House House

Fox already has two solid new pieces for its fall 2011 schedule with dino-soap Terra Nova and its new talent competition The X Factor. But what about veteran favorites House and Bones?

At the network's Tuesday session before the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly noted that there is no deal for another season of either show. Talks have not begun with NBC Universal, which produces House, about an eighth season on Fox. The network also has to reach a new agreement with 20th Century-Fox Television for another season of Bones.

It's unlikely that NBC Universal would want to keep House for NBC's prime time — the ratings for the show are down while the costs are up. But never say never. There could be some temptation by NBC to overpay for the show, as new network entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt needs something that keeps the lights on while he tries to develop a new hit. The negotiations could get ugly.

"I think pride of authorship is going to keep him from wanting do it," said Reilly. "But you're looking at a pretty decimated schedule there. At least it creates some traction."

Reilly is more confident about reaching a new deal for Bones, which is produced by Fox's television studio. "That's not going to be an acrimonious thing," he said. "We cracked it the last time and we expect to comes to terms again."

One factor that may help is a pilot for a Bones spin-off from the show's creator Hart Hanson that will air in April. There is no title or cast yet, but Fox has the script for concept. "The lead role is a 'finder,'" said Reilly. "He's a guy who will find anybody or anything. He's got 10 different business cards from 10 different agencies. He's a guy with a lot of weird arcane knowledge in his head and a lot of weird connections — a guy for hire to track somebody or something down."

The pilot will be set in Key West, Florida where the cast of Bones and the main characters of the spin off will shoot the episode. "It's got Hart's sense of humor to it and it's got a little of that Carl Hiaasen-Florida quirk to it," says Reilly.

If both Bones and House return and the Bones spin off pilot goes to series, Fox will have to decide on the future of Lie To Me, Human Target and Fringe, none of which are ratings barn-burners. "Lots of shows are rejected," he said. "These shows have audiences." The show with the most to prove is Fringe, which needs nearly all of its small but devoted cult to follow it from Thursday to Friday in order to get a fourth season renewal.

"It's a fantastic show and honestly," said Reilly. "I'd be heartbroken if it went away."

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