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."

Friday nights will become a melange of original dramas and reruns: In January, reruns of "Bones" and "House." In February, "Bones" will be joined by "New Amsterdam." In March, "New Amsterdam" will be joined by " 'Til Death" -- presumably reruns -- and the debut of Amy Sherman-Palladino's comedy "The Return of Jezebel James." In April, " 'Til Death" and "The Return of Jezebel James" will be joined by Julianna Margulies's new lawyer drama, "Canterbury's Law."

Saturdays, "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" stay put. Sundays, "various comedy encores" will air at 7, followed by the network's animated sitcom slate.

And, despite "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane's chest-thumping comments to Variety that this Sunday's show is the last fully produced episode in the can and that he has no intention of stepping into the studio to record the voices on additional episodes and that Fox could go ahead and use other producers to wrap things up on additional episodes but won't because "it would be unwise . . . because I would be angry," Fox says it has enough "Family Guy" episodes to get it through this season.

* * *

Rosie's MSNBC talk show?

Pronounced DOA.

By Rosie herself.

On her Web site.

In haiku.

Kind of:

msnbc

one hour

live

following keith olbermann

we were close to a deal

almost gone

i let it slip in miami

causing panic on the studio end

well

what can u do

2day there is no deal

poof

my career as a pundit is over

b4 it began

just as well

i figure

everything happens for a reason

Loosely translated, according to our sources, it means O'Donnell's negotiations with NBC about hosting a daily talk show on MSNBC, following Olbermann's, fell apart because she wanted to commit to only one year. NBC needed a longer commitment because it had already sold the time slot to advertisers through '08 based on the small ratings the network currently gets there, and so would not see any financial benefits until the second year from a Rosie-hosted show, though they'd be paying out Rosie-kinda-dollars.

And so, "poof," as Rosie so eloquently wrote in her haiku, "the show that never was."

Rosie leaked word of the show deal at a book signing in Miami, which was attended by bloggers who slapped it on the Web, and the rest is history.

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