No judges are signed and no details are given; “Will be more constructive to talk about it all in one shot”
Everyone was counting on a torrent of "American Idol" news at the Fox presentation at TCA on Monday.
Instead, the packed room of TV journalists got a whole lot of "Glee" season two, an update on the now-delayed Steven Speilberg sci-fi drama "Terra Nova," and a briefing on the network's post-Conan late-night plan (there apparently isn't one).
As for "Idol," there would be no news on the No. 1 show on television. If Fox is to be believed, we'll have to wait a number of weeks for that.
Anticipation had built for official confirmation that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez would be signed as "Idol" judges, and that Kara DioGuardi would be departing … and that Nigel Lythgoe would be returning as an executive producer.
But the press ended up getting absolutely nothing from Peter Rice, chairman, entertainment, Fox Networks Group, and Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.
“No deals have been signed by anybody,” Rice said.
“The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is not one has been signed to a deal on or on the other side of the camera to be on ‘American Idol’ next year who wasn’t’ on it last year,” Rice said. “No deals have been signed by anybody.”
Well then, what might the judging panel look like? How are the talks with Lopez and Tyler going? Will they end up with four judges or three?
“I’d love to live in a fishbowl and offer a blow-by-blow account of who might be casted,” offered the polite but firm Rice. “But no matter how much fun that would be for your readers, I’m not going to get into that speculation.”
Talking in broad generalities about the need to recreate the "alchemy" that, until last season, made "Idol" such an irresistible ratings force, Rice and Reilly conceded that there is a natural deadline to judging announcements.
Mass auditions are currently underway, and preliminary talent rounds are set to tape starting in mid-September.
"We'll announce everything at that time," Rice said. "Unfortunately, we're just not going to be able to announce anything in the time frame of TCA."
The Fox execs were much more loquacious about their new ambitious Spielberg-produced sci-fi drama “Terra Nova,” explaining their rationale for pushing the family-adventure show back to mid-season.
Although much of the pre-historic backdrop will be created digitally, locations are still being shopped, said Reilly, while noting that Fox wanted more time to market the show.
“Not only do we want to do the pilot right, but on the marketing side, we want to create the same thing we did for ‘Glee,” he said. “We want a chance to give everyone materials over the summer and hopefully get them invested.”
Speaking to reporters after the session, Reilly added that Spielberg has been amply involved in "Terra Nova's" development.
"He's in town and he's been around and very engaged," Reilly said.
Reilly, meanwhile, downplayed an notions that Fox and creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy would be doing anything special for season two of "Glee," stunt-casting or otherwise.
Cast additions might occur later in the season, but Murphy is more dedicated to developing characters who were in peripheral roles during "Glee's" incendiary freshman campaign, he explained.
"Maybe some of the hoopla will die down, and maybe that will be healthy," Reilly said.
Among other programming topics discussed, Reilly said Fox should have its most stable Friday-night lineups in years, with Matt Nix summer comedy "The Good Guys" — despite soft ratings — renewed and returning to run at 9 p.m. after "Human Target."
He promised no major tweaks to Thursday-night sci-fi drama "Fringe," which will enter its third season running in the ultra-competitive 9 p.m. time slot.
With Fox settling its brand into more male-oriented action in recent years, Reilly also resisted the notion that Kyle Killen's upcoming Texas-oil-biz-based soap "Lone Star" doesn't thematically fit the network.
"I think it's a Fox show because it has a noisy conceit," he said of the new series, which will run Mondays at 9 p.m. this fall after "House." "It's a high-octane show because the characters are high-octane."
He also addressed working with Mitch Hurwitz on upcoming Tuesday-night comedy "Running Wilde," which reunites the producer with Will Arnett, who was also a leading character on "Arrested Development."
Of course, for "Running Wilde" to succeed, it will have to grow its core fan base beyond that of "Arrested Development," which could never transcend its rabid but finite fanbase.
"Everybody has to move on (from 'Arrested Development,')" Reilly said.
Meanwhile, with Conan O'Brien's flirtation with Fox ending when the comedian signed do take his act to Turner, Reilly pretty much conceded that the network's late-night expansion plans are dormant, at least for now.
"This season we really want to stay focused on prime time," he said.
Of course, no TCA executive panel would be complete without a question about departed ABC entertainment president Steve McPherson.
"Obviously, this is upsetting to me," Reilly said. "My focus is being a friend to him and his family. I don't know what his plans are, but if they include doing any producing, the door will be open at Fox."
Previously: "New 'Terra Nova' Premiere Details"