NEW YORK – Fox is changing the “American Idol” format after it sagged in the ratings, giving a supersized push to “Glee” and focusing on comedy heading into the next television season.
The network released its schedule Monday. Its executives conceded the biggest new drama, a Stephen Spielberg adventure series, might not even be ready for next season.
Fox is the second of the broadcast networks to release its upcoming schedule. Despite “Idol” dropping an estimated 9 percent in young viewership this season, the network minted a new hit in “Glee” and will be the first network to win the season six years in a row among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic it seeks.
Fox still hasn’t answered its most compelling mystery for next season: Who will replace Simon Cowell when he leaves “American Idol” this month?
That search is top priority for Fox this summer, said Peter Rice, entertainment chairman of the Fox Networks Group.
“We have to find a judge to replace Simon who provides both musical credibility and an incredible entertainment value,” Rice said. “Anytime you have a change, it’s something you have to do right.”
In response to viewer requests for more performances, Fox will increase the Tuesday night competition show from an hour to 90 minutes. The Wednesday results show will be chopped in half to 30 minutes, Fox executives said.
Despite the ratings slide, “American Idol” continues as the nation’s most popular TV show.
Fox is giving extra attention to “Glee” in its second season, even though fans will get a scheduling challenge. A special episode of the show will get the prime post-Super Bowl time slot next season.
The show will air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in the fall, ahead of two new comedies. After the Super Bowl, it will switch to Wednesdays at 9 p.m., following the “American Idol” results show.
The first new Tuesday comedy is “Raising Hope,” about a 23-year pool cleaner who suddenly has to raise his baby. Sitcom veteran Cloris Leachman appears in the character’s family.
“Running Wilde” has star power, with Will Arnett portraying a playboy trying to woo his high school sweetheart, played by Keri Russell.
Spielberg’s “Terra Nova” is an epic that follows a family from 2149 as it goes back to prehistoric times trying to save the Earth. It hasn’t been given a slot on the schedule yet, however.
“What we want to do is commit to do it right,” said Kevin Reilly, Fox network entertainment president.
Besides the two comedies, the only other new series Fox is introducing in the fall is “Lonestar,” a prime time soap about a Texas family with feet in both the working class and high finance worlds. On four of the seven nights, Fox’s prime time schedule this fall will be the same as it is this season.
Later in the year, Fox will introduce an animated series called “Bob’s Burgers”; a comedy called “Mixed Signals” about three friends trying to balance relationships with the need for freedom; and “Ride-Along,” a cop series set in Chicago.
Fox’s new fall schedule is remarkably stable for a network that prides itself on edginess, with three new series starting in September. In releasing next season’s plans, Fox still hasn’t answered the year’s most compelling mystery: Who will replace Simon Cowell, above, on “American Idol” next winter?