Bob’s Burgers Renewed For A Second Season? House & Bones May Be Leaving FOX? Where’s Terra Nova? What’s Going On Over There? (Part Two)

FOX: Where We Dont Suck As Much As We Used To

Hi, folks. Thanks for coming back for part two of this very special feature on FOX where Blossom ponders losing her virginity, yet again. No, no, no, obviously we’re going to talk about FOX’s recent surprising schedule moves and what we think is going on over there. Yesterday, of course, we reported on the renewal of Bob’s Burgers for a second season and left our readers with a cliffhanger as to the significance of this renewal for the network as a whole and why we are actually pleased about the renewal despite that we don’t like the show.  So now it’s time to explain why and we’ll bring you back to when we fist heard about FOX moving Fringe to Friday nights.

It Took Five Years For "The Show About Nothing" to Become a Hit.

As noted by our two pieces on Fringe‘s move to Friday (here and here) we’ve been very critical of FOX’s history of jumping ship on shows (especially new shows) that have had a run of, not even horrible, but average to mediocre ratings.  Seriously, c’mon, FOX… Seinfeld wasn’t immediately a hit.  It wasn’t even in the top 30 for its first three seasons and in its fourth season it was #25.

Fringe... Cooler Than You and Back in Fall 2011 For Season 4.

Anyway, in these pieces, we also expressed our skepticism with FOX’s stated commitment in the past to fan-favorite shows and of course this directly related to their campaign in January expressing the same commitment to Fringe.  But, then, a few weeks ago, Virginia found out that there is indeed a Santa Claus and the announcement was made that Fringe not only had been renewed for a fourth season, but it was given a full season order… in March. We speculated as to why this occurred as EVERYONE, including us, assumed that after the ratings decline, the move to Friday and of course, FOX’s history, this show was destined for Cancellationville.

And of course, there is American Dad, a show that FOX execs have not historically supported and have been trying to replace for years and it got renewed for a seventh season… in February, again with a full season order of 22 episodes, no less.

Yes, Indeed... NBC May Be Very Happy, Very Soon.

When we heard the announcement about Fringe, we speculated as to the many reasons it may have been spared cancellation but came to the conclusion that we really didn’t care, we were just happy that the show was saved.  But now, we’re hearing that FOX is on the verge of losing House, as well.

The network remains in last-minute negotiations with Universal Media Studios, which owns the series, in hopes of signing a new deal for an eighth season. The two sides are far apart in determining the percentage each will pay for the show’s costs.

UMS, owned by NBCUniversal, has given Fox an extension on the window of negotiation exclusivity. That ends Friday. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, UMS will offer the show to competing networks including, of course, the Peacock, which would likely be more than happy to take the series away from Fox.

So thanks to all of these developments, we’ve been dragged into the speculation game and we’re guessing that there are several issues at play here:

This Never Happened

First, FOX has some serious issues with original scripted program scheduling coming this Fall and this is just based on what we know.  Four new shows from 2010 – 2011 have already been canceled (Running WildeThe Good GuysSons of Tuscon and Lone Starand Traffic Light is certain to be canceled by May 16th.  So, that’s five down right there (and chances for The Chicago Code being renewed for a second season seem to be getting slimmer by the day) and Human Target and Lie To Me are more likely to be cancelled than not.  Add to that the fact that as of this posting  FOX hasn’t been able to come to a deal to keep the perennial hits Bones and (as earlier noted) House (the deadline for a deal for House was last Friday), the network faces potentially being down nine scripted programs from 2010 – 2011 (Even though we are still trying to forget about Sons of Tuscon as if it never existed, and of course we aren’t counting 24 which was at the end of its run).

"Holy sh*t! How the f**k are we still on the air???"

