Almost by definition, new network TV schedules are exercises in wishful thinking.
But when Fox unveiled its new slate of shows for the 2010-11 season Monday, it took such hopefulness to outlandish extremes, with a single, bold move: Cutting back on American Idol.
The network's new schedule cuts back Idol's Tuesday performance show a half hour to 90 minutes and the Wednesday results by 30 minutes to a half-hour.
"We've heard consistently from audiences they would like more performances and tighter results shows, and that's what we're going to do," Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said in a conference call with reporters Monday, in which he acknowledged the other big question Fox executives face next season: Who will replace departing judge Simon Cowell?
"There's no bigger question for the summer that we're going to have," said Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice, noting that the show will push back auditions to September. "We have to find a judge … who provides both music credibility and an incredible entertainment value."
Fox also revealed seven new shows for the 2010-11 season, with three debuting this fall. In a jarring bit of cross-promotion, pop culture magnet Glee will air following the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, returning for new episodes an hour earlier at 8 p.m. in the spring.
Other series include a family comedy from My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia (Raising Hope), a comedy starring Arrested Development's Will Arnett and Felicity's Keri Russell (Running Wilde), a midseason drama from Steven Spielberg about a family that travels back to the prehistoric age to save Earth (Terra Nova) and a cop drama from the creator of The Shield (Ride-Along).
Rival NBC announced almost double the number of new shows for 2010-11, revealing 13 new shows for the season, with eight to debut in the fall. Intent on rebuilding a network debilitated by the disastrous 10 p.m. Jay Leno show last September, the network assembled some impressive names for new efforts, including a new spy series from Lost creator J.J. Abrams, a new Law & Order spinoff set in Los Angeles (which still has no pilot script or cast), and shows featuring Jimmy Smits, Kathy Bates and Paul Reiser.
NBC's new schedule confirmed cancellation of the superpower drama Heroes, though it could wrap up with a two-hour movie next season.
Executives said they might also wrap up details of canceled "mothership" series Law & Order inside the spinoff shows.
ABC will announce its new schedule today and CBS goes on Wednesday. Let the games begin.