Fox 2008-09 Schedule Is Solid, Surprisingly Straightforward

Usually this is the time of year when people are left scratching their heads, futilely trying to comprehend the four or five schedules that Fox has just unveiled for the upcoming season. This year, however, the folks at Fox have left the confusion of a year-round schedule to NBC, instead choosing to go with a much more conventional (and less headache inducing) Fall/Spring plan.

Fox has been doing fairly well recently, and it is safe to say that “American Idol” is no longer the only show keeping the network afloat (although it doesn’t hurt, declining ratings and all). Therefore, it is no surprise that Fox has brought back a large part of its 07-08 schedule for the upcoming season. Of course, there are the usually Fox casualties (“Back to You,” “New Amsterdam,” etc.) but that is no surprise. In order to make room for new programming, expensive and/or underperforming shows must go. Naturally, a few people might be upset by some of the losses, but never fear. The new shows that Fox is offering next season look nothing short of spectacular.

Fall 2008

Monday Nights will be once again be home to the one-two punch of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “Prison Break.” Those shows both underwhelmed numbers-wise this season in the total viewers category, although both do fairly well in the 18-49 demo. They combined to create a very entertaining Monday night duo for the four or five weeks they shared together earlier this year, and more of that will surely be in store for the fall. Added bonus: Fox veteran and all around awesome actor Michael Rapaport (“The War at Home,” “Boston Public”) will be joining the cast of “Prison Break” next season. How can folks not tune in? It’s Michael Rapaport!

“House,” which has proven its dominance on whatever night or timeslot Fox chooses to place it, will temporarily reclaim its Tuesday night digs in the fall. Who would have thought that this series, barely clinging to life in the fall of 2004, would have become such a monster hit? It will lead into one of only two new fall debuts, the J.J. Abrams produced “Fringe.” “Fringe,” a complex extravaganza from the team responsible for “Alias” and “Lost,” is one of the fall’s most buzzed about series. Plus, it is the return to series TV for Joshua Jackson. Pacey lives!

“Bones,” which like “House” has succeeded wherever it has been scheduled (although not quite on the same level), returns to Wednesday nights this fall. It will be followed by “‘Til Death,” which was thankfully renewed over “Back to You.” Although its ratings were lower than “Back to You’s,” it was the cheaper of the two, and that no doubt played a part in the renewal. Good thing too, because it was the funnier of the two sitcoms by far. Say what you will about Brad Garrett – the man has a comedic gift. New sitcom “Do Not Disturb,” about day-to-day life for employees of a New York City hotel, will close out the night. It stars Jerry O’Connell; let’s just hope that it is better than O’Connell’s previous sitcom endeavor, last season’s truly horrible “Carpoolers.”

Fox chooses to go with unscripted programming once again on Thursday nights, which has worked out pretty well for them in the past. The shows, “The Moment of Truth” and “Kitchen Nightmares” are both terrible, but they are cheap and people watch them. So that is why they are there.

Friday nights also belong to unscripted fare. That’s probably for the best. Fox is almost singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the phrase “Friday Night Death Slot,” so it makes sense that they have abandoned any hopes of launching scripted programming on the night this fall. Midseason, however, will be a different story. “Bones,” “‘Til Death” and “Do Not Disturb” are all scheduled to move to Friday night come January. Uh-oh.

Saturday is “COPS” and “America’s Most Wanted.” Anyone over the age of three knows that.

Finally, Sunday nights will bring back Fox’s “Animation Domination” lineup consisting of “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” As far as branding goes, it sounds a little better than the name Fox used for the night a couple of years ago, “The Four Fathers of Comedy.” That didn’t really last too long.

The Second Season

As excited as Fox claims to be about the fall schedule, the network most likely won’t hit its stride until the launch of “The Second Season” in January. That will bring about the return of “American Idol” as well as the long awaited seventh season of “24.” Also launching will be the much anticipated new series from Joss Whedon, “Dollhouse.” We all still remember how Fox mishandled “Firefly,” so let’s hope that things go differently this time. “Dollhouse” is expected to receive massive hype (and will be paired with “24” on Monday nights), so things look promising. But then again, this is Fox we are talking about, so the chance of a show getting Foxized is always a possibility.

“Family Guy” spinoff “The Cleveland Show” will join “Animation Domination” on Sundays in the spring. Creator Seth Macfarlane has to do something to justify that nine figure deal after all. Also debuting will be an animated update on an Australian sitcom entitled “Sit Down, Shut Up.” It’s about a dysfunctional high school, and will be featuring the vocal talents of The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler. He will be joined by fellow “Arrested Development” alums Will Arnett and Jason Bateman. Tell us when and where, and we’ll be watching.

Simple and strong schedule from Fox? Isn’t that a sign of the apocalypse?

Fox’s schedule looks to be solid on paper. Most notable series’ will be returning, and the new offerings are all intriguing to say the least. Fox, like the CW, CBS and ABC, is playing it safe. What makes the Fox schedule stand out, however, is how few holes there appear to be in it. That might change during the season, in fact it probably will. After all, it wouldn’t be Fox if a couple of shows didn’t get canceled after airing zero to one episodes. But at this point, things are looking pretty good for the “American Idol” network.