And here’s the thing about House: Universal may not come to a deal intentionally and may just turn House over to NBC who is desperate for a strong scripted drama, or strong scripted anything at this point.  Whereas FOX axed four of their new shows (with a fifth coming for sure), NBC has axed five of their new shows with at least a sixth certain to be on the way out the door (Sorry, but as much as The Event has improved by following what we suggested it needed to do, it was too little, too late…so, adiós!). Let’s also not forget Chuck, which is on its way out the door as well.  It’s so bad at NBC that less-than-positive performers such as Law & Order: Los Angeles and Harry’s Law are almost guaranteed to be renewed because, well, frankly, theyz gots nothin’ else and they certainly don’t have American Idol or Simon Cowell’s new series, The X-Factorthat is destined to be a ratings juggernaut, so at the end of the day, NBC is in way worse shape than FOX. So, here’s our bold prediction: House will be on NBC come Fall 2011 and a deal with Bones (in desperation) will be made and it will return to FOX.

"Oh look. We're still on FOX."

But the effects of losing House on FOX will be devastating and even if they keep Bones, that show has seen a sharp decline in ratings over the past two season which means there will be only one truly strong live-action veteran scripted show and that would be Glee. Can FOX really be comfortable going into the new Fall season with the The Animation Domination Block, GleeThe X-Factor and American Idol being the only programming that is guaranteed to be stable?  We don’t think they possibly could be satisfied with that situation.

So taking this a step further, based on what we know for sure about the Fall schedule and the three shows that were renewed – not only unexpectedly but early, as well – (Fringe, American Dad and now Bob’s Burgers), here’s what we think is going on and it crossed our minds when we first heard about Fringe‘s renewal:  FOX is not just uncomfortable with the new scripted programing they have ordered for Fall 2011, they’re downright nervous and they expected to have had more success with their new shows from 2010 – 2011.  They also certainly didn’t expect the possibility of looking at Fall 2011 with no House and to a lesser extent no Bones.

Terra Nova: Allegedly to debut in Fall 2011... Hmmmm.

This brings us to the Stephen Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment produced, epic Sci-Fi series, Terra Nova, which as we noted when we reported Fringe‘s renewal, has been delayed yet again and is set to debut in Fall 2011.  There are some serious issues with Terra Nova that we think FOX is starting to get as concerned about as we are. First, the delays are insane and we are not confident at all that it will debut in the Fall as promised.  Second, Terra Nova may be the most expensive show in history with the first two episodes alone costing $16 million and whereas the average episode of scripted drama costs $2.5 million, Terra Nova per episode cost will come in at $4 million and the show is rife with rumors of cost overruns although the producers deny this.

Terra Nova: This Is NOT a Sci-Fi Show And That Is Not A Time Portal!

Third, this is the biggest risk that FOX has ever taken on any series, nevertheless a Sci-Fi series, in an era where epic Sci-Fi is DEAD on network television. And we’re sure that it doesn’t help when veteran television Sci-Fi  writer and producer Brannon Braga (Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise) who is exec. producing/writing Terra Nova is doing the “pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain” Great and Powerful Oz routine denying the fact that it is indeed a Sci-Fi series when you’d have to be blind not to see it:

Terra Nova, according to Brannon Braga.

But it’s not a sci-fi show.

“It’s really about this frontier family trying to survive,”

From iMDB:

Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization.

Still Not a Sci-Fi Show.

No, there’s absolutely nothing Sci-Fi about that premise at all.  It’s just like Little House on the Prairie… but with time travel… and dinosaurs… and automatic weapons… with lasers.

So, if we go with the premise that FOX isn’t really sure whether or not Terra Nova is going to actually debut on the Fall 2011 schedule as planned and it finally occurred to them that this kind of Sci-Fi is highly questionable for network television and of course there’s the issue of the costs involved, we can come to only one conclusion: FOX is worried that they aren’t going to have much going on this Fall, Monday through Friday, other than Glee and The X-Factor and they’ve decided that keeping some of these shows that have established, stabilized audiences even though they’ve seen ratings drops, may be their only option.  For goodness’ sake, and we cannot stress this enough, they saved three shows that everyone expected to be canceled, and again, this is FOX we’re talking about.

