Fox Announces Its Strike Schedule

Fox has become the first of the networks to reveal a revised programming schedule for the coming months, taking the WGA strike into account. It may be surprising at first glance how little Fox had to change.

The network programs seven fewer hours a week than ABC, NBC, and CBS to begin with, and always revamps things in January to bring aboard 24 and American Idol. Except for the absence of Jack Bauer and a lot more House than is customary, the schedule the network laid out for the winter and spring months does not look much different than the usual January through May schedule, with a prominent role for Idol and a lot of limited-run series that may or (more likely) may not catch on.

The weekends on Fox will continue to look like they have for years, with their programming unaffected by the strike. The reality stalwarts Cops and America's Most Wanted will fill Saturdays, while the animated The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Family Guy, and American Dad will continue to rule Sundays. The only variation on Sunday will be a six-week run for the comedy Unhitched beginning in March in the American Dad time slot of 9:30. The fact that Fox is waiting till after February sweeps to run the show can't be a promising sign. Hopefully, series star Rashida Jones didn't clean out her desk at The Office.

Monday is where things get complicated. Prison Break had its first half-finale prematurely last night, and will return in January to burn off its last several episodes. That will lead into Fox's big new hope for its winter schedule, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, starring Lena Headey in the role that biceps made famous by Linda Hamilton. Once Prison Break ends for good during sweeps, Fox will premiere When Women Rule the World, a reality show whose concept sounds like Survivor with women placed in the dominant roles. There's no joke to make here that won't get me in trouble, so moving on... Repeats of House, which is serving as Fox's all-purpose strike stopgap, will take over at 9:00 once Sarah Connor ends in March.

Tuesdays will be just like the strike never happened: American Idol begins January 15, with House following at 9:00 on those nights when Idol doesn't run for two hours. Hell's Kitchen, always a summer show before now, will have its fourth season bumped up to an April 1 start, and will run at 9:00 in order to give Hugh Laurie a much-needed break.

Wednesdays in January and February will feature American Idol at 8:00 and the lie detector-based game show The Moment of Truth at 9:00. Once Idol moves to its Final 12 phase in March, Wednesday will become the night for its elimination shows, The Moment of Truth will move to 8:00, Idol will follow for a half hour at 9:00, and Back to You will return at 9:30. Back to You was one of the few first-year series to receive a full-season episode order, but how many they will be able to shoot is another matter entirely. Look for a lot of expanded Idol elimination shows instead. Thursday is unchanged with the reality tandem Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? and Don't Forget the Lyrics!.

Friday is a catchall for limited-run series Fox has little confidence in. Bones and House repeats will cover things until February 22, when the supernatural detective drama New Amsterdam premieres at 9:00. In March, Til Death returns at 8:00 with the Parker Posey vehicle The Return of Jezebel James following at 8:30. You would think a series with Posey, Lauren Ambrose, and Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino couldn't miss, but Fox cut its episode order from 13 to 7 even with the knowledge a strike was coming. In April, Canterbury's Law, starring Julianna Margulies as a defense attorney, will take over for New Amsterdam.

The entire schedule is, of course, subject to change. Although outside of a quick resolution to the strike which would make a full season of 24 still possible, Fox probably won't be changing very much.