Fox's most anticipated -- at least by Fox -- new series of the fall season, "Gotham," poses a question that's never been posed before: Will millions of Batman fans tune in to see a Batman series without . . . ummm . . . Batman? This so-called "origins" series will skirt the Caped Crusader and focus on the boy (young Bruce Wayne will be played by David Mazouz), the future commissioner (played by Ben McKenzie) and a number of early edition evildoers such as Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith).

But no Batman -- who remains strictly under the purview of producer Warner Bros. and its hugely successful film franchise. Bruno Heller, the series' executive producer, at the TV critics' press tour in Beverly Hills, California, Sunday dismissed the no-Batman concerns, saying "it's about men and women -- not superheroes. To me, that's a more interesting story." His star, McKenzie, spun the no-Batman conundrum this way: "It's like in Greek tragedy where the Fates often come in and tell you in the first act what's going to happen. It's how you get there that's the interesting journey."

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'IDOL' TAKES A STEP BACK. "American Idol" very much remains "American Idol" -- only less. Fewer viewers, less buzz, and no superstar creations to speak of over the past several seasons. Fox Networks Group chief Peter Rice Sunday addressed the show's plight, with a good news/bad news assessment: "It's a show we love and I think it is aging gracefully [but] if I have a criticism of the show is that we haven't found a group of kids who have captured the imagination of the public for whatever reason. How do we concentrate on that and not get wrapped up in this constant conversation about the judges . . . "


IN LOVE WITH THE EAST END. "The Affair," a Showtime drama arriving in October and starring Ruth Wilson and Dominic West, will be shot over the full 10-episode season in Montauk, series producer Sarah Treem said here last week. Treem ("In Treatment") said she chose to set the new series in Montauk because "I kind of grew up out there, and I just loved it. So to me, it's a very romantic place. It's really a place that exists in memory in my own head and I think of this as a memory play."