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FOX 2019-2020 Upfront Preview

What to expect from their very first upfront as an independent network.
  • John Slattery returns to series television in the FOX sci-fi drama NeXT, one of the network's eight drama series pickups this development season.
    John Slattery returns to series television in the FOX sci-fi drama NeXT, one of the network's eight drama series pickups this development season.

    Our resident script reader Jean-Maxime Renault has read the pilot scripts for almost all of this year's series pickups heading into upfront week. For his detailed thoughts on all of the year's contenders, be sure to check out his pilot script reviews

    In their first year as an independent broadcaster without studio backing (20th Century FOX Television is now Disney-owned), FOX and its new CEO Charlie Collier have made some unexpected moves in the week before their Monday afternoon upfront presentation. Despite reports that New FOX would mostly bet on unscripted fares and sports programming, they ordered a whopping eight scripted shows (they'd been expected to order 3-4), and they made sure they all got boarded as co-productions with FOX Entertainment, giving them half ownership of all their new  shows That doen't change the fact that between Football on Thursdays and wrestling on Fridays, they'll have very few slots are available in the Fall. Which shows have they picked up and which did they pass on? The answers below:


    What they've ordered…

    PRODIGAL SON (Pilot script review)
    This Greg Berlanti crime procedural is darkly comic and totally over the top, with a strong cast that includes Michael Sheen, The Walking Dead's Tom Payne and Bellamy Young. It fits well with both 9-1-1 and The Resident tonally, two of the remaining dramas FOX decided to cancel Lethal WeaponGothamThe Gifted, The Passage and Star. It's probably their strongest and safest bet for next season. 

    DEPUTY (Pilot script review)
    If one of FOX's new goals is to please a more masculine, middle American viewership in an environment where scripted shows are bookended by sports, then ordering Deputy to series makes a lot sense. Billed as "a fresh spin on the classic Western," it will probably be limited to  a shorter episode count due to Stephen Dorff's involvement. 

    A well-written serialized family drama, this Jason Katims-produced series would have been a great fit for ABC or NBC, but feels like a bit of a mismatch for the male-skewing "new" FOX. 

    Said to be CEO Collier's favorite, this ambitious sci-fi thriller, is clearly heading towards midseason, with or without a big push. FOX will have the Superbowl next year and if they decide to give the post-game slot to a scripted show, NeXT would be a serious candidate. 

    FILTHY RICH (Pilot script review)
    With Empire looking like it's nearing its end, if FOX still wants to be in the business of big splashy soaps the order of Filthy Rich makes total sense. But conflicting schedules with creator and showrunner Tate Taylor would reportedly prevent the show from starting in the fall.

    What they've rejected…

    This inventive dramedy based on a french TV series was the outlier of the pack from the get-go. Taking place over the course of single night at a wedding, the Rachel Bilson-starring show was probably too limited in concept to fit with FOX's mandate. 


    What they've ordered…

    Harkening back to one of old FOX’s signature comedy series Malcolm In the Middle but in multicam form, Outmatched (previously known as Geniuses) was the best and only way to go for them as other options were not the best fits with Last Man Standing. It definitely has potential and FOX will probably be patient with it and give it a full season no matter what, as they did this year with The Cool Kids (before savagely cancelling it).


    What they've rejected…

    This project would have only made sense as a companion to Sunday's animated series block, especially since it has an animated element through one character. But with three animated comedies ordered, they didn't need it after all. 

    It would have been brave of them if they ordered Patty's Auto to series. Though, as a female-centered multicamera comedy with a charming realness, it was realistically a recipient for disaster after the very conservative Last Man Standing. On CBS, ti would have had a chance. 


    We'll have complete coverage of FOX's upfront presentation on Monday May 13th. In the meantime, join us in our forums to share your opinion!

    Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom