"We are doing something different," announced Peter Liguori, president of Fox Entertainment, at TCA. "In the past, we dabbled in reality fare. The goal is to see what may work in the fall. What we say here is: Spring is a new fall."
The new shows are a mix of genres. They include:
"The Wedding Bells," a David E. Kelley-produced comedy-drama about a family-owned wedding business. It gets the benefit of an "American Idol" lead-in Wednesday on March 7, then settles into a Friday time slot at 9 p.m., starting March 9. Liguori thinks this might work, considering that the other networks run mostly procedural crime dramas at that time.
"Drive," an action drama, focuses on a group of people in a cross-country road race. This serialized series gets a two-hour premiere Sunday, April 15, and starts in its regular time slot on April 16, Mondays at 8 p.m.
Fox will also try a straight comedy, "The Winner," about a 32-year-old who leads a sheltered life with his parents. It begins on Sundays--in an unusual limited double run that night--at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Fox hasn't made any plans yet for the highly competitive Thursday night. Fox is ending "The O.C." in February and moving "'Til Death" to Wednesdays after "Idol," starting on March 14.
"We have the potential for looking at a comedy block," said Liguori. "It's a tough night. You have 45 share points eaten up by two shows [ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy' and CBS' 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.']."
As for last fall's double-digit rating drop, Liguori says, "I don't accept that's the way it is. We have to have better shows in the fourth quarter."
He believes Fox might gain an advantage next season, now that Fox's baseball efforts have been cut back. "We now have two rounds of playoffs instead of three," said Liguori. "We had 26 possible games now down to 14. That gives us some flexibility."
Liguori also addressed possible Federal Communications Commission concerns over indecency sanctions. "Because there are no specific definitions, there is a chilling effect," he warned.
The FCC recently levied sanctions against Fox over the use of profanity by Cher and Nicole Ritchie during two separate Fox Billboard Awards telecasts. The FCC did the same in 2004, over an NBC Golden Globes live telecast featuring Bono when he used the "F-word."
Fox will air live the "38th NAACP Image Awards" on March 2 in which Bono will receive the NAACP chairman's awards. Is Liguori worried? "We have every anticipation Bono will be spectacular."
Liguori added that the upcoming "Simpsons" theatrical movie--its first--will help bring new viewers to the franchise, now in its 18th season. He also defended News Corp.'s decision to sell DVDs of this season's "24" debut 24 hours after its TV premiere. "The show does unbelievably well in DVD. It drives a lot of traffic to the stores."