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Posted at 8:15 PM ET, 01/11/2011

TV Press Tour's Fox executive session shockingly catastrophe-free

By Lisa de Moraes

After suffering through ABC's super-cynical day at Winter TV Press Tour 2011, TV critics revived the next morning when the Fox network showed up, like drought-parched daisies in a gentle rain.

Fox gave them a day jammed with lively face time with the casts and crews of its new, and returning, TV series -- unlike ABC, whose new-ish programming chief might talk a good story about the critical role marketing plays in the success of a new TV show in this fragmented marketplace, but which could not be bothered holding more than one show Q&A session for a room filled with a couple hundred bloggers, reporters, columnists and TV just itching to be part of ABC's marketing effort.

And, of course, the press Fox executive sessions are always the highlight of any press tour, because they always seem to be knee deep in disaster - usually "American Idol"-related, at tour time.

At last summer's tour, for instance, coincided with Fox's decision to gut the "Idol" judge panel. Last January, at the tour, Simon Cowell announced he was bailing on "Idol" and actually signed his new contract to produce and star in an American version of his "The X Factor" for the network. And it was during a press tour that "Idol" judge Paula Abdul tweeted she was walking from the singing competition after a contract dispute.

But when Tuesday rolled around, no disaster had yet befallen Fox executives, unless you count canceling "Lone Star" after just two episodes and having already killed two of its three fall TV series. Not exactly a hot fall.

Would they be facing a room filled with press who resembled a mountain lion in the foothills of Colorado expecting a jogger and finding only a Saltine?

Fortunately for Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly and entertainment chairman Peter Rice, the press was in a generous mood, willing to meet them half way.

One blogger asked whether it felt like "a punch to the [genitals] when their biggest fall launch, the primetime soap "Lone Star" was DOA.

"It was a drag. It was a real bummer" Rice said, beaming at the critics as if they had just brought him good news from a distant land.

"As much as we like to act like we have a crystal ball and know all along, you're only a few DNA strands away from a hit -- between a hit and a failure.

"And that same DNA of being creatively bold yields a 'Glee,' and then the other side of it is we
thought we were taking another really good, bold bet -- I appreciate a lot of you responding to it - with a show that unfortunately went the other way on us."

Another critic demanded he be allowed to ask "a question about the F word."

By which, the critic said, he meant "Fox, Fringe and Friday," insisting the two men explain the decision to move the sci-fi series to Friday -- aka Death by Timeslot night -- and end the "fear among the fans that somehow the network has given up on" the show.

"I beg you to not write the eulogy prematurely," Reilly replied.

"It's a show we're very passionate about. Friday has been a troubled night....It's not a free night for us. We are continually looking for the solution to the night."

Emboldened by how well this was going, the two suits dared to shoot down reports its new Steven Spielberg orgy of special effects, "Terra Nova" has not had enormous cost overruns.

"It's on budget," Rice said.

"It's the most expensive first-year show we've ever had," he acknowledged, but quickly added, "It's not the most expensive show we have on our air."

A member of the press wanted to know what they thought of other networks trying to develop high school musical series, a la Fox's "Glee."

"Do you think that your competitors were kind of stupid to even try? Are they misguided and foolish?" the critic asked.

"They can do whatever they want," Reilly said generously. "I think it's always tough to chase something that's hot, and even if you do a good version of it, you tend to look like a 'me too'."

"But are they stupid?" Rice asked Reilly.

"Some of them are," Reilly replied coyly.

"Kevin, can you tell us which of your competitors you believe are stupid?" the critic asked.

By Lisa de Moraes  | January 11, 2011; 8:15 PM ET
Categories:  Winter TV Press Tour 2011  
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Next: Everybody loves Conan at Winter TV Press Tour

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