Can you believe it’ll be 25 years since the Fox network was launched?
The milestone will be celebrated next April (the launch date was April 5, 1987) in a two-hour prime-time special that has the potential to be one of the highlights of next season, on Fox or any other network. “Fox’s biggest stars from both past and present will make appearances to honor the network,” Fox said in announcing the star-studded special at its annual “upfront” presentation to advertisers in New York Monday.
Clips shown to the audience at the 81-year-old Beacon Theatre in Manhattan implied that Fox will try and reunite, in one show, as many major stars from its hit shows as it can possibly arrange – from Johnny Depp (“21 Jump Street”) to the casts of “Married With Children” and “The X-Files.”
And that’s not the only milestone Fox will mark next season: Programming chief Kevin Reilly noted that “The Simpsons” will reach its 500th episode next season (its 23rd), an almost unheard-of number of episodes for a single prime-time network show (only the old CBS western series “Gunsmoke” had more – 633 from 1955 to 1975).
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In fact, when Reilly mentioned the 500th-episode milestone, you could hear gasps and murmurs of amazement from the audience – and this was a group of seasoned media pros who are not easy to impress.
Nevertheless, Fox – as all the networks are doing during this annual upfront week in New York – did its darnedest to impress the crowd, mainly by trotting out dozens of its stars. And it was an impressive array, starting with a live performance by the Dalton Academy Warblers from “Glee” and ending with a medley of songs performed by seven finalists from the current season of “American Idol” accompanied by several dance troupes from “So You Think You Can Dance.”
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In fact, “Idol” judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were among the few Fox stars who weren’t able to make it to New York for the event. Among those who did turn up – Randy Jackson from “Idol” and Jane Lynch, who addressed the audience in character as “Glee’s” Sue Sylvester.
What’s Fox most revved up about for next season? That would have to be “The X Factor,” Simon Cowell’s singing-competition show which will air for 90 minutes on Wednesday nights and one hour on Thursday nights this fall. Cowell was at the upfront event, with fellow judges Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Cheryl Cole.
Besides getting an opportunity to ogle the Fox stars, the upfront audience also got to see intriguing clips from a number of upcoming shows, including two new animated series – “Allen Gregory” from producer/actor Jonah Hill (hilarious, in the “Family Guy” vein) and “Napoleon Dynamite” (not a fall series but one to be added to the lineup later). For “Napoleon Dynamite,” the network managed the neat trick of getting all the principal cast members from the original 2004 movie to voice their characters (the only one missing from the clips seemed to be Shondrella Avery, so memorable in the role of Lafawnduh).
The advertising reps got an extended look at “Terra Nova,” the fantasy/sci-fi series Fox has set for Monday nights next fall – about a post-apocalyptic community intent on repopulating the human race (or so it seemed). Reilly said the pilot episode has 200 special effects. Apparently, no expense has been spared to produce this series – it’s even being filmed all the way in Queensland, Australia, to take advantage of the lush green environs there.
And although no clip was available for the new Kiefer Sutherland/Tim Kring (“Heroes”) drama “Touch,” the two appeared on video explaining what this show is about. Basically, the title refers to something Sutherland’s character cannot do to his young son – which is touch him, since he’s seriously autistic. But his autism has gifted him with an affinity for numbers and statistics that is so powerful that he can predict catastrophes, which his father must then go out and try and prevent (or at least save as many people as possible). “Touch” will likely turn up next January.