Fox looks to sci-fi, fantasy this fall; MacFarlane in space

The Fox network is calling on superpowers and Seth MacFarlane to boost ratings this fall.

"The Orville," a new space adventure starring and produced by MacFarlane, is set 400 years in the future and follows the adventures of an exploratory spaceship.

"This is Seth's passion project," Dana Walden, Fox Television Group chairman and CEO, said Monday in a teleconference detailing the 2017-18 schedule for the network that's No. 4 among total viewers.

The multitalented MacFarlane, who contributes the animated comedy "Family Guy" to Fox, is a science buff who brought the documentary "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" to the network in 2014.

A clip of "The Orville" shown at Fox's presentation to advertisers had a distinct tongue-in-cheek "Galaxy Quest" tone.

Also debuting this fall is "The Gifted," about a suburban couple who discovers their children have mutant powers. Stephen Moyer ("True Blood") and Amy Acker ("Person of Interest") will star in the drama that Walden called "big, cinematic and commercial" and is Fox's first with the Marvel factory.

Comedy will get the fantasy and sci-fi touch at Fox with "Ghosted." The sitcom about two partners exploring unexplained phenomena in Los Angeles stars Craig Robinson of "The Office" and Adam Scott of "Parks and Recreation."

Continuing the theme is "The X-Files," the onetime Fox staple that will make its second appearance as an "event series" with a 10-episode midseason run starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Fox will have music as well, with returning series "Empire" and "Star" and the live musicals "Rent" and "A Christmas Story."

But it won't have "American Idol," which ended its run on Fox in 2016 and is being revived next year by ABC. Walden said Fox was interested in bringing back the show in 2020 with changes for a new generation of viewers but couldn't reach an agreement with producer FremantleMedia.

"It feels bad knowing it's coming back on another network," she said. But Fox felt it would be "extremely fraudulent" recycling the show so soon after what was billed as its farewell season, and in light of how sharply its ratings had dropped from its once-stellar No. 1 position.

Walden and fellow Fox Television Group chair and CEO Gary Newman emphasized their effort to use established shows to support newer shows, such as the pairing of "Lucifer" and "The Gifted" on Monday and "Empire" and "Star" on Thursday.

"New Girl" is getting another season, its last, but others that aren't so lucky include canceled shows "Pitch," ''Rosewood," ''Scream Queens," ''Sleepy Hollow," ''Son of Zorn," ''APB" and "Making History."

Like NBC, which announced its fall schedule Sunday, Fox is holding back several new series for midseason. It's another indication that the once entrenched September-to-May network schedule has given way to efforts to reduce repeats amid increased competition from cable and streaming.

Other broadcast networks will present their upcoming program lineups to advertisers in New York this week.


Freshman series set for Fox's midseason:

— "9-1-1," described as a "fast-paced exploration" of the lives and careers of first responders including police, paramedics and firefighters. Angela Bassett stars in the drama from prolific producer Ryan Murphy ("Feud").

— "The Resident, a drama starring Matt Czuchry ("The Good Wife") and Emily VanCamp ("Revenge"), will focus on three doctors and a nurse as it reveals "what really happens, both good and bad," at American hospitals.

— "LA to Vegas" from executive producers including Will Ferrell and Steve Levitan ("Modern Family"). Fox describes it as a workplace comedy about an airline crew and the "eccentric passengers" who fly to Las Vegas weekly in the hope of becoming winners. Dylan McDermott stars.


Fox was happy with "24: Legacy," the follow-up to its successful "24," the executives said. With star Corey Hawkins on Broadway in "Six Degrees of Separation," its return couldn't be considered for fall but its future remains under discussion. "Prison Break: Resurrection" was intended as a special, one-season return and no more episodes are in the works, Walden said. But Fox "loved" what aired earlier this year and would consider it for another limited run if the producers are so inclined, she added.


Megyn Kelly made her NBC debut Monday onstage at Radio City Music Hall, telling a crowd of advertisers at the network's schedule presentation that she'll debut her Sunday newsmagazine in June and start in the 9 a.m. hour of "Today" in September. There were no details from the former Fox News Channel star but, she said, "I'm psyched."


NBC showed advertisers a tearjerker video of "This is Us" cast members surprising fans who testified on camera about how much the show meant to them. NBC was happy to boast about the success of its freshman season. In a standup routine, Seth Meyers noted the show hit a ratings milestone that NBC hadn't seen in more than a decade.

"So maybe it should be 'This is Unlike Us,'" Meyers joked.


As a veteran in the TV business, Matthew Perry knows how to read the tea leaves. On April 10, the actor noted on Twitter that his face on the stage door to CBS' "The Odd Couple" had been painted over with green paint. "I think it's safe to assume we have been cancelled," he tweeted.

On Monday, his premonition came true.


MacFarlane was onstage at the Fox presentation to croon a song mocking, among others, Fox News Channel, the broadcast network's corporate sibling.

"Now at Fox, our reputation it could use a little bump, 'cause although we've brought you ratings we elected Donald Trump," he sang.

In introducing network executives Walden and Newman, MacFarlane called them "the only two people at Fox not being sued" — a reference to harassment and other claims filed against the news channel.


AP Television Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.