upfronts

Fox Is Mixing Up Its Sunday Night Of Animation With “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” And “Mulaney”

Will the sophomore and freshman live action comedies survive amidst the longstanding cartoon night? Plus, Glee won’t return until 2015.

Animation is no longer dominating Sunday nights on Fox.

The network revealed its fall 2014 schedule and Andy Samberg and John Mulaney are bringing live action to the previously cartoon-controlled Sunday night lineup. Samberg’s sophomore comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine will follow The Simpsons at 8:30 p.m. and Mulaney’s new eponymous series will close out the night at 9:30 p.m., taking over for American Dad (which was canceled by Fox, but picked up by TBS for an 11th season).

“We’re returning back to our roots,” Fox Chairman Kevin Reilly said during a conference call with press the morning the network announced its new lineup. “Our biggest live action comedy successes really came out of our animation lineup back when Fox didn’t have as many comedies to play with,” he added, citing Married…With Children, Malcolm in the Middle, and That ’70s Show as examples.

The Simpsons and Family Guy are still two of the most potent comedies on television so we think putting in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mulaney is going to really give those shows some protection there,” Reilly added, noting that having “some sort of lead-in protection is very important.” He continued, “I just couldn’t face it again having [our comedies] exposed without some protection.”

That said, the last time Fox introduced a live action series to its Sunday night lineup — 2010’s Sons of Tucson — the series only survived for four episodes before it got the ax and the remaining installments were burned off over the summer.

Meanwhile, the network axed Almost Human and Rake as far as its 2013-2014 dramas and Reilly admitted Fox was lacking as far as dramas go. “We needed a strong crop of one-hour dramas this year,” he said. “I’m very happy to say we got what we needed.”

Sleepy Hollow, Fox’s breakout hit of the 2013-2014 season, will be sticking to its 9 p.m. Monday time slot with the Batman prequel Gotham, which Reilly expects to be one of the seasons’ “biggest and nosiest hits,” becoming its new lead-in. It’s a risky move from Fox, which clearly has a lot of faith in the comic-based series. (They’re all the rage this season.) Reilly said it’s already been picked up for 16 episodes and that, unlike Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it is “sure-footed” and has the advantage of being based on characters from the actual Batman franchise (though there will be some new ones as well).

Good news for Sleepy Hollow fans, too! Season 2 will be 18 episodes as opposed to its freshman season’s 13. And they will air almost consecutively. Sleep Hollow’s previous lead-in Bones will move to Thursdays, where it’s previously lived (along with almost every other slot on Fox’s schedule). “It has been on Thursday night before and performed there,” Reilly said. That night is intended to be the evening of “female-appeal dramas,” with event series Gracepoint following.

But noticeably absent from Fox’s fall lineup is Glee, which is expected to return for its sixth and final season in 2015. Reilly said creator Ryan Murphy has a very clear plan and though currently, Season 6 is expected to be 22 episodes, the Fox exec hinted that could change.

There are also some noteworthy changes to come with American Idol, which will enter it fourteenth season next year. It will only air 37 hours next season, as opposed to its usual 50-plus, and it may end up being a two-hour show on one night, Reilly noted.

Here are a few other notable details about Fox’s 2014–2015 schedule:

• The network’s event series Wayward Pines from M. Night Shyamalan is also holding until 2015. Instead, Fox will dip into the world of event television with Gracepoint, a ten-episode series starring big names David Tennant, Anna Gunn, Jacki Weaver, and Nick Nolte, based on the U.K. series Broadchurch. But, the series will have a “new twist and a new ending” from the series from which it originated.

• Other series holding until 2015 include the Lee Daniels hip-hop musical series Empire, the ancient Egypt–set Hieroglyph, and the Rainn Wilson–fronted Backstrom, which Fox picked up after CBS passed on the pilot. On the comedy front, Will Forte’s The Last Man on Earth, Becki Newton’s Weird Loners, and the animated comedy Bordertown will debut midseason. Returning shows The Following, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance will also return in 2015.

• Stephen Spielberg’s Red Band Society is debuting after Hell’s Kitchen (“one of the heroes of our schedule,” Reilly said) on Wednesdays. Reilly said it follows in the younger skewing networks’ tradition of big teen hour-long dramas (a la Beverly HIll, 90210, The O.C., and Glee), but time will tell how it does against Modern Family.

• Fox is also betting on Utopia, its new reality series that moves 15 average Americans to an isolated, undeveloped location for a year. It will air twice a week for its first six weeks. These people have potentially no idea that Kim and Kanye are getting married, you guys. The show will kick off on Tuesdays, leading in for New Girl and The Mindy Project, which are staying put from their 2013–2014 timeslots.

