Of all the entertainment toppers at the broadcast nets, Fox's Kevin Reilly comes across as a guy who gets it.
Unlike his counterparts, Reilly doesn't arrive at TCA just to read off the latest ratings stats or tout the company line -- "We love this show!"; This is a game-changer"; We couldn't be happier!"; -- but actually seems to be thinking and processing the questions from info-starved scribes.
One of his most well thought out answers came while addressing the current state of network comedy. He could've given the standard response -- "It's cyclical. It'll come back" -- but instead sees the genre as having a difficult time making a complete recovery. He even took a shot at Fox.
"We've talked about it every year. A lot of confidence has left the creative space. I see talented people coming in skittish and not knowing what to pitch, and what will sell," Reilly explained. "NBC has a cohesive thing, something I worked on while I was there. We're going to mix it up this year. We're not taking our pitches in our office, but go out on their own turf. To a restaurant, house, anywhere to get it out of a sterile environment. We're going to pay writers to shoot something before they come in."
"Our comedy brand has a bit anemic, and we're looking for the next 'Malcolm in the Middle."
One comedy project Reilly seemed particularly enthusiastic about is midseason single-camera laffer "Boldly Going Nowhere," from the team behind FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
"It's 'The Office' in space," is how Reilly described it, and he should know something about what makes "The Office" a hit as he was head of NBC Entertainment when the show arrived in Burbank via London. "It's about petty jealousy and incompetence on a long-term mission."
Reilly also chatted about how Fox is pushing mid-season as much as fall, which seems to be the case every year, and that the net has eight pilots in pre-production right now that will be ready for a December launch.
And for the two-hour "24" prequel, Reilly said the program is self-contained and takes place on a separate day -- inauguration day, in fact -- than the rest of the series.
"We felt like we wanted to do something to bridge the gap between the end of the last season and the upcoming one," he said. "The idea began as an online series and moved to broadcast."
When addressing a question on whether this will be the last TCA in its current incarnation and whether upfronts are a thing of the past, Reilly said he was happy to keep things status quo.
"This is great," he said, probably half-kidding, over a roomful writers that, to the bystander, could look like a firing squad. "We're still putting on television. We had every opportunity to not do an upfront and we did one. There are set points during the year to gather with the media and clients and put product front and center and talk about it. We'll always do something like this. I enjoy it."