Hilton and fellow celebutante Nicole Richie return to
slumming it with the little people in The Simple Life
2, one of six series the network has lined up for a summer
Fox has spearheaded the
trend away from the typical rerun dog days toward year-round
programming, and network execs haven't relied just on
reality shows for summer fare. Back in 1997, Fox unsuccessfully
launched Roar, but last summer the net scored a solid
hit with The O.C.
This summer, along with another dose of the unscripted
antics of Paris and Nicole (this time they cross the
country in an RV), Fox is rolling the dice on the reality
series The Casino, as well as two scripted dramas, The
Jury and North Shore, and two scripted comedies, Quintuplets
and Method & Red.
"This is a redefinition
of the TV season," Gail Berman, president of Fox
Entertainment, told Daily Variety. "We will be
the first network unveiling a real year long schedule.
Circumstances pushed us forward, and if there is success,
we're quite sure others will follow."
she refers to is Fox's contract with Major League Baseball
which interrupts its schedule in October, long the traditional
month for premiering new shows. Fox wants to hook viewers
before baseball interrupts the schedule. To that end,
the network informed producers last year that Fox suits
needed to see scripts before Thanksgiving in order to
give an early greenlight for potential new series to
launch in this summer.
Advertisers have already
been briefed on the moves and next month at the upfronts,
when networks parade their schedule to the Madison Avenue
crowd, Berman intends to make it very clear that--although
most of the advertising for this summer is already locked--this
all-year-round plan is really and truly workable. So,
ad buyers also need to start rethinking their calendars.
The success or failure of Fox's move will clearly impact
sales for summer 2005.
New series would not only
premiere in June but also in July and next January,
while most established shows like 24 and The O.C. would
return either right before or right after baseball playoffs,
either in September or November. It's the most vigorous
attempt yet to try to stop viewers clicking over to
the alternative cable channels to avoid a steady diet
of stale reruns.
Fox also continues to disrupt
the standard once-a-week format for scripted programming.
As with last year's summer debut of The O.C., Fox intends
to repeat the premiere episode of the Hawaiian-based
pretty-young-things drama North Shore on the Friday
of the same week in which it debuts.
The new-look summer lineup
begins airing early June, hard on the heels of May sweeps,
long the wrap-up for the season begun in the fall.
North Shore will probably
lead in to The Casino (produced by Survivor and Apprentice
mastermind Mark Burnett), which premieres at 9 p.m.
on June 14.
The Simple Life 2 kicks
off June 16 and airs Wednesdays along with the comedies
Quintuplets, starring Andy Richter as the father of
the five, and Method & Red, starring rappers Method
Man and Redman movin' on up to the posh side of town.
The Jury, a legal series produced by Barry Levinson
and Tom Fontana (creators of Homicide: Life on the Street)
has garnered a 9 p.m. Tuesday night slot.
The network also tunes
in some fresh episodes of Oliver Beene, and first runs
of episodes of The Bernie Mac Show. Some reality shows
such as The Complex: Malibu (no need to explain the
concept) could also be readied in time for summer exposure.
With ratings usually down
about 10 percent in summer months, other networks have
been slow to adopt the year-round model, relying on
reruns and reality to make it through. For instance,
CBS is banking on fifth seasons of The Amazing Race
and Big Brother, while NBC has new runs of For Love
or Money, Last Comic Standing and Who Wants to Marry
My Dad, as well as the new stunt-themed show, The Next
Action Star. NBC also airs some fall premieres at the
end of August, on the heels of its Olympics coverage.
But struggling ABC, which
has nothing to lose, is programming limited episodes
of a new family drama, The Days, and burning off unseen
episodes of the canceled Drew Carey Show.