By Lynn Elber
AP Television Writer
Fox, facing the ebbing ratings power of “American Idol,” is betting big on its first miniseries showcase, starting with a limited-edition “24” and shows from heavyweight producers Seth MacFarlane and J.J. Abrams to invigorate its schedule.
The network is making its largest original-programming investment yet with a crop of 11 new series along with a miniseries from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan for the 2013-14 season, Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment chairman, said Monday. That’s more than double the five series it announced last year.
Fox was the second of the major broadcast networks to announce its schedule for next season, following NBC’s unveiling Sunday of an even heftier load of 17 new series.
After changing the TV landscape with “American Idol,” Fox is jumping on the miniseries bandwagon that started rolling with the History channel’s hits “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible.”
Although producers of “24” had contemplated bringing the canceled show back with a big-screen movie, they decided that Fox’s planned “event series” would be the right place for it, Reilly said.
The miniseries, “24: Live Another Day,” will clock in at half its running length and the 12 episodes will be chronological but will skip some hours, he said. It likely will kick off the event franchise in the summer.
The next announced miniseries is “Wayward Pines,” from Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”). Based on the best-selling novel “Pines,” it stars Matt Dillon in what Fox called a “mind-bending thriller” about the search for missing federal agents in an Idaho town. It will air in midseason.
Other broadcast network miniseries are reportedly in the works, following cable’s success with the genre that once was a TV mainstay but had gone dormant. Reilly said the miniseries will help Fox toward its goal of year-round programming
“American Idol” is staying put on Wednesday and Thursday nights when it returns for its 13th season next January. The same can’t be said for its judges: Original panelist Randy Jackson said he won’t be back, and speculation has newcomers Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban exiting as the aging series seeks a reboot.
Reilly refused to discuss their futures, saying “everything is on the table” for next season, including a likely return to the original three-judge panel. Decisions will be made shortly because the show starts taping for next season within weeks, he said.