CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- After several seasons of more or less conceding Thursdays to the competition, FOX plans to aggressively program on the night come next season. "We plan to air two hours of scripted programming on Thursday night, with either two dramas or one drama and two comedies," Preston Beckman, FOX's executive VP of strategic program planning, told the advertising community at the network's pre-upfront meetings late last week. The news helped shed some light on what FOX's fall schedule will look like when the network formally announces it on May 15.
Beckman also said that Fridays, where its current dramas "Fastlane" and "John Doe" both have struggled this season, remain a key focus for the network. "We are hoping to bring back one of those shows, because we would rather not have to have totally new programming on both Thursday and Friday nights." The growing sentiment is that "Fastlane," not "John Doe," is looking better and better for renewal as of late thanks to its strong showing in adults 18-49. ("Fastlane's" McG is also behind FOX's upcoming "The O.C.")
Some other notes:
-- FOX's Saturday night will remain the same with a double dose of "Cops" followed by "America's Most Wanted." Sundays will also remain a sitcom block with holes for one or two series surrounding its animated comedies and "Malcolm in the Middle."
-- Mondays as expected will remain home to "Boston Public" and the network's "reality wheel," beginning with "Joe Millionaire 2" in the fall.
-- Key to all of its moves however are the early starts for its two new dramas "The O.C." and "Wonder Falls," both of which will likely bow in August. The late summer launches would help offset FOX's always troublesome October schedule when most series are pre-empted for weeks at a time shortly after their debuts in favor of baseball. FOX also hopes both series will help win back young, female viewers, many of whom were alienated by the cancellation of such series as "Ally McBeal," "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place." Beckman says both shows are "not very heavy, not dark shows," a quality it hopes will attract the demographic.