Fox Hears 'Strike' and Makes The Call: '24,' You're Out!

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fox, the network best situated to withstand a long writers' strike -- thank you, "American Idol" -- got out ahead of the game yesterday and announced its Writers' Strike Schedule, on which it yanks serialized action drama "24," possibly for the season, "to ensure that 'Day 7' can air uninterrupted, in its entirety."

With the new lineup, Fox gives its two best time slots -- the post-"Idol" slots -- to reality series "Hell's Kitchen" and new "The Moment of Truth." Reality show writers are not covered by the Writers Guild of America and those series will continue in production during the strike, which started Monday.

Fox had planned to pair "Idol" with scripted series "House" and " 'Til Death." Instead, it will use the best time slots in all of broadcast TV to nurture two reality series in hopes they will become the next generation of strike-proof programming. That's called "irony."

"One of the things we've tried to do, given the hand we've been dealt . . . is to see if we can grow some successes to prepare us," Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman told The TV Column. "Hell's Kitchen" and "Moment of Truth" are "shows we can bring back if there's a very prolonged strike. We have to do what we need to do," he said.

"If the strike is resolved, we will revisit '24,' " Beckman added. "We respect how the audience consumes this show on network television and we don't want to violate the pact we've made with them over the last three years."

And if that audience includes some very loud personalities, say a Rush Limbaugh, who want to wax angry about what the strike hath wrought, well, that's just gravy.

Replacing "24" in its announced Monday time slot, starting Jan. 14: Fox's "Terminator" TV spinoff, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

This show, which was to have been the companion to "24" on the night it airs, will be paired instead with "Prison Break," at least for a while. Fox has held back five "Prison Break" episodes to use in launching "Terminator." Once "Prison Break" dries up, it will be replaced by reality series "When Women Rule the World." Fox says the new series will be "set in a primitive, remote location" and explores "what happens when a group of strong, educated and independent women, tired of living in a man's world, rule over a group of unsuspecting men used to calling the shots."

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, starting Jan. 15, "American Idol" -- the country's most watched program -- returns. The season debut is scheduled as a two-night, four-hour orgy of product placement and bad auditions.

As previously planned, "House" will follow "Idol" on Tuesdays, but only through April 1, when Fox will hand the time slot to "Hell's Kitchen," which has been growing steadily into a ratings magnet in its summer runs. How many original episodes of "House" are available wasn't revealed.

On Wednesdays "Idol" will be teamed up with "The Moment of Truth," a.k.a. "Nothing but the Truth." Fox bought U.S. rights over the summer to the Colombian reality series hit in which players agree to be hooked up to a lie detector and asked increasingly personal questions, with family and friends present, for the chance to win half a million bucks. The show was drawing more than half the population of Colombia each week. Sadly, it was canceled there last month, after a contestant won $25,000 for admitting on air she'd hired a hit man to kill her husband, and the network faced the threat of legal action for being an after-the-fact accessory. In the TV business, it's just one damned thing after another for a network.

Thursdays, Fox will stick with reality series "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" and "Don't Forget the Lyrics."

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