Fox looks to the future of genre programming

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly recently discussed the future of a number of network television shows. True, nothing Reilly said is definite, and he’s not the last word on these decisions, but as a high-standing television executive, his words carry a bit of weight.

The comments – made during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour – didn’t come as a huge surprise. For example, Allen Gregory was deemed a dismal failure and won’t be back, House is an anchor of their schedule and isn’t likely going anywhere – and some were unexpected – American Idol is likely on its last season – but I know what we really care about are  the FOX genre shows, Fringe and Terra Nova.

Terra Nova was actually the big worry here. It’s a great show, especially in the last few episodes of the first season, and their set-up for season two is very compelling, but it has one of the largest production budgets in television history, if you don’t include actor salary. If you do, shows like Friends and E.R. blow Terra Nova out of the water – so the worry here was that no matter how good it was, it may not be worth keeping.

Reilly mostly put those fears mostly to rest, saying, “We made money on [Terra Nova], the studio made money on it, and the audience enjoyed it. The show looked fantastic. It’s clearly a concept people wanted to watch. They had ample opportunity to reject it: they didn’t.” 

He went on to explain there is some doubt, despite the success, “There were a lot of chefs in the kitchen going in. That did make for a little bit of a challenge. The show was hunting for itself creatively through the season … we are going to decide [if the show should get a second season] very soon because it does need to get back into production over the next month.”

More worrisome is the future of Fringe. It’s one of the best genre shows on television right now – it’s #3 on my list behind only Game of Thrones and Doctor Who – but it also has a high budget, and unlike Terra Nova, hasn’t been meeting its profit goals.

“We lose a lot of money on [Fringe],” Reilly confirmed. “At that rate, on that night, it’s almost impossible for us to make money off it. That’s been the case now over the last season. We’re not in the business of losing money. So we really do have to sit down with [Warner Bros. Studios] and figure out: ‘Is there a number in which it makes sense or will this be [the final season]?’” 

He asked that fans of the show not get up in arms just yet however, as it’s not cancelled for sure, this is just his prediction, “Please don’t start the letter writing campaign right now everybody. I don’t-… I can’t take it.”

Later in the weekend, at a Fox publicity event, the show’s Male lead, Joshua Jackson was heard to comment on Reilly’s statement, “He could not have been more clear,” the actor said. “He’s not running a charitable foundation, and if the show is really not making money… But the important thing to me is that our writers are given a chance to finish the show because it’s a serialized show.”

Reilly, nearby at the party replied that whether or not Fringe gets a good ending is up to Warner Bros., not Fox, promising that if Fringe were to be cut off, the studio would be given ample warning to write and produce an adequate finale.

Fringe returns from its mid-season break January 13, 2012.