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.
Gotham (Mondays at 8 p.m.)
Utopia (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Fridays at 9 p.m. for its first six weeks)
Red Band Society (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.)
Gracepoint (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)
Mulaney (Sundays at 9:30 p.m.)
Empire (Midseason TBD)
Bordertown (Midseason TBD)
Last Man on Earth (Midseason TBD)
Weird Loners (Midseason TBD)
Hieroglyph (Midseason TBD)
Backstrom (Midseason TBD)
Wayward Pines (Midseason TBD)
8–9 p.m. — Gotham (new)
9–10 p.m. — Sleepy Hollow
8–9 p.m. — Utopia (new)
9–9:30 p.m. — New Girl
9:30–10 p.m. — The Mindy Project
8–9 p.m. — Hell's Kitchen
9–10 p.m. — Red Band Society (new)
8–9 p.m. — Bones
9–10 p.m. — Gracepoint (new)
8–9 p.m. — Masterchef Junior
9–10 p.m. — Utopia (new)
7–10:30 p.m. — Fox Sports Saturday
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