Perhaps the biggest takeaway of Fox’s 2019-20 fall lineup – the first full season under the new Fox Entertainment banner after being separated from its longtime studio – is the departure of Empire after next season.
The drama had drama of its own – courtesy of cast member Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hate crime hoax January 29 in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. The fallout led Empire to bench him for the last two episodes of this previous season. As Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier pointed out in a morning conference call, Empire has “no plans” on featuring Smollett this season – but he also said the writers have not gathered to map out the season yet.
Empire – who had ratings of near six in the 18-49 demo in its first season, is being put to bed in a long overdue move which saw ratings erode to the point where the series isn’t relevant anymore – even the controversy surrounding Smollett failed to boost the show’s ratings.
As I said two years ago, nobody wants to watch an African-American version of Donald Trump in Lucious Lyon. As times change and storytelling has evolved, Empire has not.
With that said, Empire is shifting to Tuesday nights in the fall, following The Resident as the new Fox lineup is heavy on drama and sports, including football on Thursday and WWE Smackdown on Friday, a show returning to broadcast after nine seasons.
Mondays have 9-1-1 leading into a new drama Prodigal Son, featuring Tom Payne as the son of a serial killer who has made hunting killers his life’s work.
One big potential showdown brewing comes Wednesday nights with new hit reality competition show The Masked Singer opposite CBS’ Survivor, with its second season starting in the fall and its third season scheduled to launch February 4. Singer leads into new drama Not Just Me, a family drama with the logline: “An only child finds her life turned upside down when her father, a fertility doctor, reveals that, over the course of his career he used his own sperm to conceive upwards of a hundred children, including two new sisters. The three women form a unique bond.”
Sundays sees Animation Domination re-established with the new Bless The Harts in between veterans The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers. Fox only released a vague description of the new animated series, about a broke Southern family who is rich in “friends, family, and laughter”.Voice talent include SNL veterans Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.
In a statement, Collier notes “Today marks a new beginning for Fox Entertainment. So it is with a start-up mindset and, upon an incredible foundation of assets, that we deliver our first slate of new comedies, dramas and unscripted series. Alongside top creators and talent, and through innovative partnerships across the industry, we are redefining what it means to be an entertainment company, and what it means to be Fox, for 2019 and beyond.”
Fox also has a few series being held for midseason, the biggest being 9-1-1– spinoff 9-1-1 Lonestar, starring Rob Lowe and is set in Austin, Tex. (it is not known if the series is being filmed in the city.) The new drama premieres on January 19, after 9-1-1.
Other series being held for midseason include The Orville and in a bit of a surprise, Last Man Standing – likely because there is no other compatible sitcom to pair it with (previous companion Cool Kids was canceled Friday.) New series for midseason are dramas Deputy, Filthy Rich, and neXt (no, it’s not about Steve Jobs’ ill-fated attempt at creating the neXt operating system); live-action comedy Outmatched; animated comedies Duncanville and The Great North, and reality competition series Ultimate Tag.
Overall, Fox has a solid first season in life without its namesake studio. Having football in primetime and wrestling on Fridays should bring male viewers to the network, where Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays should draw a good amount of female viewers. Can the “New Fox” work without the benefits of vertical integration? We shall see.