Fox at TCA: Mariah Carey joins “American Idol” as a judge

Mariah Carey, new “American Idol” judge.

Fox became the first broadcast network to hold their presentation at the Television Critics Association Press Tour on Monday, with panels on Fox’s three new shows, a X Factor press conference, and an introduction of a new judge on American Idol.

– Fox executive session: Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly met the press on Monday and revealed that Mariah Carey will be become one of the two new judges on American Idol this January (the second judge will be announced at a later date.) This comes as Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler were recently shown the door. Reilly points out the reported $18 million-a-year Fox threw at Carey is a good investment for get big-name talent (translation: we paid a lot of money just to reverse a ratings slide.)

Reilly also touched on other subjects: on Glee (which didn’t have a panel at TCA this year), will switch back and forth from Ohio and New York City in the storyline this year; The Flintstones reboot is likely shelved for good (Seth McFarlane said at Comic-Con that the project wasn’t  dead – well, now it is); and Reilly said he wasn’t with no Outstanding Primetime Emmy nominated drama on the schedule this year, but hopes to have one nominated next year (with Mob Doctor? Good luck with that…)

With CBS having the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Championship, AFC Championship Game in primetime, and a rebuilding year ahead for American Idol, Reilly acknowledged Fox would not win in the adults 18-49 demo for the first time in nearly a decade.

– Fox had panels for three of its new shows: first up was Mob Doctor, the-based-in-Chicago drama starring Jordana Spiro as a doctor who owes a debt to a mob figure. Series co-creator Josh Berman said Spiro’s character should develop throughout the season (assuming it makes it that far), as her moral dilemma will come into play more.

Is there a future for Mob Doctor? Given Fox’s lackluster performance in the second hour of primetime on Monday night in recent years, this practice will be shut down faster than you can say quack.

– Up next was the single-cam comedy Ben & Kate, which sounds like a 1980’s sitcom throwback: stressful mom lets her freewheeling brother move in and help raise her impressible daughter. The series is actually based on producer-writer Dana Fox’s real-life brother, who often got into trouble when he was younger. And guess who plays Ben, the bad-influence brother… none other than Oscar-winning (!) screenwriter Nat Fixon, who Ms. Fox locked in the show before Fixon realized he’d made a mistake.

Although Ms. Fox said this sitcom was based on her brother, this seems like a tired, stale formula we’ve seen over and over again in sitcoms and movies.

– Next up was The Mindy Project from former Office cast member Mindy Kaling, who plays a successful doctor whose not-so-successful in love (think Girlfriends – only with one lady instead of four.) She bases her exceptions too much on unrealistic romantic comedies – you know, where the girl purses the guy, girl gets the guy, and two boring hours later, everyone’s happy. Said Kaling at TCA (via Dave Walker at NOLA.com): “I think a big, funny part of the series is the characters’ expectations of how things should work out. How they actually work out in real life is so much of where the comedy comes from in this series.”

“I’m someone who loves romance.” Kaling continues. “I always have loved it. Most people who grew up as nerds, as I was, surprisingly, have loved romance. On “The Office”, so much of the show is disguising your true feelings and your romantic feelings, because it was a documentary, a mock documentary. I think in a lot of ways, it’s a reaction to that, because I just wanted to explore love and romance, but with people who are legitimately busy and have busy lives. Especially with women my age, too. I think if you have a career, you’re thinking, ‘When is this other side of my life going to click into place?”

The Mindy Project seems to be a great fit with New Girl in its Tuesday night time slot, and is my pick to click.

Fringe held its final TCA panel as the series enters its fifth and final season with only thirteen episodes.

– Also at TCA was the X Factor panel, coming via satellite with creator Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, and new panelists Britney Spears and Demi Lovato (who?), replacing Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, both of whom bombed out as judges last year. This was a painful presentation for many critics, with Spears (much like David Geffen the previous day at the PBS panel for American Masters) not really experienced on handling the press. Cowell was quoted as saying that Spears was “quite mean” and Lovato is “a brat”. But he said he was exicited and eager to work with both women. Spears is reportedly being paid $15 million to be a X Factor judge. Fox has yet to announce who the host of X Factor, which should be made in mid-August.

You have to wonder why Fox is throwing a lot of money at these superstars to plug up what is clearly a ratings leak for both shows. Ratings for X Factor and Idol will continue to decline, regardless of whose judging the panel – the audience is already tired of these type of shows. A better option would been to go after lesser-known talent at a lesser price – Kandi Burress (of Real Housewives fame – and a person with a lot of experience and smarts in the music business) would’ve been an excellent choice. Fans of Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, and Demi Lovato would rather see them perform rather than be a judge on two over-glorified karaoke contests. This is nothing more than wastes of money and only intended to please an ignorant media buying public.

Fringe creator J.J. Abrams appeared via tape and thanked the critics and fans of the show for their support over its five seasons. During the panel, showrunner J.H. Wymans discussed about how the writers would end the series the last couple of years, saying the ending was always in flux. Fringe is expected to conclude in January.

– And the rest… Fox will preview the full pilots of The Mindy Project and Ben and Kate on most streaming platforms ahead of their Sept. 25 premiere date. Both shows will be available on-demand from Aug. 27 to Sept. 9…. Fox has promoted David Hill to the position of Senior Exec VP of News Corp. from his longtime position as head of Fox Sports Media Group… Masterchef, a cooking competition with Gordon Ramsey, which be back for a fourth season…Even though Fox did not hold panels on any of Fox’s Sunday night animated fare at TCA this year, they did announce a lineup of A-listers to lend their voices. To see the list, click here.

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