on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The competition is hoping that Factor doesn’t make it or that it finally reduces viewer interest in American Idol: this could be the equivalent of ABC’s infamous decision to schedule too many hours of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, killing the show. I’m not sure I’d bet on it happening this time, because X Factor has been a huge hit all around the world, and because song competition shows really are the last gasp of true mass entertainment on broadcast TV. (Well, song competition shows and NCIS.) The success of The Voice on NBC might create a glut but it’s more likely that all these musical competitions can co-exist, because it is the most popular form of television.

In animation, Fox has shifted The Cleveland Show over to 7:30, the slot that’s frequently pre-empted or pushed by football; it’s the slot a Fox cartoon gets when it’s doing well enough to be renewed but not so well that Fox wants to give it any prime real estate. The network has also scheduled two different new cartoons for two different halves of the season. (The first season of a prime-time cartoon is always 13 episodes – it takes so long to produce one that it wouldn’t be possible to order 9 more episodes to fill out the rest of the season.) The network is very aggressively trying to develop new cartoons that aren’t by Seth MacFarlane; Bob’s Burgers, which has turned out to be a very good show, was their first attempt, and here are two more.

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