TV Column: Fox picks fall trifecta: Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and Mindy Kaling
By Lisa de Moraes,
NEW YORK — Fox will plant four comedies on Tuesday’s schedule, including one originally developed by NBC for its star Mindy Kaling.
Her new show, “The Mindy Project,” will immediately follow “New Girl” — Fox’s most promising launch from last fall.
Making the announcement to advertisers Monday afternoon at Manhattan’s Beacon Theater, Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly seemed actually stunned to have found another actual chick who can actually write a comedy series for TV (Liz Meriwether is the show runner of “New Girl”). He patronizingly called Kaling a member of the “fempire.”
That Kevin Reilly — once he gets one foot on the ground, he’s really quite a knucklehead.
Elsewhere, pop train-wrecks Britney Spears and Demi Lovato have joined Simon Cowell’s singing competition, “The X Factor,” where they will mentor young, aspiring pop stars — proving once and for all that network suits have a sense of humor.
“We delivered! Rumors are one thing, delivering is something else,” a puffy Cowell simpered as he stood up onstage next to BritBrit and Lovato during Fox’s dog-and-pony show.
“We started off well last year, but this year we’re going to seriously kick butt with the addition of these guys,” Cowell said complacently.
“I’m so excited about this whole experience,” BritBrit gushed. “This is going to be so much fun and so different from anything I’ve ever done and I’m ready to find the true star!”
“I’m totally stoked to be here,” Lovato added.
As you can see, they are a huge improvement.
“The Rolls-Royce of Television, right here!” raved L.A. Reid — “X Factor’s” only surviving non-Simon mentor — as he pointed at Lovato and BritBrit.
In the fall, “X Factor” returns to Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8.
The network will protect its investment in the flailing “Glee” by moving it to the safe zone — a.k.a. after the network’s singing-competition shows on Thursdays. “Glee” will follow “The X Factor” in the fall and “American Idol” in the spring.
In other schedule changes, Kiefer Sutherland’s number-crunching thriller “Touch” is moved to Fridays to join “Fringe’s” final season. And Jordana Spiro’s “Mob Doctor” will replace Hugh Laurie’s “angry doctor” drama “House” on Monday nights.
At midseason, Fox will launch on Mondays a new drama called “The Following,” in which Kevin Bacon plays an FBI guy chasing a serial-killing cult that’s headed by James Purefoy. Fifteen episodes will run without interruption and without reruns — a la “24.”
“The audience has consistently asked us, ‘Where is the next ‘24’?’ We think we found it!” Reilly enthused.
Landing Kevin Bacon for the role, Reilly said, is “the casting coup of the year.” That’s because Reilly hadn’t met the capuchin monkey named Crystal, who stars as Dr. Zaius in NBC’s new comedy “Animal Practice” — yes, seriously — and who totally stole the show, and the hearts of jaded Madison Avenue execs, at NBC’s new-schedule unveiling Monday morning.
Never bet against a TV show with a cute monkey.
The Fox weekend
And, as promised, Fox’s “Cops” is toast in the fall, and Saturday is the new “Fox Sports Saturday.”
(The network says “Cops” will return at midseason. Put it on your calendar in pencil.)
Sunday’s Animation Domination comedy lineup will start with the always hilarious NFL football and “The OT” in the fall, followed by “The Simpsons,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” “The Cleveland Show” will be back after football season.
The comedy block
In “The Mindy Project” — which “The Office” writer/star Kaling developed at NBC (NBC passed on it, although it will produce the series) — Kaling plays a skilled (thank goodness, or it would not be a comedy) OB/GYN pursuing her dream of becoming the perfect woman, finding the perfect man and getting her perfect romantic comedy ending.
“Ben and Kate” — the other new comedy rounding out Fox’s Tuesday four-com block — stars Nat Faxon of “Bad Teacher” fame (he was also the Oscar-winning co-screenwriter of the Alexander Payne/George Clooney flick “The Descendants”). He plays a goofy guy who becomes the manny for his uptight single-mom sister’s kid.
Sometime during the season, Fox will swap out one of its Tuesday comedies to introduce “The Goodwin Games,” starring Scott Foley, Becki Newton and Jake Lacy as estranged siblings who are forced back together to compete in a game of Trivial Pursui — to inherit $20 million — after eccentric dad Beau Bridges dies.
As for “Glee,” it’s on the brink of a “creative renaissance,” Reilly said.
“We’re very excited about the quality of talent looking to join the show,” explained Reilly, noting that Kate Hudson has signed on for a seven-episode story arc and that Sarah Jessica Parker has signed for a multi-episode arc, as well. He added that neither signing would have been possible had the show remained on Tuesdays — apparently celebrities weren’t so keen on the show without an “Idol” lead-in.
On the morning phone conference call with reporters, Reilly conceded that “Idol” this season “was a bigger [ratings] drop-off than we anticipated.” He said there would be creative “tweaks” to the show, but none that the execs would discuss at that time because the show’s current season is still airing.
In round numbers, that would appear to mean one of the show’s judges — Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez or Randy Jackson — is about to get whacked.
Hours before Fox’s presentation, at the Beacon Theater, NBC unveiled its schedule to advertisers. Finally emerging from the bread-and-water Upfront Dark Ages of NBC’s Jeff Zucker era — which had included new-schedule presentations in musty NBC conference rooms or even mustier midtown-hotel ballrooms — NBC was finally back at Radio City Music Hall.
Advertisers felt like guests instead of prisoners.
To break the ice, NBC aired a video in which all its programs were turned into musicals — a joking reference to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who famously developed this season’s “Smash” for the network. Those who saw “Meet the Press” anchor David Gregory reclining on a table — a come-hither look on his face, and a lineup of gold-lamed dancers at his back, as he sang some ditty about the network — will not soon forget it. Even if they want to.
Hot off his successes with “Undercovers,” “Alcatraz,” “Six Degrees” and “What About Brian?” — oh, wait . . . — J.J. Abrams has created NBC’s new Monday drama, “Revolution,” about a world without power and in which nobody bothers to cut back kudzu.
“If you long for the day when your BlackBerry stops working, this could be your show,” NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke promised advertisers.
“Rock Center,” NBC’s Brian Williams-anchored newsmag that’s barely showing a pulse, has been put on at 10 Thursdays, after a lineup of young-skewing upscale sitcoms — Disconnect TV, as we like to call it — because it will be a good lead-in for NBC stations’ late local newscasts, explained Greenblatt, clearing up that big mystery.
And “Community” has been moved from Thursday — the biggest night of the week for the TV biz — over to the wasteland that is Friday, because its small but rabid group of fanboys and girls are crazy enough to follow it there, Greenblatt explained.
“ ‘Community’ has the loudest fan base,” he told advertisers gleefully, adding: “Calling all fans of ‘Community’: Come to Friday! Start tweeting!”
Yes, it’s ironic.
But no one explained why — during a clip promoting NBC’s new, ultra-patriotic midseason reality series “Stars Earn Stripes,” in which celebrities are put through the same kind of training exercises as inductees to various branches of the military — exec producer Mark Burnett appeared to be wearing a Confederate flag around his neck. We can’t be sure — it was folded up to make a sort-of ascot.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/tvcolumn.