Dana Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group, took the stage at the Television Critics Association press tour this morning to talk about their first year at the helm.
Walden said they focused on creating a turnaround at the network without compromising the 20th Century Fox Studio and brand.
Walden noted the success of the January launch, Empire, which was the most-watched show — cable or broadcast — of the midseason, luring an average of 17 million viewers per week, with 26-million per episode total.
The network also garnered 59 Emmy nominations for Fox Studios — second only to HBO.
Upcoming at the network is a series based on the 1980 John Travolta starrer Urban Cowboy and a new series from Empire creator Lee Daniels called Star. Urban Cowboy, which is being cast now, will be a modern update of the film’s tale. The Atlanta-based Star looks at the music business through the eyes of a trio of girls who form a band. Walden said a lot of situations from Lee’s own life is “baked into the DNA” of the series.
Newman also said FOX is in development on a Prison Break sequel that will bring back Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, adding that the new outing will pick up several years after we left the Scofields” and “there will be “an explanation for why our characters are alive and still moving around the world.” Iconic characters from the series will also return.
Of note on the studio’s existing shows:
• Jason Sudekis will join Last Man on Earth‘s Season 2 and serve as voice talent on the upcoming live-action animated comedy Son of Zorn.
• Bill Hader makes an appearance the Season 3 premiere of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Sept. 27.
• Pitbull will guest on Empire.
• Michael Chiklis joins a new season of Gotham.
• Bones and Sleepy Hollow will do a Halloween-themed crossover on Oct. 29 that sees . “zombie Redcoats” on Sleepy Hollow and a mystery surrounding a headless corpse on Bones.
Critics were next shown a clip from Fox’s X-Files return which premieres Jan. 24, 2016. Yes, Mulder does indeed tell a worried-looking Scully that “the truth is out there,” assuring her that everything makes sense to him now. “You want to believe,” she pleads. “I do believe,” he retorts.
The pair also addressed plans for the final season of American Idol, which they’re will be akin to “a farewell tour for a great musical act.”
As for the surprise failure of Seacrest’s now-cancelled Knock Knock Live, Walden says in retrospect she would have scheduled the show at a different time of the year, adding that the show’s live nature didn’t help. “We found ourselves on the marketing side without any assets,” she lamented.
Walden and Newman cited additional learning curves regarding audience drop offs for Sleepy Hollow and Gotham after extended breaks, and the power of social media, online episodes and On Demand to grow a show, with the powerhouse Empire as a prime example.