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Fox unveils new season plans, including 'American Idol' format changes

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By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NEW YORK

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Fox will try to launch a new night of comedies -- live-action ones, not animated -- on Tuesday in the fall, using "Glee" to kick off the night at 8.

"American Idol's" format will be changed because the network has discovered we want to see more of the Idolettes performing and less of Ford Music Video-ing -- go figure. So Tuesday performance nights will run 90 minutes -- except of course, when they're 120 minutes long -- and results shows will be tightened to 30 minutes. Which is to say, they will become the results shows of the first couple of seasons, before Fox got greedy and started jamming them with infomercials for cars, and pop stars plugging upcoming tours.

No decision on a Simon Cowell replacement for the show, though. And, to give them more time to figure out that person should be Harry Connick Jr., they have bumped the audition to September for the next edition.

To come up with two sitcoms to follow "Glee" in the fall, Fox has dipped back into the "Arrested Development" gene pool . . . sigh. Yes, Jim Vellely, Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett are getting another at-bat on the Fox lineup -- this time in "Running Wilde," starring Arnett as a playboy trying to win the heart of his childhood sweetheart, played by Keri Russell (of "Felicity" and "Waitress" fame). Fox describes Russell's character as only Fox can: "uber-liberal humanitarian."

The other comedy, "Raising Hope," is from "My Name Is Earl" creator Greg Garcia. Shockingly, it's about a slacker guy living at home with his family, including granny (Cloris Leachman), mom, dad and cousin Mike. Slacker Guy discovers he got a chick pregnant and the chick is a felon, so he takes in the baby girl named Hope. Think "Earl" with child.

Oh, and "Glee's" getting the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot next season, which one dumbfounded reporter noted was nothing less than following the season's most watched football game with a musical, and what's up with that. (No -- it wasn't that Newsweek columnist.)

"Lie to Me" and "Human Target" have somehow survived this season's less-than-stellar ratings, but will be required to lead off nights of prime time -- Wednesday and Friday, respectively. "Lie" leads in to self-starter "Hell's Kitchen" -- no heavy lifting there -- and "Human Target" leads in to "The Good Guys," which is debuting this summer and, let's face it, might not survive, whether or not it tanks in the ratings.

Fox has inexplicably decided that the perfect show to follow its doc-drama "House" is "Dallas."

Well, actually it's called "Lonestar," but it's a soap opera set "against the backdrop of big Texas oil." Instead of womanizing J.R. Ewing, "Lonestar" focuses on a guy named Bob Allen, who is married to the daughter of an oil baron (Jon Voight) in Houston -- but, a few hundred miles away in Midland, Bob is the perfect boyfriend to his sweet, naive live-in girlfriend, who is secretly bilking local investors of their savings. Yes, Bob's a busy boy.

Bob "begins to fear his secret lives may unravel" when one of his brothers-in-law begins to smell a rat. Poor Bob. Bob is divided by his love for two women and his loyalty to his father and mentor (David Keith). Watch our hero Bob as he tries to hold his two lives together while fending off angry investors and the suspicions of those around him. Or, watch that new "Lost"-cum-"24"-cum-"Heroes" drama "The Event" on NBC -- advertisers, and even jaded Reporters Who Cover Television sat up and took notice of the clips on that one during NBC's presentation Monday morning. Or watch CBS's comedies. Or "Monday Night Football." Or do a load of laundry. Play with the dog, maybe.

Fox also unveiled a mid-season schedule Monday, but those of us who've been doing this for a while know that Fox's May announcement about its January scheduling plans is really just Fox's way of having fun.

That said, they want us to believe they are going to put a new Shawn Ryan cop drama on Monday after "House" come January-ish, because by then, serialized "Lonestar" will be a) finished with its episode order or b) canceled. The Chicago-set "Ride Along" is about a "larger-than-life" cop who is all "razor blades and brass knuckles wrapped in politeness and egoless charm."

Jarek Wysocki "throws away partners the way others throw away tissues," Fox said. Seriously, they really did -- I couldn't make that one up. Jennifer Beals plays the police chief, we think -- Fox on Monday would only commit to acknowledging she was the person "at the pinnacle of the Chicago Police Department."

Also for mid-season, Fox is adding yet another animated series to its Sunday lineup. But, here's the headline: It's not from Seth MacFarlane! "Bob's Burgers" is about a man, his family and a burger joint. And the guy's name is Bob Belcher -- get it?! This one's from Loren Bouchard, who has worked for Comedy Central and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

And, at some point in the new season -- or not -- Fox will schedule, somewhere, a new "epic family adventure" set in the future -- 2149 -- but featuring dinosaurs. Which can only mean -- Steven Spielberg! "Terra Nova" follows an ordinary family embarking on an incredible journey back in time to prehistoric Earth as a small part of a massive experiment to save the human race, Fox promises.

Fox also promises that this show will not be scheduled until it's ready, noting it's a gigantic special-effects undertaking.

Gems from Alec Baldwin

Fox should have won Monday's battle of the upfront presentations with its the dog-and-pony show at the gorgeous old Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side. Fox's event was so much zippier than NBC's presentation at the soul-sapping Hilton in Times Square.

The cast of "Glee" performed Madonna's "Like a Prayer" at the end of that show's presentation. NBC executives, on the other hand, bragged that they "don't not feel compelled to do any big musical numbers so you don't have to sit through that."

NBC gets high marks, however, for Alec Baldwin's hilarious NBC confab opening, at which he told advertisers that they were "America's True Heroes," as well as "The Bright Shining Sun in our Money Universe," because "who else could convince Americans to get insurance advice from a [expletive] duck?"

But every year, Fox can be counted on for Upfront Week's most boneheaded presentation snafu. This year, when Fox's presentation was over, hundreds of people in the upper seating levels of the Beacon were held prisoner by theater security for what seemed an eternity, but was probably more like 25 minutes, as they grew increasingly anxious. One security guard explained to the TV Column, who was among the captive, that we were being detained on the upper floors so that Fox could load ad execs in the orchestra level onto buses to go to the Fox party.

So NBC wins -- because they didn't try to hold anybody prisoner.


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