Fox needs a hit, and not just one with the numbers "24" in the title. It also needs to think about an "Idol-less" future or one where a once-reliable tent poll is no more reliable or even a tent poll. It needs a hit.
But who or what? "Utopia," the unscripted series, will air twice a week -- one of outings on Friday at 10, which is a recognition on the part of Fox that there is nothing to gained by burning up an expensive drama (or pair of comedies) on the least productive hour of its lineup. "Utopia" therefore gets the call.
Otherwise, Fox is looking to dramas this fall, and deep into the midseason as well.
But there are some comedies as well. Fox has struggled with comedies. A network once sure of its footing in the genre seemed to have lost its confidence this past season. Three were canceled -- "Dads," "Surviving Jack," and "Enlisted" -- and each almost ridiculously unlike the other. "Enlisted" was the best new Fox sitcom last season, or on a par in some respects with "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." "Dads" probably the worst network sitcom.
What to make of this mixed bag? Two comedies -- "New Girl" and "Nine" -- aired post Super Bowl this past February. Post-Supe comedies are reasonably rare -- networks typically place a drama there. But Fox needs comedies. The result -- these were sampled (an average of about 20 million viewers) but they did not do much return business to speak of. In other words, audiences saw, but did not return. That compounded the confusion because if audiences don't really know what a "Fox comedy" is than how is Fox to know?
In fact, Fox really does no longer know what a "Fox comedy" is. While "The Mindy Project" or "New Girl" would come closest to that, the numbers remain small. This is one of the reasons "Utopia" is getting double-pumped in the fall, and why only two new Fox comedies made the new lineup (only one in the fall). And by the way, Fox is not alone here -- NBC continues to have many misfires, and is in a more convoluted place than Fox, while ABC had some big setbacks as well. Even CBS can't crack this. Broadcast network comedies, simply put, are an endangered species.
Why am I going on length here before jumping to the clips? Because Fox finds itself in an especially difficult transition period -- a post-"Idol" world where gains will be harder to scratch out, and sampling much tougher to achieve. Here are the shows that will get the call -- and they are almost entirely dramas. Of these, "Mulaney," "Gracepoint," "Utopia" and "Gotham" are on this fall; the others are midseason. Meanwhile, no trailer yet for "The Red Band Society" (something was shown at the upfront yesterday but it was somewhat disjointed...I can see why Fox didn't want to release that...)
Which of these do you think will work?
And let's start .?.?. with the comedies. First up, is "Last Man." I like in principal the idea of a post-apocalyptic "comedy," although watch this four minute tease - which is quite good and yes, that is Will Forte behind the beard - and see if you don't think it could also swing as a drama.