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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Upfronts 2015: Fox expands its Empire, destroys and rebuilds its empire

Abigail Breslin, Skyler Samuels, and Keke Palmer of Scream Queens
Abigail Breslin, Skyler Samuels, and Keke Palmer of Scream Queens

Unhappy with its fourth-place viewership ranking among broadcast networks, Fox is pinning its fall 2015 hopes on five new shows, including Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens and its series adaptation of Minority Report. Fox’s co-chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman announced Fox’s schedule at its 2015-2016 upfront presentation, in which it also announced an expanded 18-episode season of Empire, to be split between the fall and midseason schedules. The previously announced X-Files reboot is still on, but won’t premiere until the midseason.


Don’t let Cookie Lyons fool you: Fox occupies the most precarious position of any broadcast network going into its 2015 upfront presentation. Empire’s record-breaking success is the television industry’s biggest story of the year so far, but Fox stumbled so badly in the fall, not even Cookie’s rising tide could lift Fox out of fourth place. Outside of Empire, Gotham was Fox’s sole bright spot and the only other new show to get a second season. Fox’s other fall debuts, Gracepoint, Red Band Society, and Backstrom, pulled ratings low enough to spark philosophical debate about whether or not they ever existed at all. (They did exist, and the pain they caused was real.) Fox’s comedies were also vulnerable, with Mulaney doing about how everyone expected it to. The Mindy Project slipped low enough to warrant cancellation, and even the healthier New Girl has been pushed to midseason.

Making matters worse, Fox shows that began as ratings successes faltered creatively during the 2014-2015 season and dramatically shed viewers. Killer-cult drama The Following bolted out of the gate when it debuted during the 2012-2013 midseason, managing to crack the top 10 shows in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic. But a poorly-conceived second season sapped the show’s strength, and it sunk so low in its third season, Fox canceled it along with the first-year casualties. Sleepy Hollow followed a similar arc, becoming Fox’s top scripted series after only a few episodes, only to go so awry in its second season, cancellation rumors have followed it all year. Fox also had to make room for the final season of Glee, another once-mighty Fox show that ended with a whimper.


Fox’s plan to reverse its fortunes includes a completely revamped Tuesday night, new companions for Gotham and Empire, and a new time slot for Sleepy Hollow, which could rebound following the replacement of its showrunner.

Here’s a night-by-night breakdown of Fox’s fall line-up, with previews for the new series (in bold):


8 p.m.: Gotham
9 p.m.: Minority Report

Stark Sands and Meagan Good star in this adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, with Sands as a clairvoyant who teams up with Good’s detective character to stop crimes before they happen. Fox is calling it the crime procedural of the future, not to be confused with its last crime procedural of the future, the robotic buddy-cop series Almost Human. Minority Report could break through with Gotham as a lead-in, and if it can manage to be a genre show without feeling like one, the trick Sleepy Hollow pulled off in its gangbusters first season.


8 p.m: Grandfathered
8:30 p.m.: The Grinder
9 p.m.: Scream Queens

Fox’s all-new Tuesday kicks off with Grandfathered, a comedy starring John Stamos (who is, like, seriously everywhere you look) as a playboy restauranteur whose life is upended by the arrival of a son and granddaughter he never knew about. The trailer is mildly cute, and likely to produce anxiety for Community fans as it co-stars Paget Brewster, arguably the MVP of that show’s sixth season.

Fox’s other new fall comedy is The Grinder, which warrants a look based on its cast alone. Rob Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, an actor in a David E. Kelley-style legal drama who returns to his hometown and tries to reintegrate himself into his family of real lawyers. Fred Savage is Stewart, the brother who has toiled in Dean’s shadow, unable to win the respect through practicing actual law that Dean won pretending to practice law. William Devane, Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Natalie Morales also star, and Jake Kasdan directed the pilot.

Tuesdays will conclude with Scream Queens, Murphy’s latest anthology series and the genesis of a groundbreaking new genre called “comedy-horror.” Fox has yet to release a trailer, but Murphy’s happy to tease.


8 p.m.: Rosewood
9 p.m.: Empire

Joining Empire on Wednesday nights is Rosewood, Fox’s latest jaunty drama about a medical examiner (played by Morris Chestnut) and a steely female detective who solve crimes and may or may not (but definitely will) get married should the show make it to season five, give or take.



8 p.m.: Bones
9 p.m.: Sleepy Hollow


8 p.m.: MasterChef Junior
9 p.m.: World’s Funniest Fails


8 p.m.: College Football On Fox


7:30 p.m.: Bob’s Burgers
8 p.m.: The Simpsons
8:30 p.m.: Brooklyn Nine-Nine
9 p.m.: Family Guy
9:30 p.m.: The Last Man On Earth


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