Fool's errands don't come any more foolish than trying to project fall schedules days before they are announced. Though the Monday reports on Fox's pickups give us a good indication of what cards they have to play, there's plenty of question marks from off-the-radar unscripted shows to just how many hours per week Simon Cowell's "X Factor" will take up.
Nevertheless, speculate we must, even if it's as hopeless a task as plotting the brackets during March Madness. Better yet, let's couch this as "recommendations" so when I'm completely wrong I don't have to be held accountable.
Fox should attack Thursday with a double blast of its best new stuff. With rival nets fading on the night advertisers prize most, Fox can't wait for "American Idol" to return in January to grab a majority of the dollars. What better way to make a splash than take Steven Spielberg dino-drama "Terra Nova" and drop it in at 9-10 p.m., with the second night of "X Factor" as a lead-in. Whether "Factor" will be 30 or 60 minutes is unknown, which may mean "Factor" will have to share the anchor hour with a sitcom.
The first night of "Factor" should lead off Wednesday. It makes sense to assume that Fox will want to put "Factor" in the same slot as "Idol." If like "Idol" it begins the season in a 90-minute format, that means a lucky sitcom is getting a plum 9:30 p.m. time slot. Bet that goes to pickup "I Hate My Teenage Daughter." If "Factor" is only an hour, Fox is better off putting a new drama like "The Finder" there instead of pitting a comedy against "Modern Family" at 9 p.m. ("Little in Common" is likely for midseason).
New comedy "The New Girl" should get "Glee" as a lead-in on Tuesday. "Daughter" could just as easily get this slot; given star Jamie Pressly just appeared on "Raising Hope," which will likely move to 9:30 p.m., that could make a nice pairing. But Fox has been keen on this Zooey Deschanel vehicle for quite a while, and she couldn't ask for a better lead-in than "Glee." Given Deschanel is also a chanteuse, would an early-season cameo on "Glee" be out of the question? It would be a great promotion for "Girl."
The toughest call: Who gets the post-"House" time slot? This the same slot "Lone Star" imploded in last year but could be less competitive if the NFL doesn't return. New drama "Alcatraz" would be the likeliest candidate, but it would be better to hold this J.J. Abrams drama to November, when it can steer clear of fall clutter and use Fox's post-season baseball as a promotional platform that can really drive the male-skewing audience that should embrace a time-travel actioner. So let's put presumably returning reality staple "Hell's Kitchen," giving Fox at least one night where there's no new shows.
"Bones" and "Fringe" should move to Friday. Move these modest performers to a night that can subsist on modest results. A conservative move for shows that aren't strong enough to be potent lead-ins, though look for "Finder" to land here at some point if it can't hack it on Wednesday, just in time to give "Bones'" a breather when star Emily Deschanel takes time off for her pregnancy.
Saturday stays the same but look for a tweak to Sunday. Fox has more cartoons in its Animation Domination block than it knows what to do with. Look for "American Dad" or "Cleveland Show" to take a nap until midseason so that "The Simpsons" or "Family Guy" can be used as a lead-in for new rookies "Allen Gregory" or "Napoleon Dynamite" sitting on the bench.
As the top-rated network, Fox doesn't want to make too many changes because they'll want to demonstrate some stablility to Madison Avenue. On the other hand, they're going to have make some big changes given all their bubble shows are gone and "Factor" is a big piece of real estate. Expect programming chiefs Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly to spin this that their strengths allow them to get aggressive. And if it's too much too soon, they can rest easy knowing the World Series comes a bit early this year (Oct. 19), which will give their sked a rest and an opportunity to reboot.
8 p.m. "House"
9 p.m. "Hell's Kitchen"
8 p.m. "Glee"
9 p.m. "The New Girl" NEW
9:30 p.m. "Raising Hope"
8 p.m. "X Factor" NEW
9 p.m. "The Finder" NEW
8 p.m. "X Factor" NEW
9 p.m. "Terra Nova" NEW
8 p.m. "Bones"
9 p.m. "Fringe"
8 p.m. "Cops"
9 p.m. "America's Most Wanted"
7:30 p.m. "American Dad"
8 p.m. "Simpsons"
8:30 p.m. "Bob's Burgers"
9 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30 p.m. "Allen Gregory" NEW