Grease Live is still in the works. Praise (punish?) the TV gods.

The full schedule is at the bottom of the story, and the new shows are now arranged in night-of-the-week order.

3. Gotham (Mondays at 8 p.m.)

Fox

Who’s in it? Benjamin McKenzie, Donal Logue, Robin Lord Taylor, Jada Pinkett Smith, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Clare Foley, and David Mazouz
Who made it? Bruno Heller (The Mentalist), Danny Cannon (director/executive producer), and John Stephens (executive producer)
What’s it about? The Batman prequel series sees former O.C. star McKenzie return to Fox as Gotham City Police Department detective James Gordon, who’s assigned to the case of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murders. In the process, he finds himself spending a lot of time with their son (and witness) Bruce (Mazouz), who, of course, grows up to be Batman. The series will also explain the origins of Penguin (Taylor), Catwoman (Bicondova), The Riddler (Smith), and Poison Ivy (Foley).
First impression? Woe to the viewer who gets too excited about the highest concept and biggest bet of the new TV season. Ask the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. people how that went. Because who knows? But geez. Gotham looks good, right? Moody and sad in a Christopher Nolan-like way, but not a copycat. And it’s tangential enough to the Batman story that there should be opportunities for originality here. Also, Bruno Heller, the executive producer in charge, has done both ambitious spectacles in HBO’s Rome and lasting stories in The Mentalist. Sigh. I’m excited. Don’t let me down, Gotham! —Kate Aurthur

5. Utopia (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Fridays at 9 p.m. for its first six weeks)

Fox

Who’s in it? Some very brave real people.
Who made it? John de Mol (Deal or No Deal), who executive produces with Conrad Green (Dancing With The Stars), Jon Kroll (The Amazing Race), and David Tibballs (Dragons’ Den)
What’s it about? Based on the Dutch hit of the same name, this unscripted series send 15 everyday Americans to an isolated, undeveloped location for a year and forces them to create their own civilization. So it’s like Big Brother, sans the house. Who would do this?
First impression? The clip was cobbled together from “potential” cast members and the international edition of the show, so it’s hard to say. It’s been so long since network television has had a big, new reality hit that we have to be skeptical here. My main thought as I watched was that it’s good they haven’t started filming yet, because if the show bombs, these people really need to be let out before the year is up. Anyway, Utopia. Maybe it will be great and life-changing! —Kate Aurthur

7. Red Band Society (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.)

Fox

Who’s in it? Octavia Spencer, Dave Annable, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Ciara Bravo, Griffin Gluck, Zoe Levin, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Charlie Rowe, and Nolan Sotillo
Who created it? Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank (both of The Americans and Falling Skies), Sergio Aguero (Y Tu Mama Tambien), and Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire), who also wrote the pilot
What’s it about? A diverse group of teenagers become unlikely allies and friends in the pediatric wing of a hospital. Frequent Ryan Murphy collaborator Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directed the pilot. Presumably, Spielberg will not be venturing back into the world of the musical drama. (RIP Smash)
First impression? Totally cried in this trailer. Cried, cried, cried. Also, that is meaningless: I am a crier. But how could this show not be moving? Fingers crossed it’s dimensional too. And that Octavia Spencer has some real things to do here. (For some reason, Fox showed Red Band Society during its upfront presentation, but it’s not included among its trailers. Stay tuned; we’ll post it when it’s available.) —Kate Aurthur

9. Gracepoint (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)

Fox

Who’s in it? David Tennant (Doctor Who), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Nick Nolte (Luck), Michael Peña (American Hustle), Virginia Kull, Josh Hamilton, Kevin Rankin, Kevin Zegers, Jessica Lucas, Stephen Louis Grush, Madalyn Horcher, Sarah-Jane Potts, Jack Irvine, and Kendrick Sampson
Who made it? Written and created by Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who), who executive produces alongside Anya Epstein (In Treatment), Dan Futterman (Capote), Jane Featherstone (The Hour), John Goldwyn (Dexter), and Carolyn Bernstein (The Bridge). Futterman and Epstein will serve as showrunners and James Strong (Downton Abbey) directed the pilot.
What’s it about? This mystery event series centers on the death of a young boy, and the major police investigation that follows in a seemingly picture-perfect seaside California town. It’s based on Broadchurch, which also starred Tennant. The Doctor is back in, y’all.
First impression? Not to be all, Oh, but the British one… But guys. The British one was really recent. As in, it aired last summer. And starred David Tennant in the same role. Now, I know very few people in the U.S. saw Broadchurch (it did not do very well on BBC America) and during Fox’s upfronts call, Kevin Reilly said that the ending is different from the U.K. version. But it’s just disconcerting to see clips from the show that look identical to Broadchurch, not to mention what it’s like to hear Tennant’s American accent. On the other hand, Anna Gunn! Anna damn Gunn! She’s playing a wonderful character here (a local detective who’s never dealt with an actual homicide, but knows everyone in town). And most people will be seeing this for the first time. And the story is great. So, let’s watch it. —Kate Aurthur

