LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The swan song of “American Idol” and heavy doses of comedy and sci-fi will mark Fox’s 2015-16 season.
The once-blockbuster singing contest, which launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, has seen its audience dwindle and age. “Idol” will come back next year for its 15th and final season with returning judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban, Fox said Monday.
Ten new series will debut next season on Fox, including the comedy-horror series “Scream Queens” from “Glee” producer Ryan Murphy, with veteran scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis in the cast.
New dramas will include “Minority Report,” based on Steven Spielberg’s futuristic film, and “The Frankenstein Code,” about a resurrected former lawman.
Fox and the other broadcast networks are unveiling their plans to advertisers in New York this week to lure them to spend on their programs.
Fans of freshman hit “Empire” won’t have to wait until next winter for new episodes. Fox announced Monday that the drama will be on its fall schedule. But viewers should brace for a break in the planned 18 episodes. It’s a split-season approach for Fox shows that network executives said will allow for a run of episodes with a midway cliffhanger — a way to create an “event” aura.
With the strong ratings last season, stars are eager to join in. Fox said Chris Rock, Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Keys will make appearances.
“The stories we’ve heard for season two already are just going to blow away the audience,” said Dana Walden, Fox Television Group CEO and chairman.
Fox is giving two time slots on Tuesday night to leading men who have aged out of the network’s target audience of 18-to-49-year-old, although it’s hard to tell by looking at them. But John Stamos, star of the new “Grandfathered,” and Rob Lowe, of “The Grinder,” are both 51 years old.
“It’s just so exciting to see that there are still opportunities out there for ageless, beautiful men,” said actor-comic Andy Samberg (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) at the Fox presentation to advertisers.
“The Mindy Project,” along with fellow comedies “Weird Loners” and “Mulaney,” were canceled. Also gone are the dramas “Backstrom,” ”Red Band Society” and “The Following,” and the reality series “Utopia.”
The last chorus of “American Idol” will begin in January, with stalwart host Ryan Seacrest ushering the show to a (hopefully) graceful conclusion after a long and influential run that, at its peak, drew 30 million viewers every week.
Ryan Murphy, who gave Fox a hit with “Glee,” is getting another chance with “Scream Queens.” Writer-producer Chris Carter, who created a landmark Fox series with “The X-Files” (1993-2002), will reunite with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to try to recapture the magic with a sequel starting in January.
It worked for NBC with “The Sound of Music,” not so much with “Peter Pan,” but that isn’t deterring the peacock network from planning a live “The Wiz” or Fox from airing “Grease: Live,” a three-hour version of the musical. Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens will star in the January special. With broadcasters desperate to keep viewers watching shows and commercials in real time, expect more such efforts.
It promises to be a busy year for Rob Lowe and Jennifer Lopez, who are starring in shows for both NBC and Fox next season.
Lowe stars as an actor who attempts to become a real lawyer after playing one on TV in “The Grinder,” a comedy on Fox’s schedule in the fall. On Sunday, NBC announced that Lowe is a featured player in its comedy, “You, Me and the End of the World.” How will he do both? Fox executive Dana Walden said Lowe’s series with NBC has already been filmed and finished.
It might be busier for Lopez, who plays a New York City detective in NBC’s “Shades of Blue,” which is due in the midseason and, according to NBC, hasn’t been shot yet. Lopez is also back as a judge for the final season of “American Idol” on Fox.
Not since former ABC Entertainment chief Stephen McPherson showed off his dancing moves a few years ago has a network executive displayed a hidden talent at one of the annual schedule presentations. This time it was NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, who played piano Monday as Dolly Parton sang “I Will Honestly Love You” to an audience of advertisers at Radio City Music Hall. Parton is making a TV movie, “Coat of Many Colors,” for NBC next season.
Parton kept her eye on the prize, telling Greenblatt — and the audience — that she’s discussing other projects with NBC, “so get that money out.”
Chairs at NBC’s schedule presentation at Radio City were decorated with the “Today” show’s “rise to shine” slogan, water was passed out with the “Today” logo and video of the morning show’s stars was featured in a reel of NBC highlights. There was no sight of any news executives onstage, however, or any mention of suspended “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams or his substitute, Lester Holt.