Fox is the traditional ruler of prime time in the spring thanks to the behemoth known as American Idol, but the network has ambitions of extending its dominance into the fall as well. No new series this September have gotten more buzz than Simon Cowell’s The X Factor and the Steven Spielberg dino-epic Terra Nova, and Fox has them both. Here’s a quick look at the five series premiering on Fox this fall, in order of premiere date.
Premiere: Tuesday, September 20
What It’s About: Fox has been pretty good to Bones star Emily Deschanel, and now we’ll see if lightning can strike twice for her sister Zooey, who is making the slightly surprising switch from quirky cult film heartthrob to sitcom lead. Premise: Deschanel plays Jess, whose remedy for a bad breakup is to move in with the three luckiest men on planet Earth. We’re still not sure what sort of insane complications will have to occur to ensure that Jess stays single and/or that none of her new roommates will put the moves on her, but I’m sure they will think of something.
Chances? This is the rare sitcom that qualifies as a star vehicle even though its star isn’t a brand name from the stand-up world or from a previous show. Zooey Deschanel is the selling point, and it helps that right around 50 percent of the world’s population thinks she’s adorable so long as she isn’t warbling one of those commercials for cotton. On the other hand, Glee probably wouldn’t be the ideal lead-in for this show even if the suspicion weren’t growing that it has peaked, and Fox’s track record with live-action comedy is extremely iffy. New Girl should survive, but like Raising Hope, it might not exactly thrive.
The X Factor
Premiere: Wednesday, September 21
What It’s About: Simon Cowell heading up a singing competition show. So yeah, you’ve seen this before, in a general sense. The main differences between this series and American Idol are 1) groups and singers over 30 are permitted; and 2) the contestants are separated into “teams” that are then mentored by Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger, L.A. Reid, and Paula Abdul. If you watched The Voice, this will all seem familiar. The U.K. version of The X Factor is pretty manipulative, and it remains to be seen how American audiences will respond if Cowell tries that here – Idol viewers are notorious for resenting it when the judges make it clear who they prefer.
Chances? There’s little doubt it’s going to be a success on some level, but a hit along the lines of Idol seems unlikely, if only because Idol still exists and has proved it can thrive without Simon. The real risk for Fox is that by finally succumbing to the temptation to run a version of its biggest hit in the fall months, it might have also weakened Idol. And bringing back Paula just seems like laziness born from the mistaken belief that she’s widely beloved. But there will be a second season.
Premiere: Monday, September 26
What It’s About: When dinosaurs ruled the earth, in the future! By the year 2149, the world is in such bad shape that the only solution seems to be traveling millions of years back in time, to an era when the only things to worry about were poorer wi-fi, becoming an hors d’oeuvre for a T-Rex … and a group of other recent emigrants who aren’t going along with the program. Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang are the biggest names in the cast, but the real star is executive producer Steven Spielberg, who has had just a little success working with dinosaurs in the past.
Chances? Terra Nova has been delayed for quite a while and that has caused some rumblings of trouble. It’s likewise true that reaction to the pilot has been divided among those who have seen it, and there could be a split between fanboys who want a tighter sci-fi focus and those who prefer the interpersonal struggles. But the series operates on a bigger scale than we’re used to seeing in prime time, and that ought to make the show a hit. Fox will insist on it, because a series this expensive will not be able to survive for long without strong ratings.
Premiere: Sunday, October 30
What It’s About: The latest addition to the Fox Sunday animated lineup follows an ultra-sophisticated 7-year-old (think Stewie of Family Guy in a few years) who has been homeschooled so far, but now has to lower himself to mix with regular kids in a traditional school environment. Of course, none of this means that Allen Gregory should necessarily be thought of as family entertainment (again, think Stewie). Jonah Hill, who is nearly small enough these days to be mistaken for a child, is the voice of Allen as well as a co-executive producer.
Chances? Fox usually has a nice spillover audience of young males on Sundays in the fall thanks to football, and Allen Gregory will be tucked in between The Simpsons and Family Guy. But non-Seth MacFarlane animated shows have had trouble getting a foothold on Fox, and given the late premiere date, there’s the possibility this could get lost in the shuffle. Its best chance is probably developing a late-blooming cult as Bob’s Burgers did last spring.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Premiere: Wednesday, November 30
What It’s About: The good news is that Fox has changed its mind about having this show premiere on the night before Thanksgiving, as originally announced. But this is still a really weird time of year to be launching a new series, X Factor lead-in or not. Jaime Pressly (My Name is Earl) and Katie Finneran (lots of shows that haven’t worked) play single mothers who can’t believe that their daughters have turned out to be such awful brats. The girls aren’t crazy about their moms either, not that this is anything new on TV or in life.
Chances? Every network always seems to have one new fall show that is so mediocre on its face, and gets such a lack of care and feeding and promotion, that you have to wonder why they ever bothered in the first place. I Hate My Teenage Daughter fills that role this year for Fox. There didn’t seem to be any ambition here other than “We have a chance to get Jaime Pressly – come up with something, OK?” Barring any kind of character development or new subtleties, this one is likely going nowhere in a hurry.