January 14, 2009 / 2:56 AM / 10 years ago

Fox eyes more comedies, cancels 'Prison Break'

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox is staging a comedy reboot.

Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly is shown during a break during the Fox network summer press tour in Beverly Hills July 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The network, whose sole live-action comedy “‘Til Death” was recently renewed for another season despite low ratings, said Tuesday it plans to greenlight five comedy pilots in the next week.

“We’re doubling down our commitment to comedy, and we’re rebuilding the live-action comedy brand,” Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said during the network’s portion of the Television Critics Assn.’s winter press tour.

Reilly said he plans five comedy pilots for fall and at least five dramas. Also in contention for fall will be a reshot version of the sci-fi comedy “Boldly Going Nowhere,” originally developed for midseason, and Ron Moore’s “Virtuality” pilot is being overhauled.

“It could air as-is and a certain segment of the audience would flip for it,” Reilly said. “But it’s a little dense.”

Reilly also confirmed that this is the final season for “Prison Break.” In addition to the remaining four episodes, there’s a possibility of a couple more episodes being shot.

The show is just played out,” Reilly said. “Creatively, everybody feels enough stories have been told. ... We want to finish strong and not just gimp out next season. They have a cool ending.”

Fox also will seat its Mitch Hurwitz animated comedy “Sit Down, Shut Up” on April 19, filling in the “King of the Hill” slot on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. after “The Simpsons.” “Sit Down” will take over after “King” has its series finale.

Reilly hinted heavily that J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi thriller “Fringe” will be back for another season.

“It’s a keeper,” he said of the show, which will soon benefit from a lead-in from “American Idol.” “They’ve really found the storytelling model now. What you’re going to see in the second half of the year. The stories really do reset themselves each week. ... I would not expect it to take off after ‘Idol,’ but I do think it will tick up another level.”

“Fringe” has benefited from a new programing model, RemoteFreeTV, where advertisers pay a premium to sponsor the show in exchange for half as many commercials running during the show. Reilly characterized the experiment as a success, but was unsure if the network would be able to persuade advertisers to do it again.

“Viewer feedback was great. ... Advertisers were very happy. ... Studies showed retention was high,” he said after the panel. “But not every advertiser wants to pay that premium.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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