11. Mulaney (Sundays at 9:30 p.m.)

Fox

Who’s in it? John Mulaney, (Saturday Night Live), who also created and executive produces the project
Who made it? Mulaney, as well as SNL guru Lorne Michaels, David Miner (30 Rock), Dave Becky (Louie), Jon Pollack (30 Rock), Andrew Singer (Portlandia), and Andy Ackerman (Seinfeld), who also directed the pilot
What’s it about? This multi-camera comedy focuses on a stand-up comedian who wants to take his career to a new level…and the friends and family members who manage to hold him back.
First impression? These comedy cutdowns can seem so front-loaded that they resemble what I imagine my future nervous breakdown to look like: just keyed up, desperate people and screaming laughter. Mulaney, though, somehow seems easy and unforced. Suspicious! Just kidding. I’m totally looking forward to seeing this show; I’ve heard really good things, and the setup and humor are appealing and simply funny. If you can imagine that. —Kate Aurthur

13. Empire (Midseason TBD)

Fox

Who’s in it? Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Malik Yoba, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Grace Gealey, Kaitlin Doubleday, and Gabourey Sidibe (who will recur)
Who made it? Lee Daniels (executive producer, director, and writer), Danny Strong (executive producer and writer), Brian Grazer (executive producer), and Francie Calfo (executive producer). Ilene Chaiken (The L Word) will serve as showrunner.
What’s it about? The family drama follows hip-hop empire mogul Lucious Lyon (Howard) with Henson playing his ex-wife and business partner, reuniting the former Hustle & Flow co-stars. Plus, Timbaland will serve as a songwriter and song producer. Think of it as Nashville for the rap world.
First impression? Empire looks soap-y and fun and Lee Daniels-y enough — and then Taraji P. Henson shows up halfway through the trailer, and whoa. Considering the fact that she played the buttoned-up Carter on Person of Interest for two and a half seasons, here she will be portraying Carter’s opposite: Is she part Faith Evans, part Kimora Lee Simmons maybe? Regardless, I am all-watching. Also, I don’t think it was clear before seeing the trailer that Lucious Lyon has ALS, and therefore there’s a ticking clock on his empire building (and empire bestowing). Also, one of his sons is gay. It’s gonna be a lot over at Empire! —Kate Aurthur

15. Bordertown (Midseason TBD)

Fox

Who’s in it? Voices TBD!
Who created it? Mark Hentemann (creator) and Seth MacFarlane (executive producer). Alex Carter and Dan Vebber are co-executive producers.
What’s it about? Bordertown, from the MacFarlane world, tells the story of a white border patrol agent and a Mexican immigrant. As BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo wrote after the show was picked up in the fall, Latinos are excited about the show.
First impression? No trailer available yet.

16. Last Man on Earth (Midseason TBD)

Fox

Who’s in it? Will Forte (Saturday Night Live, Nebraska)
Who made it? Forte, who has a creator credit on the show, along with Seth Cohen and The Lego Movie’s Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who directed the pilot
What’s it about? This midseason single-camera comedy revolves around two strangers who are forced to work together in order to ensure that the human race survives.
First impression? It is currently unclear who the second stranger is in this show, but I don’t even care because this four-minute look at the new Fox series really hooked me and had me smiling widely. Forte’s Phil Miller exists in a world where he doesn’t need to wear pants because there is no one to see him (see title). He is living my dream, you guys! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make a Pop Tart, peanut butter, and jelly sandwich. —Jaimie Etkin

18. Weird Loners (Midseason TBD)

Fox

Who’s in it? Becki Newton (Ugly Betty), Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Nate Torrence, Zachary Knighton (Parenthood)
Who made it? Michael J. Weithorn (The King of Queens) and Jake Kasdan (Ben & Kate), who directed the pilot
What’s it about? Four relationship -phobes form a very unlikely bond when they are forced to co-exist in a townhouse in Queens, N.Y.
First impression? No trailer available yet.

