In the shadow of Disney’s takeover of the brand formerly known as 21st Century Fox, production on the Fox broadcasting network’s scripted TV shows has entered a strange kind of limbo. The network itself is remaining a Fox property, while many of the shows that fans have come to love, from The X-Files to The Simpsons, have themselves fallen under Disney’s control.
In the wake of the mega-merger, there’s been all kind of speculation over whether necessity will force the leaner, meaner, new version of Fox TV to transition away from the edgy scripted shows that made it great. Ever since the $52 billion deal was announced, the answer from the top down has been a resounding — if not totally reassuring — “No.”
Now we’re beginning to get some idea of what Fox television really is going to look like for the next 12-18 months — the period Disney will have to wait until the deal gets its expected final approval from federal regulators. And thankfully, it looks like fans of Fox shows like The X-Files, The Orville, Ghosted, Last Man on Earth, and The Gifted can breath a sigh of relief … at least for the time being.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Fox TV executives were noncommittal about the specifics of how the network will keep the fire burning on scripted content beyond that crucial 12-18-month window. But they stressed that Fox has no plans to move away from scripted programming and into live-TV territory, a fact emphasized by the network’s renewal of Marvel’s The Gifted for a new second season.
“The network will continue to do entertainment programming,” Fox TV Chair Dana Walden pledged during a Q&A, as reported by Variety. “Rupert [Murdoch] sees this as an enormous opportunity for the broadcast network.”
Walden was no doubt talking beyond the upcoming year-long window of already scheduled programming, and execs admitted that details on how Fox TV will remain committed to churning out scripted shows, for the long term, are unclear.
"This development season, we're reading scripts, ordering a similar number of pilots as the last few years, and setting the schedule in May," said Gary Newman, Walden’s co-chair partner at Fox. "We’ll market and support our shows. We won't worry about what happens down the road when this deal happens.”
What it seems to mean for the time being: The stuff we love is staying at Fox for the foreseeable future, and it won’t be watered down, on the content side, by Disney’s G-rated reputation.
What it may mean for the long run: The stuff we love that has made its home on the old Fox TV network isn’t going away. After all, brands like The X-Files are simply too valuable to disappear. But it’s still early days to speculate on whether any of it will, in the long run, remain with Fox — even as the new Fox broadcasting network figures out how it will deliver on its promise for more scripted content.