Past experience has shown that it's wise to write down the new Fox schedule in pencil. There's always a change or two (or three) by the time the fall rolls around. But stability was the message for the 2007-08 season:
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and the Sunday animation block will all return in their same time periods next season. Sure, Fox always falters when the season begins, but the network is about to finish No. 1 in viewers aged 18-49 for the third season in a row.
As far as new shows, Fox is trying to regain the edge it seemed to abandon in this past season's development (which was dismal). The most promising attempt is on Monday at 9 pm with K-Ville, starring Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser as two cops in post-Katrina New Orleans. We were puzzled when a reporter asked entertainment president Peter Liguori if doing such a show was exploiting a disaster. What should a contemporary show filmed in New Orleans be about? Mardi Gras?
Less promising is New Amsterdam, about a 400-year-old New York police detective. Scheduled for Tuesday at 8 pm before House, this show is supposed to move to Friday when American Idol returns in January. Yes, we're putting that one down in pencil.
While ABC and NBC have abandoned the multicamera sitcom, Fox is embracing the form with Back to You on Wednesday at 8 pm. It's conventional, but really funny. With Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammer as stars, the worst that can happen for Fox is viewers stop to watch it thinking it's an Everybody Loves Raymond or Frasier episode they haven't seen. It's followed at 8:30 pm by The Return of Jezebel James. Fox has never had a successful female-oriented sitcom. If this show about two sisters - one of whom agrees to carry the other's baby - can make it to January, when it will precede the American Idol results show, it has a chance, especially with Amy Sherman-Palladino producing and directing.
With baseball preemptions, Fox will try to get through Thursday and Friday in the first half of the season with reality and game shows, turning to Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (kind of a makeover show for restaurants) and the producers of Idol for The Search for the Next Great American Band. Outside of Idol, country music is the last genre that works on broadcast network television, so Fox is trying Nashville, a "docu-soap" about trying to make it in the music business. - Stephen Battaglio