THREE NEW SERIES IS NOT AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH
Unlike its competition, Fox saves the best for midseason, with aging singing competition American Idol still the most-watched entertainment-themed telecast of the week. But, mirroring recent seasons, still potent Idol continues to bleed. And The X Factor with former Idol judge Simon Cowell was not the huge success the network (and Cowell) was hoping for in fourth quarter. So, there is an inherent obstacle heading into the new season: a crowded singing competition formula.
By the ratings, the year-to-year losses for Fox are not significant (nine percent in total viewers and adults 18-49 for the traditional season, according to Nielsen). And the network still led the season among adults 18-49 (3.2 rating/9 share versus 3.0/ 8 for second-place CBS). But erosion is erosion and across-the-board losses should have warranted more than three new series on the fall line-up. Fox needs to be more aggressive.
Minus House on Monday, the right move was to keep current 8 p.m. occupant Bones intact next season, leading into new 9 p.m. drama The Mob Doctor. Since one of Fox’s goals in recent years was to open the season with a two-hour live action comedy line-up, choosing Tuesday was not necessarily a shocker. But returning Raising Hope is not strong enough to anchor the evening at 8 p.m. (it failed to ignite interest there for five airings this spring) and that could set the tone for a sluggish block. While New Girl earned its keep in the Tuesday 9 p.m. half-hour, rating did deteriorate as the season progressed.
The X Factor will occupy two-hours on Wednesday and the 8 p.m. hour on Thursday, which is where it aired last fall. Minus the enormous expectations (never shy Simon Cowell boldly claimed that anything under 20-million viewers would be disappointing; The X Factor settled in at about 12-million), The X Factor would have been considered a hit. But the non-blockbuster ratings coupled with the departures of season one judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones makes what would have been considered a hit suddenly a “tainted” series. While the upcoming arrivals of new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato will generate buzz (and a potentially lower median age), there is no reason to expect a sophomore surge next season.
And a fall edition of The Voice on NBC will not be beneficial.
If there is a lesson to be learned from The X Factor, it is keep the expectations low. It is better to launch quietly than be over-confident.
Fox is hoping, of course, that returning Glee will benefit out of The X Factor in the Thursday 9 p.m. next season. But “too much too soon” for the prematurely deteriorating musical dramedy could mean it might be time to graduate next season. What once seemed fresh and original now seems just plain tired, with double-digit across-the-board losses in season three. Not even the arrivals of guest stars Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker, or some of the graduates in a New York City setting is likely to stop the deterioration.
Friday, of course, is problematic, with sliding HUT levels a challenge for any new or returning series. But Fox is not giving up, with sophomore drama Touch with Kiefer Sutherland leading into the final 13-episodes of Fringe. While you have to give the network credit for giving Fringe a proper send-off, questionable Touch on a difficult evening may not bode well for the necessarily lead-in support for Fringe. And Fox, once again, could be lacking on Friday (as will most of the competition). Chances are busy Chef Gordon Ramsay will be back in some format by midseason.
Saturday this fall will be populated on Fox with sports related programming, which is really nothing more than a so-called “Band-Aid” maneuver. And the network will cap off the week with animation on Sunday, as always. But the established product is down, The Simpsons included, and there is nothing new on the pike to rejuvenate interest (including the planned revival of The Flintstones, which has been permanently shelved).
With three new fall series and only two new announced series for midseason (sitcom The Goodwin Games and drama The Following from Kevin Williamson, which replaces The Mob Doctor), Fox in 2012-13 is just not aggressive enough. No one ever said resting on your laurels was a good thing.
Grade for Fox: C