TCA: Fox leaves "American Idol" questions unanswered

Fox’s 2010 TCA Presentation won’t be remembered for its three new shows (in fact, they’re quite forgettable), but for the questions it didn’t answer…

Fox execs Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice talked about a lot of things pertaining to their network, but disappointed many at the press tour by refusing to answer any questions related to American Idol, especially on who’s going to replace Simon Cowell as judge and whether or not Kara DioGaurdi was really let go. The only item they did confirm was Ellen DeGeneres’ departure.

The execs even went as far to bash bloggers and critics, noting the decision to announce anything regarding Idol will come on their timetable – not them or their readers.

“We have no signed contracts with anyone”  noted Rice, who he and Reilly denied reports about Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler coming to the show. With rumors of a backlash from fans signing the two, Lopez’s and Tyler’s plan to sit in those judge’s chairs seems less likely.

However, one report was verified later in the week- Nigel Lythgoe announced he would be returning to his executive producer duties on Idol next year. Lythgoe departed the series two years ago so he can focus more on his other series So You Think You Can Dance, which he’ll also continue to be showrunner.

Fox should be ranked over the coals over the way this was handled. The network should have had a game plan ready by now, especially with auditions currently in full swing. By denying reports, all Fox is doing is sending a perception that things are chaotic at American Idol. If the announcements were made about Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joining the show, why are they backtracking from them now?

Meanwhile, panels for Fox’s three new shows went as follows:

Perhaps the most anticipated new show on Fox’s new fall lineup is Lonestar. Based in Texas (of course), this series is about a con man who juggles two different lives with two different women in two different Texas cities (even J.R. Ewing wasn’t this much of a dog!) At a panel, producer Amy Lippman noted the series would have to reinvent itself periodically and keep it fresh. Good premise, but changing it down the road is a risk.

Next were panels on Fox’s two new Tuesday night comedies – first up was Raising Hope, a new sitcom from Yes, Dear and My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia. It’s premise: A 25 year-old bachelor who winds up caring for an infant with the help of his nutty family.

The next panel was Running Wilde from Arrested Development producer Mitchell Hurwitz featuring Arrested’s Will Arnett and Felicity’s Keri Russell. Arnett plays a rich Hollywood jerk (in a role he similarly played on Arrested Development – though the difference is he doesn’t lose his money) who falls in love with Russell, who plays an environmentalist. Are you laughing already?

The bottom line: don’t expecting from these two sitcoms, which likely will get axed midseason, if not sooner. And a day at the dentist is more fun than watching these two loser shows.

Other news from the press tour regarding Fox:

– Steven Speilberg’s new action drama Terra Nova is being pushed back until next fall, but look for a sneak preview to air sometime next May – the same manner Glee was launched in 2009 with a special preview after American Idol.

– And speaking of Glee, Fox said it plans to cut the number of musical numbers per episode and more focus on the story. Kevin Reilly on Glee: “I think this year, the audience can’t wait to have it go on. We’re looking to do a great year of television, and maybe some of the hoopla will die down and I think that will be healthy.”

– One of the funniest lines quipped at Fox’s portion of the tour was when Raising Hope’s Cloris Leachman when she jokingly talked about Betty White:  I’m so sick of Betty White. Never liked her. We have a movie coming out that we made together. It’s called You Again. She could make a soufflé and I could open the oven. That would be funny, and I slam it and make the soufflé go down.”

Both  Leachman (Phyills) and White (The Betty White Show) each had spinoffs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

– Fox plans to join the already-crowded country music awards arena with the launch the American Country Awards. The special airs December 6.

Next up: PBS and cable