We alluded to this theory yesterday, in part one, our commentary on the Bob’s Burgers renewal:

We think FOX is starting to realize that it may be better for them to deal with the devil that they know as opposed to the one they don’t…

FOXs Money Printing Presses That May Keep Your Favorite Shows On The Air

So, that’s where we think all of this is going and in our opinion, this is nothing but a positive turn of events.  FOX has lived very well over the past decade with their scripted programming, reality program and sports.  If new show, “A” didn’t work out as well or as quickly as they had hoped, they’d just dump it and replace it with new show “B” and if that didn’t work out they’d replace it with  show “C” and so on and they’d usually find gold eventually.  But let’s be honest about this; the crop of decent scripted shows out there over the past couple of years on ALL of the networks has been thin to say the least. So considering the lack of quality, sustainable shows, all the losses in shows that they’ve had in the past year,  the possible losses of their perennial hits to other networks, and a questionable Fall 2011 lineup, it appears that FOX execs have been forced to put on the big boy pants and change their strategy so that they have something that’s at least slightly stable in their lineup, and will actually work to build up those shows by subsidizing them with their juggernauts, particularly American Idol and The X-Factor.

If Only It Had Debuted In Fall 2009!

Now, although FOX may not be particularly happy about taking this approach (because of course, everyone likes the quick and easy buck), all of these developments and this new approach is nothing but positive for viewers and fans of the many quality scripted programs that FOX does have to offer, but probably wouldn’t have been given an opportunity like this if this was, oh, say, two or three years ago.   Heck, we suspect that if Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles were in its second season in 2011 instead of in 2009, it already would have been renewed for a third season by now.

This...

And this is EXACTLY why we are so happy about Bob’s Burgers being picked up for a second season (as much as we dislike it) because it’s show number four that was not only renewed by FOX but picked up early when no one expected it to be. This in turn gives up hope for the remaining three likely to be canceled shows, Lie to Me, Human Target and The Chicago Code.  We can almost guarantee that FOX will not cancel all three of these shows, in fact, they may only cancel one of them but we are going to go with the premise, based on everything we’ve laid out over the past two days that they will keep at least one of them and we think it will be a toss-up between Lie to Me and Human Target.

... Or This?

Don’t get us wrong, we love The Chicago Code and we don’t particularly like the clichéd and predictable Lie to Me but we have to be objective about this.  If FOX or any other network is going to pick up an underperforming show to keep for another season, they are going to pick one that has an established audience for at least a couple of seasons over a mid-season replacement that hasn’t been able to find any stability with their audience.  The fact that The Chicago Code is a serial doesn’t help its chances of gaining a stable audience a season later, either.  Now, obviously, Bob’s Burgers doesn’t have a multiple-season established audience BUT it did have the highest ratings of any new show premiere of the season and its audience numbers, though not great, have stabilized and it does have very strong lead-ins and lead-outs with The Simpsons and Family Guy, respectively, whereas The Chicago Code dos not.

So there you have it.  Our wild speculation on why the big change in strategy at FOX.  You can take it for what it’s worth, and call us crazy but do the research for yourself and see if you come to any other conclusions because we’d love to hear your take.   Remember folks, May 16th is the big day for FOX.  That’s when we find out who’s going and who’s staying.

‘Boardwalk Empire’ (HBO – Sundays, 9:00 p.m.)

From Terence Winter, Emmy Award-winning writer of ‘The Sopranos,’ and Academy Award Winning Director Martin Scorsese, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is set in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition, when the sale of alcohol became illegal throughout the United States.

America in 1920. The Great War is over, Wall Street is about to boom and everything is for sale, even the World Series. It is a time of change when women are getting the vote, broadcast radio is introduced, and young people rule the world.

On the beach in southern New Jersey sits Atlantic City, a spectacular resort known as “The World’s Playground,” a place where rules don’t apply. Massive hotels line its famous Boardwalk, along with nightclubs, amusement piers and entertainment to rival Broadway. For a few dollars, a working man can get away and live like a king — legally or illegally.

The undisputed ruler of Atlantic City is the town’s Treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, (Steve Buscemi) a political fixer and backroom dealer who is equal parts politician and gangster and equally comfortable in either role. Because of its strategic location on the seaboard, the town is a hub of activity for rum-runners, minutes from Philadelphia, hours from New York City and less than a day’s drive from Chicago. And Nucky Thompson takes full advantage.