19. Hieroglyph (Midseason TBD)

Fox / Via fox.com

Who’s in it? Max Brown, Reece Ritchie, Condola Rashad, Caroline Ford, John Rhys-Davies, Antony Bunsee, and Kelsey Chow
Who created it? Travis Beacham (creator/executive producer), Peter Chernin (executive producer), Katherine Pope (executive producer), Anna Fricke (executive producer), Miguel Sapochnik (executive producer and director)
What’s it about? The ancient Egypt–set drama follows master thief Ambrose (Brown), who’s plucked from prison to track down the person who stole a dangerous scroll called the Book of Thresholds from Egypt’s most secure vault. To be honest, this feels like Hebrew school to me a little.
First impression? I streamed the Fox upfront sitting by myself in a room, but that didn’t stop me from laughing aloud during the Hieroglyph trailer. Does that mean the show is terrible? Or will it be campy, fun, and smart like Sleepy Hollow, which is totally over the top, but also great? We’ll see! TBD! Let’s hope! I have the same question about the potentially troubling white man/Middle Eastern people things going on here. But again, the glass is half full until it is not! —Kate Aurthur

21. Backstrom (Midseason TBD)

Fox

Who’s in it? Rainn Wilson, Genevieve Angelson, Beatrice Rosen, Dennis Haysbert, Kristoffer Polaha, Page Kennedy, Thomas Dekker, and guest star Camryn Manheim (Ellenor Frutt!)
Who created it? The show comes from Bones creator Hart Hanson, who executive produces with Kevin Hooks, Leif G.W. Persson (who created the underlying material), and Niclas Salomonsson. Mark Mylod (Shameless), who directed the pilot, also executive produces.
What’s it about? This subversive and comedic crime procedural (Hanson hails from Bones) follows Everett Backstrom (Wilson), an offensive, but brilliant detective who is brought back from a five-year exile to run Portland’s Special Crimes Unit (SCU). CBS originally bought Backstrom, which is based Swedish criminologist Leif G.W. Persson’s best-selling books of the same name, but that network passed on the pilot last season. Fox picked it up in January. Hopefully, the SCU suits Dwight because he’s due for a success.
First impression? Rainn Wilson looks totally different here from his Office appearance, and the character of Backstrom seems to be as far from Dwight Schrute as you can get. Hart Hanson is an able constructor of weekly crime dramas, and this one seems like it’s exactly what you imagine it would be. And that could be a good thing for people who like character-driven mysteries. —Kate Aurthur

23. Wayward Pines (Midseason TBD)

Fox

Who’s in it? Matt Dillon (Crash), Carla Gugino (Entourage), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Toby Jones (the Harry Potter franchise), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County), Shannyn Sossamon (How to Make It in America), Tim Griffin, Charlie Tahan, and Reed Diamond
Who made it? Based on the best-selling novel Pines by Blake Crouch, the series was developed for television by Chad Hodge (The Playboy Club). He executive produces with Donald De Line (Green Lantern), Ashwin Rajan (After Earth), and M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), who directed the pilot.
What’s it about? Based on a best-selling novel and brought to life by the once-touted master of suspense Shyamalan, this 10-episode thriller stars Dillon as a secret service agent on a mission to find two missing federal agents in the eponymous Idaho town.
First impression? This “event series” is explicitly derivative of Twin Peaks, with some others thrown in as well (you can’t leave Wayward Pines, a la the Once Upon a Time pilot). Those of us who loved Twin Peaks are not against the idea of there being another one, especially if it didn’t fall apart and descend into madness. But we are a tired people, having been disappointed so many times. And I felt tired watching this trailer, which is trying hard. I also wanted to feel compelled by Matt Dillon at the center of this, and did not. I’ll watch it, though, and hope that it’s a David Lynchian wonderment. —Kate Aurthur

MONDAY
8–9 p.m. — Gotham (new)
9–10 p.m. — Sleepy Hollow

TUESDAY
8–9 p.m. — Utopia (new)
9–9:30 p.m. — New Girl
9:30–10 p.m. — The Mindy Project

WEDNESDAY
8–9 p.m. — Hell’s Kitchen
9–10 p.m. — Red Band Society (new)

THURSDAY
8–9 p.m. — Bones
9–10 p.m. — Gracepoint (new)

FRIDAY
8–9 p.m. — Masterchef Junior
9–10 p.m. — Utopia (new)

SATURDAY
7–10:30 p.m. — Fox Sports Saturday

SUNDAY
7–7:30 p.m. — NFL Game
7:30–8 p.m. — Bob’s Burgers
8–8:30 p.m. — The Simpsons
8:30–9 p.m. — Brooklyn Nine-Nine
9–9:30 p.m. — Family Guy
9:30-10 p.m. — Mulaney

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