When it was at its height, American Idol was the last of its kind, an entertainment program that could draw an audience of tens of millions of live viewers. Fox ascended to the top of the mountain on Idol's back, and was the No. 1 network among 18- to 49- year-olds for eight seasons in a row. The problem was, the network didn't have much else, and so when Idol began to erode, and eventually plummet, Fox too fell off the peak. Less than a year ago, Kevin Reilly, Fox's entertainment chairman, was ousted after he failed to find scripted shows that would stabilize the network for yet another season. Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who oversee Fox's studio, were brought in to run the network also.
On Monday, Walden and Newman announced Idol would come to an end after its fifteenth season, which will air in 2016. "It was not an easy decision," Newman said during a conference call with press on Monday morning. "American Idol has been such a vital part of Fox for its run. We spent a lot of time talking to producers… and collectively we all arrived at the conclusion that it was time to bring the show to an end." Newman said Season 15 will be "a true season-long celebration ... We're already talking about surprises we can have for the fans to make it feel special." Walden mentioned that there is "a lot of enthusiasm" among former judges and contestants about returning for the final season. And though conversations are underway, nothing is set yet.
Fox's current pride and joy is Empire — ironically, a show Reilly programmed — which is the biggest drama success network television has had in years. But almost nothing else on Fox worked this season. Gotham did well enough; Last Man on Earth did OK, too, but isn't the big hit it was supposed to be; and the Sunday night comedy lineup is a stalwart (though weaker than it was). Other than that, whoa. The two-night-a-week reality experiment Utopia was met with total audience rejection. Red Band Society and Mulaney (a show Reilly seemed to love) were DOA. Gracepoint was canceled, Backstrom was canceled, and so was Weird Loners. A drama called Hieroglyph that was announced at last year's upfront was killed before it started production.
And Fox's returning shows, such as its sole 2013-14 hit Sleepy Hollow — as well as New Girl and The Mindy Project — all sank too. (Mindy did not survive.) Fox fell to fourth place behind NBC, CBS, and ABC.
It's a season Fox would want erased from history. Looking forward, it's probably wise not to try to copy the over-the-top soap success of Empire (which will air in two nine-episode parts next season), but pairing it with Rosewood — led by Morris Chestnut — makes sense. Fox's other new offerings prove it is leaning heavily on genre programming: Minority Report, Scream Queens, The Frankenstein Code, Lucifer, and The X-Files all have sci-fi or horror trappings. It's an interesting strategy, given that those sorts of shows have not been mass hits on Fox or any other network in recent years, but they do attract devoted followings (and angry fanbases when they are canceled).
Whether the network can make a splash with the final season of Idol will be one thing to look for from Fox's 2015-2016 season, the first with Newman and Walden as chairmen. Another will be whether X-Files will be as good as it was for its first few seasons, or even close. New Girl has been moved to midseason because of Zooey Deschanel's pregnancy. Walden said the January premieres date "allows us to schedule 22 episodes to air consecutively with no interruptions … that's going to be a goal of ours as well." And if Sleepy Hollow can rebound creatively, viewers might return.
But most important of all, can Empire sustain itself? Can Cookie find some friends to help her carry this network?
A few other notable details:
—Ne-Yo will join Timbaland to write original music for Empire Season 2. Walden also said there are some "amazing guest stars that have lined up to be on this show."
—Production The X-Files begins in June. "We think it'll be a huge reward for fans of this legendary show," Walden said. :It's taken us a very long time to get these three back together." She promised the show would be rewarding for longtime fans (with some mythology-heavy episodes) and new ones, but said creator Chris Carter hasn't told them much.
—There could be more 24 in our futures. "We have been developing another version of 24, but it's still fairly early in the development process," Newman said.
The full schedule is at the bottom of the story, and the new shows are now arranged in night-of-the-week order.
Minority Report (Mondays at 9 p.m.)
Premieres Sept. 21
Scream Queens (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)
Premieres Sept. 22
Rosewood (Wednesdays at 8 p.m.)
Premieres Sept. 23
Grandfathered (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)
Premieres Sept. 29
The Grinder (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.)
Premieres Sept. 29
The X-Files (premieres after the Super Bowl on Jan. 24)
Lucifer (Midseason TBD)
The Frankenstein Code (Midseason TBD)
The Guide to Surviving Life (Midseason TBD)
Bordertown (Midseason TBD)
Here is Fox's Fall 2015 schedule:
Gotham 8 p.m.
*Minority Report 9 p.m.
*Grandfathered 8 p.m.
*The Grinder 8:30 p.m.
*Scream Queens 9 p.m.
*Rosewood 8 p.m.
Empire 9 p.m.
Bones 8 p.m.
Sleepy Hollow 9 p.m.
Masterchef Junior 8 p.m.
World's Funniest 9 p.m.
Fox Sports Saturday: Fox College Football
NFL on Fox 7 p.m.
The OT / Bob's Burgers 7:30 p.m.
The Simpsons 8 p.m.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 8:30 p.m.
Family Guy 9 p.m.
The Last Man On Earth 9:30 p.m.
Note: In mid-May every year, the five television broadcast networks — NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and The CW — present their new shows and upcoming schedules to advertisers at events called "the upfronts." That's why you see an onslaught of new programming in May, as well as the cancellation of current shows. This post will be continually updated.