Friday, May 16, 2008

Fox Howls At Commercials

A few interesting things from the Fox upfronts this week, not the least of which is Fox execs say they will cut down the number of commercials for new announced series "Fringe" and "Dollhouse" when they debut next season.

The idea is to "re-invigorate" the action adventure genre, the execs said.

It's an interesting idea. With the continued penetration of DVRs into the general market, commericals are becoming a thing of the past anyway, not to mention people who watch their favorite shows online. In fact, the whole paradigm of TV is shifting because commercials are becoming less and less viewed on the tube, and that's what pays for the shows. With the ratings system also becoming antiquated because of time-shifted shows, a whole new model on how to pay for TV and measure viewership needs to be devised.

One thing Fox president Peter Liguori didn't mention was how Fox would make up for the lost revenue of not airing as many commercials.

Both "Fringe," from "Lost" producer JJ Abrams, and "Dollhouse," from "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon, are among the only new dramas announced by the network for the next season. "Fringe" will air Tuesdays in the fall following "House," giving it a strong lead-in.

Meanwhile, "Dollhouse," Whedon's sci-fi thriller project with actress Eliza Dushku, won't air until January. Some are worried that this means it could be another short run for a Whedon show on the network (witness the shoddy treatment of "Firefly" a few years ago), but that may not be the case. Because of the baseball postseason and the NFL, Fox often delays some of its bigger shows until the winter, a' la "24" and "American Idol," where they debut to a little more fanfare and run straight through without pre-emptions. With the less commercials, that could mean a greater freedom in ratings, giving the Whedon project a much better chance than "Firefly" had.

Fox may also introduce a spinoff for "House," but the catch is, it won't be a medical drama. Fox plans on introducing a detective (Michael Weston) on a couple of episodes of "House" next season, which will serve as a potential backdoor pilot if the character takes off.

Here is Fox's fall lineup:

8 p.m. — ‘‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Prison Break’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘House’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Fringe’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘Bones’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘’Til Death’’
9:30 p.m. — ‘‘Do Not Disturb’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘The Moment of Truth’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Kitchen Nightmares’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Don’t Forget the Lyrics!’’
8 p.m. — ‘‘COPS’’
8:30 p.m. — ‘‘COPS’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back’’
7 p.m. — ‘‘The OT’’ (NFL Post-Game)
8 p.m. — ‘‘The Simpsons’’
8:30 p.m. — ‘‘King of the Hill’’
9 p.m. — ‘‘Family Guy’’
9:30 p.m. — ‘‘American Dad’’

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: "Doctor Who" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) will get a giant shot of nostalgia. Not only does Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) return to the show, but she also works in the Doctor's old job as the scientific advisor for UNIT. Who are the villains this week? The Sontarans. Actually, they visit next week as well, since it's a two-parter. It follows new "Sarah Jane Adventures" at 8 p.m. And Kara brings the Cylons back to the fleet on "Battlestar Galactica" at 10 p.m.

CBS wraps up Friday nights with the season finales of "Ghost Whisperer" at 8 p.m. and "Numb3rs" at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, a number of female TV viewers will curse the network when the series finale of "Moonlight" airs at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) is brand-new, while "America's Most Wanted" (Fox, 9 p.m.) celebrates its 1,000 capture.

On Sunday, "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.) wraps up its 19th season, while, unfortunately, "Aliens In America" (CW, 8:30 p.m.) wraps up for good after the season finale of "Everybody Hates Chris."

"Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 9 p.m.) finishes up the season with a two-hour episode.

Getting ready for that Indiana Jones movie, but you don't know what a crystal skull is? Sci-Fi attempts to tell you with the documentary (I use the word in the loosest sense) "Mystery of the Crystal Skull," (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) I made it through the first hour learning little more about the skulls than I already knew (which is next to nothing), but too many conspiracy theories about aliens, Atlantis and the end of the world on the Mayan calendar caused me to skip the second hour.

Finally, "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) is brand-new.


Hotspur said...

I hope the other networks follow Fox example re Ads. I only watch PBS and HBO live as I hate ads.

I agree with you Ads are becoming a thing of the past.

Anonymous said...

You guys have got to be kidding about commercials. They pay for everything and without them the writers, actors and everyone is broke. With a hundred or so choices now will you be willing to pay $10 per month for every channel you watch. Then the viewer goes broke. I watch my wife fast forward through commercials on her daily DVR'd soap and realize that happens alot. But commercials aren't going away.
You science fiction guys are truly in a haze.

zodin2008 said...

Well, there will be a lot more product placemnt if there are less commercials - so maybe your favorite Doctor on "House" will now be drinking Starbucks Coffee rather than a generic cup in a styrophome cup. I don't mind that at all, but the Fox shows have to avoid acting like "Smallville" which is the most embarrassing offender of overdoing it with product placements.

I still make fun of that show for less than subtle placement of products like Stride Gum, AcueVue contact lenses and the Toyota Yaris, possibly the ugliest car ever.

As for Fox's fall schedule, with shows like "Fringe" and "Dollhouse", I am ONE of those 'Scifi guys' damn sure excited about those shows. Two of the best minds ever in science fiction, Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams, you clearly have no interest in anything creative if you can't get excited about new projects from those guys.

Phillip Ramati said...

Anon, I'm not saying commercials should be eliminated, because they do pay the bills. But the business model has to change because few people are watching them any more. When a sponsor knows you are zapping through that McDonald's commercial, why would McDonald's pay $1 million for that 30 seconds during American Idol that no one is watching?

I'm not a fan of licensing fees for TV, like they have in Britain, but the business model will have to change in some way as DVRs become more prevalent.

Do you ask your wife not to zap through commercials so the sponsors get their full 30 seconds? If not, you can see the problems inherent in the system.

As I stated in the post, I have no idea how Fox will make up the potential lost revenue. Product placement has been around for about 30 years, and as Zod points out, is pretty prevalent these days.

Phillip Ramati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

I think "Dollhouse" at least stands a fighting chance since they won't be sticking it on Fridays like they did with "Firefly" and the equally interesting "John Doe" that same season.

If I've understood it correctly, it will be paired with "24" on Mondays which makes me wonder where everything else will fall. Do you know if "Terminator" and "Prison Break" (Like I care) are going to have shortened seasons? And where will "Bones" be placed once "American Idol" gets back? Of course both of those sitcoms could be long dead at that point. God knows why "Till Death" gets to come back.

Phillip Ramati said...

I think what will happen with PB and Terminator is that they will start in the fall, get yanked in the winter in favor of 24 and Dollhouse, then get put back on during late April or early May after those seasons are over.

That was the plan for this year with PB before the strike caused an early shutdown.