Along with his brother Elias (Shea Whigham), the town’s Sheriff, and a crew of Ward Bosses and local thugs, Nucky carves out a niche for himself as the man to see for any illegal alcohol. He is an equal opportunity gangster, doing business with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Big Jim Colosimo (Frank Crudele), Lucky Luciano, (Vincent Piazza) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

As the series begins, Nucky’s former protégé and driver Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) returns home from the Great War, eager to get ahead and reclaim his rightful place in Nucky’s organization. But when Jimmy feels things aren’t moving quickly enough, he takes matters into his own hands, forming a deadly alliance with some associates of Nucky’s that set the Feds, led by Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) on his mentor’s tail. Complicating matters further is Nucky’s burgeoning relationship with Margaret Schroeder, (Kelly Macdonald) a local woman in an abusive marriage whom he tries to help out. – HBO

10 out of 10

Apparently HBO has decided that they are sick of playing second fiddle to Showtime for having the best drama on premium cable. After watching the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire I feel rather ashamed. I feel like a crook, in fact. I feel like I robbed HBO of the $10.50 that I should have paid them to see this show in the theater. Because it’s not a TV show, it’s a Martin Scorcese Academy Award winning film that comes into your living room once every seven days for twelve weeks. There is only word to describe this monumental television excellence: Epic.

The grand scale and visually stunning aesthetics are like nothing that’s been on TV since 2001’s Band of Brothers. The pilot alone cost $50 million and it’s perhaps the best $50 million spent on a television series ever. The sets are absolutely amazing and the level of detail is like none I’ve ever seen for a period piece outside of Titanic. There really is no question that you are in Atlantic City circa 1920 and this show does what I’ve pointed out that other quality dramas do and that is make the city as integral of a character as the politicians and gangsters.

The story and depth of characters are rich and engaging and you’re hooked from the opening scene and the role of “Nucky” Thompson… well, let’s just say the Steve Buscemi was born to play him.

Thompson is the epitome of the corrupt community leader for the prohibition era. He’s an institutionalized pillar of the community and gangster rolled into one. He’s the city treasurer who has built his power through graft and payoffs and is the most powerful man in town, controlling the police department and mayor’s office who hang on his every order. Like most crooked politicians in bed with organized crime he views as himself as morally superior to the gangsters he regularly does business with and he does his best to keep them at arm’s length. This is very interesting to note about his personal character because unlike most corrupt politicians, he truly does care for the citizens of his community and goes out of his way to help those who need it the most with no ulterior motives and his magnanimous attitude and tenderness isn’t out of guilt. As crooked as his empire his, he truly is a man of the people and believes in the virtue of public service. This dichotomy presents itself often as there appears to be a perpetual internal conflict between the noble and the nefarious going on inside of Nucky.

One of the more notable exchanges is between Nucky and his protégé, Jimmy, where he tells Jimmy, “You’d be very foolish to underestimate me, James.  I could have you killed,” right after he lectures him as a father would about going back to school and making something of himself for his wife and son. But, it’s how he says it that’s interesting… it’s kind of like that he has to convince himself that he could have Jimmy killed and he isn’t really comfortable with the idea even though we all know it’s true, he could, but still, we don’t buy it. Jimmy doesn’t buy it either as his classic response indicates while at the same time serving to polarize Nucky’s internal conflict.  “Yeah, but you won’t. Look… you can’t be half a gangster Nucky… not anymore,” and THAT is what Boardwalk Empire is all about.

It’s about how Prohibition changed this country during an era of excess. It’s about our own good and dark sides squaring off.  We see the likes of Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone as small time hoods, who we all know will become kings over the next ten years and rule their particular kingdoms through violence and terrorism but what’s often forgotten is that it was the average citizen that made that reign possible.  It’s a part of our collective history as Americans that hasn’t been told before and Boardwalk Empire shines a spotlight on it.

Boardwalk Empire is going to be one helluva journey. This is the best show on television… period, and yes, it only took one episode to figure it out.

Official Boardwalk Empire show site, here.