The Telefile
Fox’s 2011 Upfront Presentation: So Successful, Even <I>Napoleon Dynamite</i> Can’t Take Them Down

It's almost not fair for Fox to hold their Upfront presentation the same day as NBC's. The difference between the networks is night and day, with Fox premiering a handful of huge, splashy new shows while boasting their many existing hits and 7-years-at-number-one track record, while NBC is trying to bounce back from a completely failed 2010 programming slate with an entirely new one and only one certified ratings hit in The Voice. So, even though quite a few of Fox's new shows look abysmal, I really can't feel too sorry for them. Let's take a look at what's new.

Fall Shows

The X Factor (Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 PM)
The trailer for the long-awaited U.S. version of this show was culled together from only the few days of auditions they've had so far but still, despite a copious amount of dramatic music, Simon Cowell insults and pyrotechnics, it looked somewhat... lackluster? Simon didn't have much to say about the strengths of the judges and hosts other than constant reiterations of how attractive they are, and when handed the microphone, Paula Abdul (who looked befuddled, emaciated and jerky) just seemed confused and sputtered out a concise "I love you, Simon." So, it appears that we can expect her signature articulate speaking style on the new show, then. Tell us again: Why is this woman back on television?

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Wednesdays at 9:30 PM)
This show, about two moms (Jaime Pressly and Katie Finnernan) who were unpopular growing up and are now facing off against their mean girl teenage daughters, was something I wanted to like based solely on the cast, but man, this trailer was not good. It featured a laugh track, over-the-top sitcom-ness and nothing but inelegant jokes about insecure, petty, catty, shallow ladies. Oh, joy. I would say that this is some crap even CBS would cancel, but it's being giving the sweet spot after The X Factor, so I guess anything's possible.

Allen Gregory (Sundays at 8:30 PM)
Sandwiched between The Simpsons and Family Guy will be this animated Jonah Hill project, about a brilliant, highly successful child (voiced by Hill) who is forced to attend elementary school with his intellectually inferior peers. I didn't laugh much at the trailer, but there was still something about how wrong the show's humor is that I kind of liked. At any rate, despite sharing a producer with Family Guy, it still looks a lot more sophisticated than any Seth MacFarlane show, at least.

Terra Nova (Mondays at 8 PM)
My urge to snark at this crazy hyped show is strong, but the newly retooled trailer Fox showed today looks absolutely gorgeous. I mean, it looks exactly like Avatar and Jason O'Mara is about as exciting as Sam Worthington, but maybe that won't matter with giant, slobbery dinosaurs chomping on everything. There weren't a lot of lines to evaluate in the preview, but one everyone seems to have latched onto is: "There's no paradise without sacrifice." Ooh, I think I just learned something! Thanks, Steven Spielberg!

New Girl (Tuesdays at 9 PM)
This one's a half-hour sitcom about a quirky, manic girl (Zooey Deschanel) who moves in with three guys (who fall in love with her, natch) after experiencing a painful break-up. And look, either you think Zooey Deschanel is impossibly adorable, or she makes you want to puke. I'm in the second camp, and considering that all the footage of her in this preview showcased her crying, laughing, laugh-crying, dancing and singing constantly while trying so, so hard to be the absolute cutest sexy Hummel in Silver Lake, I am totally avoiding this thing like the plague this fall. But, you know, watch it if you like that kind of thing.


The Finder
I'm not a Bones fan, but this spinoff actually looked fun. The cast -- Geoff Stults, Michael Clarke Duncan and Saffron Burrows -- seemed to have good chemistry, and it takes a light, breezy approach to solving grisly murders that is pretty similar to the way USA shows do. Which, considering the enormous ratings of USA shows, might be part of their strategy here.

Napoleon Dynamite
Yes, this is an animated adaptation of the film, featuring all the original actors voicing the characters. My worst nightmare. Fox's entertainment president went on and on about the movie's cult status, and though that was certainly true at one time, who even cares about Napoleon Dynamite anymore? It's not exactly timeless.

From JJ Abrams and Lost producer Elizabeth Sarnoff, Alcatraz is a thriller based around the conceit that all the prisoners who were relocated when Alcatraz closed in 1963 actually vanished into thin air, which was covered up by a vast conspiracy, but are now popping up to commit heinous crimes in 2011. It sounds ridiculous on paper, but the trailer was actually really, really cool. That could just be the work of good editing, but as long as the writing stays focused and doesn't go off on FlashForward and The Event-like diversions and exercises in risible stupidity, this could be a fun new genre show. Oh, and wonderful to see you again, Hurley.

Family Album
This one starts later in midseason as a spring show, and it stars Mike O'Malley and Rachael Harris as a married couple and parents to... some kids of some kind. There was sparse footage shown, but who doesn't love those two? Just hope the writing's better than I Hate My Teenage Daughter's.

Little in Common
Another spring show and a companion to Family Album, this one stars Rob Corddry, Paula Marshall and Kevin Hart and is about three middle class suburban couples interacting over their children's sports teams. Didn't see much footage for this one either, but Kevin Hart had a great line in one part. That's promising, isn't it?

A drama about a man (Kiefer Sutherland) with an autistic son who can see patterns in the world that lead to mass casualty events. There was no promo put together yet, but despite that and my love of Kiefer, a few things bother me about this project already: 1) The words "from the mind of Tim Kring"; 2) The fact that Fox is very proud to have secured the Water for Elephants director for the pilot, considering that movie was unremittingly boring and painfully meandering; and 3) The way Fox's Kevin Reilly called the show "groundbreaking" about 73 times in the presentation, even though not a single second of it has actually been shot, let alone seen by anybody, yet. Unwarranted hubris is never a good sign where these things are concerned.

Seth MacFarlane's The Flintstones
As with everything he makes, I'm sure this will make a zillion dollars and amass huge numbers of very passionate fans, but MacFarlane sold the thing to the audience by saying it would answer questions like "What's the animal version of the iPod?" Oh, finally the answer to that question. Coming your way in 2013, inquiring minds!

Check out video previews and analysis of every upcoming new show from ABC, CBS, The CW, NBC, TBS and TNT. Plus: see which pilots deserved to be rejected and which cancellations made us happy.

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