May 15, 2008 / 5:35 PM / 9 years ago

Fox adds comedy, thriller to TV's strongest lineup

<p>Producer J.J. Abrams in a file photo. Fox Broadcasting on Thursday rolled out a fall television schedule that adds a science-fiction thriller, from one of TV's hottest producers, and a workplace comedy to a lineup that is already tops with viewers. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fox Broadcasting on Thursday rolled out a fall television schedule that adds a science-fiction thriller, from one of TV’s hottest producers, and a workplace comedy to a lineup that is already tops with viewers.

Among the major broadcast networks, the News Corp unit is sitting in the driver’s seat, finishing out a season as the most watched network -- both overall and with younger viewers -- thanks to its blockbuster “American Idol.”

Supporting “American Idol” is a roster filled with hits like “House” and “Bones,” not to mention the countdown thriller “24,” set to return after its current season was thwarted by the screenwriters’ strike.

With a lineup that strong and a development season that was abbreviated by the strike, Fox decided to add just two new shows this fall.

“We looked at our schedule and thought we don’t need a lot, and the good news is we got what we need,” said Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly.

Fox is making a big publicity push with “Fringe,” a new science-fiction drama from J.J. Abrams, the force behind the popular castaway thriller “Lost” on Walt Disney Co’s ABC. He was also behind past audience favorites “Alias” and “Felicity.”

“There are high expectations for this,” said Reilly. “The guy delivers on those expectations.”

“Fringe,” a thriller about three characters who uncover a mystery they fear is part of a large and terrifying pattern, will also be run with half the normal commercial minutes and promotional time.

“Let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen, the broadcast TV business needs a jolt,” Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori told advertisers. “We refuse to let things get boring. We’re the number one network. We’re the rebel innovators.”

The second show picked up by Fox for the fall is “Do Not Disturb.” The comedy stars Jerry O‘Connell -- known for his turn in the crime drama “Crossing Jordan” -- as a manager at a hip New York City hotel.

Among the shows left off the 2008-09 schedule is the comedy “Back to You,” starring five-time Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer.

BIG MIDSEASON PUSH

Fox is the last of the major broadcast networks to roll out its 2008-09 schedule, following ABC, CBS and General Electric Co’s NBC, which broke with tradition and unveiled its lineup last month.

Next up, the networks will get down to signing about $9 billion worth of commercial deals with advertisers for the new season.

More than any other network, Fox has banked on the second half of the TV season to win viewers, a period when it rolls out “American Idol” and “24.”

It promised at least four new additions to the lineup in midseason, including an unscripted series called “Secret Millionaire” and animated comedies “The Cleveland Show” and “Sit Down, Shut Up.”

But the most anticipated of the new midseason shows is action drama “Dollhouse” from Joss Whedon, who was behind teen supernatural hit “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It, too, will be offered with half the normal commercial and promotional time.

The show is about an organization that carries out missions after the personalities of its members are wiped out, allowing them to take on any persona.

Editing by Lisa Von Ahn; Editing by Gary Hill

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