D-days looming for "House," "Fringe" and "Terra Nova"
Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly admittedly has been putting those questions off while basking in the network's best fall ratings in its 25-year history. But the Clark Kent-ish programming exec knows that days of reckoning must come soon.
"The truth is most of the time we are having to piss people off," he said Sunday during Fox's leg of the ongoing Television Critics Association press tour. "We have to do things that are good for our schedule that are not necessarily always right for a particular show."
Or to put it even more bluntly, "breaking somebody's heart and dashing somebody's dreams" are part of his job description, Reilly said. And in that capacity, his assessments of all three shows strongly indicated that Fringe and House won't be back next fall while Terra Nova at best has a 50-50 shot.
A final decision on the Steven Spielberg-produced prehistoric/futuristic drama must be made very soon because of its demanding production schedule in Australia.
Terra Nova's Nielsen ratings were decent although hardly spectacular. And Fox made money on it, Reilly said. But his problem is with what ended up on home screens during the series' initial 13-hour run.
"The show was hunting for itself creatively throughout the season," he said. "I love the cast. I loved some of the episodes . . . If we had more holes on our network, we'd be thrilled to just lock Terra Nova right in."
House is in its eighth season on Fox, and Reilly said it's "hard to imagine the network without it." Still, that seems to be an inevitability next fall.
"Should it be the last season, it's not going to be an unceremonious finish," Reilly promised. "It will absolutely have a satisfying conclusion. I can guarantee you there's no way that (series creator David Shore) is going to have the fans feel like it wasn't properly capped off."
NBC Studios makes House for Fox, so there's an outside chance that the struggling Peacock might re-employ the series if Fox pink slips it. But NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt didn't sound eager to pick up the baton, saying after his Friday session with TV writers that "I'm not sure that I would because it's really hard to migrate a show to a new network at that cost structure and expect it to work."
Cost and effect are at the heart of Fox's issues with Fringe, which has enlivened the network's long-dormant Friday night ratings in its fourth season but continues to run at a deficit.
"We lose a lot of money on the show," Reilly said, echoing his reasons for canceling America's Most Wanted at the end of last season. "We're not in the business of losing money. So we really have to sit down (with the producers). I do not want to drop the ball at the end and let the fans down. Please don't start the letter-writing campaigns right now. I can't take it. I hope we get some credit with the fans for seeing through a great show that they've enjoyed."
At Sunday night's Fox "All-Star Party," Fringe co-star Joshua Jackson was the only actor in attendance from any of the three endangered series. He thinks the reaper will call, but wants the show to knot at least most of its loose ends before leaving Fox.
"This is not a charitable foundation they're running here at Fox," he told locatetv.com. "So if we really aren't making them any money, I would say our chances are zero.
"The important thing for me is not whether we get canceled or renewed. It's that if the show has to go, that our writers are given a chance to finish the story. It just would be a horrible thing to do to the audience to just leave them in the lurch. So as long as we get a chance to end it, everything else will be OK."