Part two of our upfronts coverage takes a look at FOX. Yes, FOX. The network that introduced such classic, oh-my-God-I-can’t-miss-this hits as “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” and “Terra Nova.”
And by “classic, oh-my-God-I-can’t-miss-this hits,” I mean …
Anyways, this fall will be interesting for the Big F. So much so, it actually may prove to be the most intriguing network to which we should pay attention come September. “House” is gone (and even though I’ve manage to stay away from complete spoilers, my sense is that my prediction that he has to die to end the series looks to be accurate, though remember — no spoilers! I haven’t even started watching season four yet). “Fringe” is going to have one more trip around the track before calling it a day (and sadly putting Cedric Daniels out of work again). And “The X Factor” can’t suck. No, like, honestly, guys — it can’t suck, or else the singing competition phenomenon on cable television might end up being dead once and for all.
OK. So, in that case, maybe it can suck. But just a little.
The biggest news for me? Mindy Kaling’s show appears, fresh from the depths of NBC exile, and I’m awfully curious to see how she will be able to do on her own (though more about that below). As for now, let’s have a look at three talking points to keep in mind once Labor Day looms and the leaves begin changing colors when it comes to the network that once gave us “In Living Color” and “Arrested Development.” Enjoy.
FOX TALKING POINTS
1. How do the names Britney Spears and Demi Lovato sound? To you, they might not sound all that sweet, but to the suits working behind the scenes at FOX, they hope those names sound like money and ratings. The announcement of the two pop starlets coming to “The X Factor” officially came early last week, though at least Spears had been rumored to take the job for quite some time now. The move is … well, it’s not a slam dunk. Or, at least that was what I initially felt when hearing the news. We all know how much Brit Brit can still pack arenas and (kind of) sell records, but what I think we are all failing to remember is that she isn’t nearly the star she once was. And this is after she rehabilitated both herself and her image in the wake of some very bizarre public behavior and a string of unfortunate personal events. I mean, I’m not saying Britney Spears doesn’t really matter anymore … but I think I’m saying Britney Spears doesn’t really matter anymore. Demi Lovato, on the other hand, never really mattered to begin with, which is why the addition of these two teenie-boppers is going to be hard to sell. Sure, you can count me as one of the completely age-inappropriate fans of Lovato’s “Sunny With A Chance” (hey — it was like “30 Rock” for kids!), but in terms of sheer star power, I don’t think anyone is clamoring to anoint the “Skyscraper” singer as a bona fide pop star. Most importantly, though, it’s hard to imagine either of those personalities moving the needle enough to make “The X Factor” matter. Could this really be Simon Cowell’s first big American disappointment? Yes, it could be. Because if this show can’t manage to muster the type of ratings he once promised, the end could be peering its head around the corner quicker than he could say “Toxic.” Even more so, it could also mean the end for his other brainchild, “American Idol,” J-Lo or not. As a side: Has anyone else considered the Xtina vs. Brit Brit angle “The Voice” vs. “The X Factor” now takes on?
2. Mindy Kaling. She’s been popular comedy’s It-Girl for a few years now, and on the heels of a best-selling book and a couple side spots in romantic comedies, the hipster crowd has been in love with “The Office” writer for quite some time. Notice the operative phrase: “For quite some time.” As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the following question: Has her time come and gone even before she lands her first starring role in a television show? We’ll find out in the fall, but until then, all we have is a pretty good theatrical trailer and a bunch of questions as to why NBC didn’t want to deal with “The Mindy Kaling Project” (because, in case you didn’t know, it was NBC that gave her a developmental deal and I think — though don’t hold me to it — that NBC is still going to produce the show, in much the same way it did with “House”).“Mindy is the real deal,” Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly said at last week’s gatherings. “She can run a show, she’s charming on screen, she’s got a distinctive voice and she’s got a following.” Those are all accurate assumptions, but less I remind you of how fickle popular culture is these days, Mr. Reilly. She has endeared herself to a large amount of people, sure, but does she have the type of staying power to actually carry an entire television series in the way it needs to be carried in order to survive? I hope so. And if she really does want to be Tina Fey (or at least achieve the same amount of success Tina Fey has achieved as the smart, funny woman of the hour), she’s going to have to make sure “The Mindy Kaling Project” doesn’t fall flat. No pressure, of course.
3. Hello, I must be going. Jonah Hill’s “Allen Gregory,” the never-was-funny-but-was-even-unfunnier-as-a-cartoon “Napoleon Dynamite” and the dinosaur-heavy “Terra Nova” are all kaput. Somewhat surprisingly, you can add “Alcatraz” to that list, too, though we’ve known that for a little while now. And maybe even most telling is what’s going on with “Cops.” Remember how some of the biggest news from last year’s upfronts came from FOX giving the heave-ho to “America’s Most Wanted?” Well, this year, “Cops” isn’t going to make its return until midseason. Is this the beginning of the end for one of the longest-running reality television programs ever? Sad face. “Glee” moves to Thursdays in an attempt to help salvage its slumping ratings (that’s the slot after both singing competitions, remember). The most-hyped new show of the crop that doesn’t have Mindy Kaling’s name in its title, “The Following,” stars Kevin Bacon and is being groomed as the next “24.” Speaking of that particular show, Kiefer Sutherland’s “Touch” goes to Fridays, though on FOX, Friday’s doesn’t always mean “imminent death” (that’s where “Fringe” has been, as pretty much every “Fringe” lover ever has reminded me in recent weeks). And “Ben and Kate” stars someone from “Bad Teacher” saying things one of the dudes who wrote “The Descendants” is writing. Speaking of which, Beau Bridges — who was nearly unrecognizable in that movie last year — finds himself at the center of something called “The Goodwin Games,” in which long-lost (i.e. estranged) siblings have to figure out how to inherit $20 million after Bridges (their dad) dies. Or in other words, for the millions of you who were worried about Beau Bridges possibly being type-cast in projects regarding both death and large amounts of inherited money after his role in last year’s Academy-Award nominated flick, your fears have now come to fruition.