[08/07/09 - 11:05 AM]
FOX at TCA: Reilly, Rice Face "Idol" Fallout
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "It's something that is very saddening to us," FOX Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice says about Paula Abdul's departure from "American Idol."

Rice, along with FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, took to the stage at the TCA summer press tour on Thursday. The pair's executive session was dominated by the judge's exit as they often found themselves answering multiple variations of the same question: why?

"Paula is the only member of 'Idol' whose contract was up this year," Rice explained. "We have been talking to her about it for most of the season -- certainly since before I arrived at the company four months ago -- and we very much wanted her to return. In the past few weeks, the negotiation has sort of come to a conclusion. We made an offer that we feel was very fair to Paula. It was a substantial raise on the money she's been paid in the past, and Paula has decided not to return. So, as I said, that's something that was not our choice. It wasn't what we wanted to happen. We wanted Paula to come back to the show. It happened only 36 hours ago, so we don't have big announcements to make on what we're going to do. We have been focused in the past 24 hours on the auditioning process, which takes place over the next seven weeks, and our intention is to have guest judges at each one of those auditions."

Rice added that for now they will be using guest judges ("female pop stars, female performers, female artists") at each audition site with Katy Perry and Victoria Beckham the only ones confirmed so far. "Between now and January, we will come up with a more permanent solution on what we'll do. The live shows start in January, so we feel between now and then, we will come up with a solution and a replacement for Paula. I would like to say again we're very sad that she's not coming back. She's been a very important part of the 'Idol' family. We're looking forward to the season. I think obviously there's going to be a different dynamic, and there's going to be a change this year. There's also something exciting about that, and we'll be looking to bring a different element and a different energy to this season."

As for non-"Idol" topics, Rice and Reilly offered a few updates on its series and its competition:

Reilly on if "fear of email from Joss Whedon fans" factored into "Dollhouse's" renewal: "You mean that 'Save Dollhouse' campaign that started before we even started making the 'Dollhouse' episodes? You know, it actually didn't factor in from a fear place. It factored in from a more positive place, which is those fans were there every week. They nurtured the show. They stuck with it in a way that a lot of television fans don't. They are just there with Joss. He delivered, and that's what gave us a very consistent cumulative 2 rating week in and week out and that, for us, on a Friday night, felt like enough of a base to give it another shot."

Rice on Ryan Seacrest's new contract: "Ryan is still in his old contract on 'Idol,' and Ryan made a deal with CKX, which encompasses much more than 'Idol.' Ryan is not being paid $15 million a year to be on 'Idol.'"

Reilly on if they'll air "Futurama's" new episodes: "Well, it's going to do its run on Comedy Central first and see how it fares. I mean, it's not unprecedented. Obviously, that was the 'Family Guy' story. They really saw a lot of continued commercial business on that and a lot of fan interest, and so obviously that's what led to that order. If we see a renaissance with the show -- it's a good show, we really like the show -- sure, that's not out of the equation... There is a negotiated window. We have not committed to airing that."

Reilly on his outlook for NBC: "They're going to struggle at 8:00. I see no show there, other than "Biggest Loser," that's going to get things going. Struggle at 8:00, not a lot of powerhouses at 9:00, modest ratings at 10:00. I think you've got to look at the whole picture."

Reilly on if we'll see the remaining episodes of "King of the Hill" and "The Moment of Truth": "There are no plans to air either one of them right now. That's really all I can say. I think it's unlikely."

  [august 2009]  


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