Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture


If I programmed the broadcast networks (part two): Fox

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Note: This week, the broadcast networks are announcing their 2013-2014 schedules. Yesterday, I offered my thoughts on how NBC could improve its fortunes next season by moving away from so-called edgy programming toward shows that uplifted as they entertained. Now, it’s on to Fox.

The Fox brand: A case of dueling identities. Talk about a brand at war with itself and you’re, basically, talking about Fox. On the entertainment side, the Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC) built its name in the eighties and nineties edgy programming like Married…with Children and that garnered attention by pushing the bounds of good taste. These days all the broadcasters have gone edgy and Fox is lost in the crowd. Among its competitors is FX, its own sister that is now splitting into three channels, each one, I suppose, edgier than the other. Even FBC boss Kevin Reilly admits that Fox Broadcasting has fallen onto hard times as it struggles to get noticed in the sea of darkness.

At the same time, Fox News is arguably the media conglomerate’s most successful franchise. It trounces the other channels in its category by massive margins and is near the top of the overall cable ratings — including entertainment channels like FX. For the record, Fox News clocked in at #4 last week in prime time. FX was #15.  Fox News, of course, is also the only link in the chain that can be said to represent conservative values. From a strictly business standpoint, it would seem to make sense for the Fox Broadcasting channel to alter its course — and tone.

Here’s how I personally would go about turning around Fox (you can view what the network is actually doing here). As noted yesterday, my choices are base strictly on impressions of concepts and who is involved creatively. In the end, it’s always the execution that really counts. Also note that some of these clips don’t represent the tone I would encourage to producers to ultimately take. NEW SHOWS ARE IN CAPS. (In some cases, I’ve taken the liberty of changing the titles.)

MONDAY
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8:00 – ALMOST HUMAN
(Futuristic police drama involving android cops)/Spring: WILD BLUE (Drama set about a U.S. aircraft carrier)
9:00 – Touch/Spring: JACK BAUER: LIVE ANOTHER DAY (24 hero returns in a new adventure)
11:00 – Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld (Monday-Thursday)
NOTE:
Touch is a kindhearted show that deserves another crack at success. A shortened season would even allow Kiefer Sutherland to reprise his most famous role to create a sort of Keifer Sutherland hour. 
Also, I’d offer Red Eye to Fox stations as an alternative to The Daily Show, Colbert and all those liberal late-night talkers. It could still be rerun in the wee hours by Fox News while keeping the 11:00 PM broadcast slot warm for a possible move to Fox by Jay Leno when his NBC contract runs out. Red Eye could then slide back to midnight.

TUESDAY
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8:00 – FRIENDS & FAMILY (aka Us & Them, romcom about a bi-coastal couple, their friends and their families)
9:00 – The New Girl
9:30 – Mindy
NOTE: I changed the title of Us & Them back to Friends & Family (the title under which the show was originally developed). Friends & Family is, well, friendlier and doesn’t suggest the sort of cooler-than-thou attitude that inflicts too many shows these days. The whole notion of Us & Them is what TV executives should be seeking to help heal. I like the basic concept and I like the actors. Going forward, I’d like to see a show that is about people ultimately working differences out   and about the value of support system.

WEDNESDAY
8:00 – DELIRIUM
(about a dystopian society that seeks to eradicate love)/Spring: TYRANT (An American family lives in amid a Mideast dictatorship)
9:00 – SLEEPY HOLLOW (modern update on the Washington Irving classic)/Spring: SHOGUN (series version of the James Clavell classic)
NOTE: I think Delirium and Tyrant (picked up from FX) both have the potential to dramatize the values of love and freedom. Sleepy Hollow is about the battle between good and evil and, hopefully, makes the point that good is worth defending from evil. Shogun, could turn out to be a great swashbuckling and heroic series.

THURSDAY
8:00 – Justified
(from FX)/Spring: OCEAN BEACH (revival of FX private eye comedy Terriers)
9:00 – GANG RELATED
(an LA gang member infiltrates the LAPD)/SPRING: KEEGAN DEANE V. THE WORLD (aka Rake, about a House-like lawyer)

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NOTE: Though gritty, Justified is about right and wrong. I also always liked the concept of FX’s Terriers and thought the title worked against it. It did have a small but loyal following. I’d give it another shot on Fox. Also, though gritty, Gang Related and Keegan Deane both seem to be headed toward telling stories of redemption.

FRIDAY
8:00 – Bones
9:00 – THE EDGE (aka Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a comedy about a police precinct on the edge of NYC)
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11:00 – The X-Factor/Winter: Redeye/Spring: American Idol
12:00 – The X-Factor/Winter: BREAKING NEWS (SNL for conservative)/Spring: AMERICAN IDOL
NOTE: The Edge has the potential to grow into a good M*A*S*H-like dramedy. The X-Factor and American Idol are both fading and taking up too much prime-time real estate. I’d move them to late night with the gap in between taken up by an SNL-type sketch comedy with a more conservative sensibility.

SATURDAY
7:00 – Fox Sports Saturday/(7:00 -Nat Geo  Presents/9:00 America’s Most Wanted)
11:00 – The X-Factor/(Winter: 11:00 -The Simpsons/11:30 – Family Guy)/Spring: American Idol
12:00 – The Simpsons/Winter: Futurama
12:30 – Family Guy/Winter: MURDER POLICE (animated cop show spoof)
NOTE:
Fox is having success with sports on Saturday. So be it. Almost anything is better than the degrading Cops. On week that good sports programming isn’t  available, the network could air quality documentary produced for its National Geographic Channel sister network. And, now that Lifetime has dropped America’s Most Wanted, Fox should take it back and help catch some bad guys.

As for late night, like the above reality franchises, Fox’s aging fleet of hyper edgy cartoons are taking up to much prime-time real estate. I’d cancel most of them (or let one of the FX channels pick them up) and move the most popular ones, The Simpsons and Family Guy (a show which I actually can’t stand), off to compete with SNL. As part of the bloc, I’d pick up Futurama (fresh dropped from Comedy Central) because I think it’s actually funny and give the new Murder Police (with a mandate to keep it clever and not mean). 

SUNDAY
7:00 – The O.T./Post Football Season: The Fox Files (a Fox version of 60 Minutes)
8:00 – Fox Epics (Blood Brothers/Trial of the Century: The People vs. O.J. Simpson/Wayward Pines/Billy the Kid)
NOTE:
60 Minutes is a quality show which I enjoy but it’s times for a conservative alternative. Meanwhile, perhaps seeing the success The History Channel has had with The Hatfields & McCoys and, of course, The Bible,  Fox has wisely put several miniseries into development. Event programming on Sunday night strikes me as a good idea.

Wrapping up,  I would send the serial killer drama The Following off with the cartoons to one of those FX channels (though I would prefer oblivion). I simply don’t believe in programming that in any way, shape or form casts a serial killer as clever and smart. To me, the fact that there are now a handful of shows with serial killers as central characters is indicative of what’s wrong with television. It’s time for actual heroes again.

Tomorrow: ABC

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11



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