Best TV Channel Tournament Primer: FOX

June 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

At some point I’m going to have to kick these Primers into high gear if we’re going to get a real tournament rolling before the next fall season!  So far I’ve reviewed the lineups for ABC  (link) and CBS (link) and today we’re looking at a whole different demographic: The overgrown 13-year-old male viewer.

Whether you are actually a 13-year-old boy or a 32-year-old male that still wishes he was a 13-year-old boy, you are probably watching FOX.  However, should we blame them?  After all, FOX made a name for itself and turned “The Big 3″ into “The Big 4″ simply by appealing to a completely ignored demographic: Immature people!

On the strength of a cartoon, a dysfunctional family, and black comedians with a white guy, FOX went from a channel that you could only get if you turned your antenna just right to one of the most-watched and talked-about channels on your picture box.  In fairness, it wasn’t the biggest underdog story ever told  (not as if they turned a public television station into The American Idol Network) because it took FOX $2.55 billion to acquire six television stations in major markets in 1985 in order to get the ball rolling.

However, they still managed to recover from their first ever show being: “The Late Show with Joan Rivers.”

It really began with their first prime time shows: Married… with Children and The Tracey Ullman Show.  Married ran from 1986-1997 and was a top 50 show for five seasons in the middle of its run.  Additionally, In Living Color debuted in the 90’s and jump-started the careers of Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, the Wayans brothers, and Jennifer Lopez.

Tracey Ullman was only a moderate success, running for four seasons and it’s only real claim to fame was having some cartoon “bumpers” that ran before and after commercial breaks.  Who cares about that though?  Short cartoon segments are your claim to fame?  Get real, Tracy!

Forget the fact that the cartoon bumpers would eventually spin-off to become The Simpsons, the most successful sitcom in television history and the staple of the FOX Network.  I’ve been to FOX Studios once before and trust me when I say that FOX is fully aware of how much of their success is due to that cartoon family.  Billboards, paintings, and homages to The Simpsons are everywhere and it’s a must-stop visit for any true Simpsons fanatic.

Many will argue that the show is now one of the worst shows on television, but I would argue that they simply haven’t watched the show in ten years.  It’s not a bad show, it’s just a reasonably decent one that is half as good as it was during it’s run as probably the best written television show of all-time.  It started as a mid-season replacement in 1989 that wasn’t given much of a chance by anyone, and 23 years later it’s still on the air as the longest running sitcom ever.  Nomar Garciaparra might have a better chance of breaking Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive-games-played record before anyone surpasses The Simpsons historic mark.

In 1985, FOX spent over two and half billion dollars to start a network.  Four years later, they debuted a little animated show called The Simpsons that has generated over $5 billion in advertising revenue alone during it’s run.  According to statisticbrain.com, the total Simpsons Franchise Revenue is over $12 billion, which is a low estimate, if anything.

As the longest-running, most influential, and perhaps the most important and best sitcom in television history, The Simpsons might be the only reason that I’m even writing a television primer for FOX today.  What once was a network hopeful, FOX is now a network heavyweight.

SITCOMS:

The Simpsons

Family Guy

American Dad!

The Cleveland Show

Bob’s Burgers

Raising Hope

New Girl

Evaluation:

I’ve already said my peace about The Simpsons.  It’s not nearly as great as it once was, bordering on mediocre.  If I had to choose between watching a new episode of The Simpsons or watching How I Met Your Mother, I would still watch The Simpsons but it would be very close.

It’s amazing to think that Family Guy was cancelled and years later not only did it return, but now Seth MacFarlane has three shows and a movie and has turned into a billion dollar franchise all on his own.  Family Guy was good on its first run, absolutely terrible when it returned, and is now good again.  I was against the re-hashed, old, inside jokes that were constant when it returned and hated the show for awhile but in recent seasons it’s gotten back to doing what it’s good at.

I can’t say the same for American Dad or Cleveland Show.  Admittedly, I only gave those shows a few episodes before hating them with every fiber of my being, but I still stand by what I’ve seen as being garbage.  I’m told by a lot of people that American Dad! is good, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t tell you otherwise.  Enough of the MacFarlane overload already.

However, Bob’s Burgers is really good and I think that despite Zooey Deschenal being too lazy to look outside to see if it’s raining, New Girl is promising.  I have seen a little bit of Raising Hope and I see the appeal.  I might catch up on Netflix some day.

Overall, the sitcoms on FOX rival NBC, while dominating ABC and CBS.

DRAMA:

Bones

Fringe

Glee

Touch

Evaluation:

I’ll make this easy for everyone.  I’ve never seen an episode of any of these shows and with the exception of Fringe, I’ve never had the slightest inclination to do so.  It’s not like I’m being bear-baited into watching Bones or Touch and it’s not like I’m anywhere near the demographic for Glee.

You can see the massive difference in widespread appeal between a show like 24 and a show like Touch.  24: Nobody will shut up about this.  Touch: What is touch?

And they both have Kiefer Sutherland.

Maybe Touch is a good show, I won’t go on here and tell you that it isn’t.  But I can tell you that 12 million people watched the premiere of Touch and 4.6 million people watched the season one finale.  The reviews, however, are positive enough for me to give Touch a shot someday.  I’m just not sure that it’s going to have many more episodes if that downward trend continues.

As far as Bones goes, I haven’t like David Boreanaz in anything since I fell down a flight of stairs, cracked my head open, and dreamt that he was in Blank Check 2 while I was in a coma.

Other networks rely heavily in dramas, and while Glee has been it’s mainstay for awhile, FOX prefers the cheaper worlds of reality television and animation.

