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Marti Noxon

Marti Noxon - "Prison Break" Tv Series to take extended break from tv schedule

Gary Levin

Thursday 3 November 2005, by Webmaster

Fox takes another swing after dismal Series

In a perennial rite of Halloween, Fox starts its fall season over again Monday night.

The network’s full series lineup returns after the lowest-rated World Series in history. But Fox, like the winning Chicago White Sox, has more reason to be hopeful this year.

Last fall was a disaster, as early-starter reality shows - remember The Rebel Billionaire? My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? - dominated the schedule. They promptly tanked and left Fox starting from scratch when it finally unveiled scripted series in November. It took American Idol and 24’s return in January to save Fox, which ultimately won its first season among young adults.

"Last year was obviously tough coming out of baseball, even with the spectacular ratings and great games," says entertainment chief Peter Liguori.

This fall, the story is different. Medical drama House is one of TV’s biggest hits, and has doubled its ratings since last fall. Prison Break and The War at Home are solid newcomers, Bones shows early promise, and the return of the canceled Family Guy has paid off on Sundays, where it’s the strongest alternative to Desperate Housewives. (Related story: Break-out roles for Miller, Purcell)

Fox’s entertainment lineup is up 29%. Yet in another reversal, postseason baseball fell 21% from last year’s Cinderella story of the Boston Red Sox. And the World Series was down 32%.

Though it ranks fourth overall, Fox is "in significantly better shape than they were last fall," says Magna Global USA analyst Steve Sternberg. The network will stay that way "if American Idol doesn’t decline."

One worry: In House’s four-week absence, NBC’s My Name is Earl and ABC’s Commander in Chief became the top newcomers in the same time slot. "Commander in Chief is a new wild card on Tuesday," Liguori says.

One victim of Fox’s early rebound is Prison Break. Designed as a placeholder for 24, which returns Jan. 15, Break is scheduled to complete its initial 13-week run Nov. 28, but won’t return to finish its first season until May. "The appeal of creatively bringing it back later in the year and keeping it on in the summer outweighs the disruption it would cause" to try to fit in the nine remaining episodes sooner, says scheduling chief Preston Beckman.

Trading Spouses returns Wednesday at 9 to replace the canceled Head Cases. Arrested Development will get knocked off the air by January, when House joins 24 on Mondays. And though far from hits, Reunion and Killer Instinct are likely to stick around.

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