Fox Leans on Big Name Producers, Live 'Rent' for New TV Season

By Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

Fox Broadcasting is launching six new series in the 2017-18 season, trying to rebound from a season in which its prime-time entertainment ratings among viewers and the key young adults demographic tumbled.

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Several of the new shows are from prolific producers, including "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and Ryan Murphy, whose credits include "American Horror Story" and "American Crime Story." In addition, the network has a new comedy executive produced by Will Ferrell and a drama co-produced by Marvel Television.

Fox is doubling down on live programs following on the success of last year's live musical "Grease." This season, it will present a live musical version of "A Christmas Story," based on the works of author Jean Shepherd. The network will also stage a live version of the Tony award-winning musical "Rent."

Returning freshmen programs include the action show "Lethal Weapon," its biggest new success of this season, and "Star," a musical drama from "Empire" co-creator Lee Daniels.

Fox is also bringing back its raunchy comedy "The Mick" despite less than stellar ratings. "It takes comedy awhile these days to find its audience so we're putting everything we can behind the show," said Fox Television Group Chairman and Chief Executive Dana Walden. In the hopes of driving viewership to "The Mick," Fox has sandwiched it between "Lethal Weapon" and the veteran comedy "Brooklyn 99"on Tuesday night.

Like other networks, Fox is aggressively trying to own as much of its content as possible. All its new shows are produced or co-produced by its sister production company 20th Century Fox Television.

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Fox parent company 21st Century Fox and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.

Excluding prime-time sports like the Super Bowl and World Series, Fox was down 19% in viewers and 18% in adults 18-49 demographic this season compared with last season, according to Nielsen.

In the fall, Fox will debut four new shows including Mr. MacFarlane's "The Orville," a science fiction show set hundreds of years in the future that follows a space ship whose crew is made up of both humans and aliens. Other shows include "The Gifted," a Marvel co-production about a family whose discovery that their children are mutants sets off a chain of events that puts them on the run from the government.

Also in the fall are the medical drama "The Resident" and "Ghosted," which Fox describes as a paranormal buddy comedy.

The big bet for the spring season is Mr. Murphy's "9-1-1," a procedural drama about first responders starring Angela Bassett. The show is a change of pace for Mr. Murphy who is known for very dramatic storytelling about larger-than-life personalities.

On a conference call to discuss the new schedule, Ms. Walden also expressed some disappointment that the producers of its long-running talent show "American Idol" are bringing the show back on rival ABC after just one season of it off the air on Fox.

"It feels bad knowing its coming back on another network," Ms. Walden said. Fox, she added, would have been interested in returning the show in 2020 but felt it was way too soon to think of a comeback for next season when its ratings had been trending downward for several years. "We did not see the enthusiasm for that show to come back that [producer] Fremantle did," Ms. Walden said.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 15, 2017 10:20 ET (14:20 GMT)