Jonathan Storm: Fox banks on Cowell, Spielberg for fall

The animated series Allen Gregory is about a worldly, home-schooled 7-year-old who has to go to class with kids his own age. It's the creation of actor-comedian Jonah Hill.
The animated series Allen Gregory is about a worldly, home-schooled 7-year-old who has to go to class with kids his own age. It's the creation of actor-comedian Jonah Hill.
Posted: May 17, 2011

Stuffing a henhouse full of eggs into one big basket, Fox surprised no one Monday by announcing that one-sixth of its entire fall schedule will be filled by another Simon Cowell singing competition show, The X Factor.

The network thinks it has a second blockbuster in waiting, Steven Spielberg's Terra Nova, about a family that journeys back in time to try to point civilization on a happier course.

Fox adds two sitcoms and a cartoon show for fall and will hold four series for midseason. As expected, it canceled all its "bubble" shows: The Chicago Code, Human Target, Lie to Me, Breaking In, and Traffic Light.

And it pulled the plug on America's Most Wanted - for a second time. A similar move in 1996 backfired amid a huge public protest, and the show, hosted by John Walsh, is currently the longest-running series in prime time, not counting news magazines.

"John Walsh has been a very important guy to the network for a long time," Kevin Reilly, Fox Broadcasting entertainment president, said in a conference call with reporters, "but it's been no secret to John we have not made money on the show in quite a while." Reilly said the network planned four two-hour specials of America's Most Wanted next season, and he speculated that the show might turn up again under different auspices.

Fox will use the vacant Saturday-night slot for reruns, which Reilly said made good business sense.

The four new midseason series include a drama, Touch, starring 24's Kiefer Sutherland as a father who discovers that his autistic son has special skills; Alcatraz, from J.J. Abrams, which Reilly described as "a third procedural, a third cold case, and a third cool mythology"; The Finder, about a guy based in Key West, Fla., who's really good at finding missing people; and a cartoon version of Napoleon Dynamite, voiced by the actors from the original cult hit movie.

The new fall shows:

The X Factor. Reilly pulled out a raft of adjectives for this "massive" show in which four judges, including Cowell and his old comrade in arms, Paula Abdul, coach groups of contestants, trying to find a huge international star. Reilly called Cowell "the biggest star in reality television," and said Fox's goal was "to achieve the same incredible level of success and spectacle and fandom as The X Factor gets in the U.K.," where about half the people watching TV tune in to the show when it's on.

Terra Nova. It's 2149, and things have really deteriorated on Earth. The Shannon family leads the 10th pilgrimage back to the Cretaceous era, when dinosaurs ruled and mammals were just getting started. The show has a Lost quality to it, along with a lot of cute teenagers, and it's supposed to be old-fashioned family viewing, "a big-tent show," said Reilly, "not something that we see on television now."

I Hate My Teenage Daughter. Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran play former high school outcasts who are very concerned that their cute teenage daughters - hmmm, do we see a theme emerging here? - are turning into the very sorts of mean girls who tormented the moms back in the day.

New Girl. The glorious Zooey Deschanel plays the "offbeat and adorable" - surprise! - Jess Day, who, in her late 20s, moves in with three single guys. Fox publicity also describes her as "goofy," "dorky," "awkward," and "vulnerable." You go, Zooey.

Allen Gregory. Intelligent, worldly, and sophisticated Allen Gregory de Longpre has composed operas and dated Chloe Sevigny, but now he faces the biggest challenge of his 7-year-old life: leaving the home-school oasis overseen by his father and his life partner, Jeremy, and going to school with kids his own age. The animated series comes from actor/comedian Jonah Hill (Get Him to the Greek).

Jonathan Storm: Fall Lineup: Fox

New shows in bold


7, The OT; 7:30, The Cleveland Show; 8, The Simpsons, 8:30, Allen Gregory; 9, Family Guy; 9:30, American Dad


8, Terra Nova; 9, House


8, Glee; 9, New Girl; 9:30, Raising Hope


8, The X Factor; 9:30, I Hate My Teenage Daughter


8, The X Factor; 9, Bones


8, Kitchen Nightmares; 9, Fringe


8, Cops; 8:30, Cops; 9, Repeats

Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or Read his recent work at jonathanstorm.


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