NEW AND UPCOMING SHOWS:

In Living Color

The Mob Doctor

Ben & Kate

The Mindy Project

Axe Cop

The Following

The Goodwin Games

Evaluation:

That’s right, In Living Color is getting a reboot.  Keenan Ivory Wayans is still executive producer, but other than that you won’t know any of the names in the cast probably.  Is that a problem?  You didn’t know who Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx were either, once upon a time.  However, where is sketch comedy going from here on out?  Sometimes, it’s the best laughs on television and other times, it’s downright embarrassing.  And frankly, if you watch old episodes of In Living Color, it’s downright embarrassing.

Also, NBC eventually said “No thanks” to Mindy Kaling’s new show and FOX picked it right up and is giving us The Mindy Project.

As writer and co-star on The Office, she was another bright spot for women in comedy (right Adam Carolla?) and seemed destined to make a name for herself.  Which she’s doing and she’s been picking up steam steadily for the last few years, but I’m left to wonder why NBC turned her script down.  Then again, I’m left to wonder why NBC does anything anymore.  Maybe it’s a good sign that NBC ultimately said “NO!”  Also, Anna Camp is in it:

Ben and Kate is another new sitcom for FOX, starring Nat Faxon, a gifted comedian and recent Oscar-winner (co-writer, The Descendants) that I’ll be looking forward to.  I’ve only been a part-time small fan of Faxon since his short turns Club Dread and Party Down.  However, his run of guest appearances on sitcoms seems to be a death kill: Joey, Reba, Happy Hour, Allen Gregory, and Are You There, Chelsea?   Let’s hope this turns out to be better than the awful Allen Gregory.

The Mob Doctor is a fourth show debuting in the fall, a drama about a female mob doctor.  I assume it’s like a spin-off of that side storyline in Sons of Anarchy that was never that interesting.

Axe Cop is the real name of a show.  It’s also a web-comic being adapted to late-night Saturday animation programming that FOX is going to try out, which sort of reminds me of the heyday in MTV with Beavis and Butthead and such.  Maybe not all that bad.

The Following is created by one of my all-time favorites, Kevin Williamson, and starring one of my all-time favorites, Kevin Bacon.  The writer of Scream and the star of Tremors, finally together as one in a show about serial killers?  I.  Am.  IN!

Finally, The Goodwin Games is another sitcom and recently added T.J. Miller (Cloverfield, She’s Out Of My League) to the cast, probably putting him back on the “watch list” for people that need their own show.  It is about a group of siblings fighting to win their part of their fathers $23 million inheritance, which doesn’t really sound like a strong premise for a show as much as it would for a movie, but I’ll give it a chance.

Who Gets a Second Season Prediction:

The Mindy Project, Ben and Kate, Axe Cop, The Following, The Goodwin Games

AWARDS SHOWS:

The Teen Choice Awards, The American Country Music Awards

GAME SHOWS: 

None right now, that I can see.

TALK SHOWS:

This has never worked for FOX.

NEWS:

LOL

REALITY:

American Idol

So You Think You Can Dance

Hell’s Kitchen

COPS

Kitchen Nightmares

MasterChef

The X Factor

Hotel Hell

The Choice

Take Me Out

Evaluation:

While earlier I said that FOX is the network for dudes that never grew up (myself included) I have to add a caveat to that.  FOX has diversified their programming in the 2000s to also appeal to tweens and women.  While The Simpsons has been a juggernaut for FOX in it’s own right, nothing in television history really compares to American Idol.

It conspicuously debuted on June 11, 2002 to 9.85 million viewers.  Excellent for a debut of any show.  The season finale ran on September 4th to 23.02 million viewers.  The sixth season of Idol was it’s peak, with 37.44 million people tuning in for the premiere but Idol fever has since died down.  The recent finale of season 11 had “only” 21.49 million viewers.  It is still one of the highest rated shows on television without Simon Cowell.

I haven’t actually watched Idol since Ruben v Clay, but it’s not like you have to watch Idol to understand Idol.  It is what it is and it’s still really successful, even if the winner’s aren’t.  I’m not “hip” to kids music these days, but someone please tell me who Scotty McReery, Lee DeWyze, and Kris Allen are.  Apparently, they won Idol.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

With Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, The X Factor, Glee, and now The Mindy Project, FOX has no problems appealing to both the ladies and the boys.

Also, COPS has almost twice as many episodes as The Simpsons?! and has been on since 1989 and still going.

The rest of the FOX network is owned by Gordon Ramsay.

SPORTS:

Some College Football (Pac-12), some College Basketball (Pac-12), MLB, NASCAR, Formula One, NFL games (NFC), UFC, Premier League Soccer.

The important things to note here are that having NFL games is worth billions, and I’m sure having NASCAR and Formula One earn them a pretty penny too.

OVERALL:

Thus concludes our primer for FOX in the BEST TV CHANNEL TOURNAMENT.  They come in strong in several categories with some strong sitcoms and some promising new shows.  FOX is also a heavy-hitter in the ratings with shows like Glee and American Idol, though overall the reality programming seems lacking to me.  In addition to that, they don’t even try to compete with the networks in areas like game shows, awards, and talk shows.

Where FOX might better ABC and CBS with scripted programming, they don’t do a lot of the typical “network strategies” in other areas that you might expect.  Of course, with mega-advertising bucks in the NFL (Super Bowl every 3 years) and their millions of devout followers in Idol and Glee, and “Animation Domination,” why should FOX seek to break what isn’t broken?

Then again, they’re giving some more live-action sitcoms a chance and bringing in two new dramas that could prove fruitful in the wake of Terra Nova’s cancellation, among others.

I see FOX as a network that’s trying to battle both the other networks as well as cable, and I’m not sure that’s a battle you can win if you don’t pick a side.  Sure, your ratings are solid, but can you win the BEST TV CHANNEL TOURNAMENT?

We’ll see.

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