Fox sets fall schedule... and challenges

Fox laid out its 2009-2010 schedule to advertisers today, and it isn't without a few surprises and some notable rolls of the dice. Network president Kevin Reilly conducted a walk-through with members of the media today during a conference call, giving his insight on why he kept Dollhouse, the expansion of So You Think You Can Dance's role, and Fox's next big comedy star.

Dollhouse wins, Terminator loses

Dollhouse was renewed and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was cancelled. Both shows struggled in the ratings, but Terminator was the higher-rated of the two (4.6 million viewers on average vs. 3.7 million for Dollhouse). Fox Entertainment Prez Kevin Reilly tried to persuade reporters this wasn't an either/or situation. What tipped the decision? Dollhouse's star producer, Joss Whedon.

Said Reilly, "This is a bet on Joss Whedon. If you looked at the profile of that show, he has an unbelievably loyal fan base. It did consistent in the 'live' ratings [when it aired in its time period] and consistently [ranked] as one of the biggest time-shifting shows on the air so we're placing our bet on Joss."

As for his thoughts on Terminator: "I think it had a nice little run," Reilly said.

Fox's biggest challenge: Turning a football player into an actor

Especially when they're casting him alongside some of the best in the business. The show is called Brothers, a family comedy set for Friday nights about a pro football star (played by gap-toothed former New York Giant Michael Strahan) who returns to live with his parents in Houston. The parents are played by Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies, and CCH Pounder, formerly of The Shield and described by many who have worked with her as one of the most formidable actresses in the business. Strahan's acting experience so far: One episode of Chuck.

Inside Fox's riskiest scheduling move

So You Think You Can Dance got called up to the majors--fall prime time--essentially to hold Fox's Tuesday and Wednesday time periods for the arrival of American Idol in January. Reilly explained, "We're going to schedule our assets in the fall so that we don't have to completely reconstitute our schedule in January when Idol comes on like we have in the past. [With Dance on Tuesdays and Wednesdays] we're going to create a very stable two nights that mirrors our midseason schedule."

OK, but what about Dancing with the Stars on ABC, which will overlap with Fox's dance show Tuesdays? Reilly danced that, insisting, "So You Think You Can Dance delivers a distinct and different audience than the other dance show."

Fox is hot on new comedy star (no, it's not Strahan)

It's Tyler Labine, who plays Sock, the doughy slacker sidekick to Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) on CW's Reaper. Labine's headlining a new comedy for Fox, set to start in January, called Sons of Tucson from the producer of Malcolm in the Middle, Todd Holland. "I think this guy is a major talent in the making," Reilly said of Labine.

Fox has a thing for immortals

The network failed last year with New Amsterdam, the series about a New York City police detective who had been alive since the Dutch owned New York in the 17th century. He hasn't been reincarnated, but a concept combining elements of immortality and reincarnation has been developed into Past Life, featuring a pair of detectives (one of them formerly from the NYPD) who "unravel mysteries that must be solved in both the past and the present," says Fox. This one is set for midseason.

For Fox's full 2009-2010 television schedule, check out our guide to the upfronts!

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