Fox at TCA: futures of ‘Glee,’ ‘Fringe,’ and Ryan Seacrest steal show

Lea’s Rachel will be back.

So far during the winter panels at TCA, most of the networks and critics have allowed there to be some time to actually spend talking about some of the new shows that are coming up in 2012 — however, for Fox we saw a situation play out where most time and energy was spend talking about the future of shows that we have already seen. (To add to this, many of these shows are struggling in the ratings.)

With that, it’s hard to say that Fox presented anything close to a success here in a panel. Network programming head Kevin Reilly seemed trapped in a see of piranhas, and was more noncommittal than the American public leading up to the GOP primaries.

We would love to have some headlines for you about “Alcatraz” or Kiefer Sutherland’s ambitious “Touch” (which did at least get some attention through independent interviews) — but instead, here were the major headlines that came out of this panel.

“Glee” not branching out – Really confirmed that there would be no “Glee” spin-off after this season, a sign that some of the show’s series regulars (including Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith) could feasibly be sent on their merry way to sing elsewhere once season 3 wraps. The idea of a separate show starring specifically Colfer and Lea Michele in New York was talked about over the summer, but some press leaks led to a mass snowballing of “he said, she said” stories that pretty much deflated the hope of this happening.

All Reilly did offer was that Michele would be reprising her role of Rachel Berry during season 4 of the show, and that they are going to be presenting an “interesting” twist that could end up keeping Colfer, Monteith, and some of the other original stars on board despite them graduating from McKinley Hugh. It’s promising, but there are still question marks here for a show that is starting to see some fan erosion.

“American Idol” not losing Seacrest … yet – Ryan Seacrest’s contract is up for TV’s #1 show after the season, and we have seen both “The Today Show” and “Live! with Kelly” make some sort of overtures about him coming on their respective shows.

Fox is going to have a challenge here with Ryan — they can either try to raise his $15 million salary from this past contract, try to get him a take a pay cut (which is not going to happen), or find a new host who could fill his shoes for less than half the price. However, Reilly suggested that the uneven performance of Steve Jones on “The X Factor” (who is likely not returning for season 2) proves yet again just how important a host like Ryan is — and he said that the network has every intention of seeing him back hosting “American Idol” for many years to come.

As for whether they can make the offer appealing enough for Seacrest and his deep pockets … that is an entirely different story.

“Fringe” as a money pit – For those of you hoping that somehow “Fringe” would get another reprieve, don’t count on it. Reilly admitted that the show is losing money, and no network out there is going to be looking to lose money on a show regardless of how dedicated the fans are.

Of course, Reilly would not commit to the show being canceled, saying that he would talk to producers for the show at some point in the coming week to reach a conclusion. (He also said pretty much the same thing about the futures of both “House” and “Terra Nova” — though each of these shows have a better chance of sticking around for another season.)

The best “Fringe” fans can really hope for here is that producers are given enough time to craft an ending that is worthy both as a season and series finale.

More animation domination – As for the one bit of news from panel that does not refer to an established show, Reilly announced that Fox is getting set to launch a new animated platform on Saturday nights to compete against “Saturday Night Live.” It’s a block of programming that is in conjunction with Adult Swim, and will also have an online element introduced to it, as well.

Ultimately, the goal with this block seems to be to experiment with a number of shorts and series in hopes of finding something that sticks — and then ultimately either keeping the show on Saturdays or moving it over to its popular Sunday primetime block. This is a smart and relatively inexpensive way for the network to try out some animated shows, and potentially avoid the failures of a new property like “Allen Gregory” (which is now officially canceled) in primetime.

Although we didn’t hear much of it, Fox (even with “Fringe”) is in one of the best positions out of any network for the spring. They have both “Bones” and its spin-off “The Finder,” the new season of “Idol,” more “Glee” and the freshman hit “New Girl,” and also the return of Sutherland to TV. It’s a schedule with a number of big names, and unlike NBC (which still seems intent on firing off ideas all over the place) these shows all seem to fall within the network’s edgier brand.

So ultimately, we have to conclude this piece just as Reilly would — while we certainly aren’t going to commit to endorsing Fox’s plans for the future, we are willing to think it over for a while and see what happens.

Photo: Fox

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