It was a night of winners and wannabe winners Wednesday, with NBC’s America’s Got Talent (2.5/7) and CBS’ Big Brother (2.4/7) wrapping their latest cycles just in time for the fall season, On CBS it was veterans night as Big Brother’s Season 15 came to an end and Survivor (2.6/8) started its 27th cycle with 90-minute episodes each. After a season marred by racial slurs among its contestants, the Julie Chen-hosted Big Brother found its $500,000 grand prize winner. Although the 9:30-11 PM finale dipped just 4% compared with its Season 14 finale on September 19, 2012 and week-to-week it bopped up 4% from its September 11 show, last night ended up being the show’s lowest finale of the last six seasons. With a few new twists on the formula, Survivor: Blood & Water, on the other hand, took a real tumble compared to its Season 25 opener on September 19, 2012. Marking the show’s 400th episode and the top-rated show of the night, last night’s 8-9:30 PM Survivor fell 19% from its previous fall premiere. That makes last night the show’s lowest fall debut in its long long history. Compared to its 90-minute Season 26 opener on February 13, the Mark Burnett-produced show saw an 8% rise among the key demo. With a 2.5/8 rating CBS won the night among adults 18-49 and NBC topped the night in viewers with 9.203 million.
Expect to see Simon Cowell driving up to The X Factor auditions in an Odyssey minivan instead of his traditional gigantic black Over-Compensating Vehicle, now that Honda has signed on to replace Chevrolet as official automotive sponsor of his Fox singing competition. In this morning’s announcement, Fox, Cowell’s Syco Entertainment, and FreemantleMedia North America said Honda had signed on to the show in order to help launch the redesigned 2014 Odyssey minivan. The campaign will feature three in-show integrations — think X-ettes driving around in a minivan while singing tunes — digital voting sponsorship, and off-air rights. Honda also gets “ownership” of the franchise’s so-called Fan Rewards — incentives to fans for clicking and interacting their way through The X Factor digital landscape with points, to use for show and Honda merchandise.
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘X Factor’ Musical; Hugh Jackman Honored In Zurich; Beijing Fest In Venice & More
London’s ‘X Factor’ Musical Finds Its Simon Cowell
Nigel Harman, the former Eastenders star who has a role in Season 4 of Downton Abbey, has been tapped to play a character based on Simon Cowell in I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical. The show will be directed by Olivier Award-winner and Tony Award-nominee, Sean Foley. It’s set to premiere at the London Palladium on March 26, 2014. Cowell and Sony Music’s joint venture Syco Entertainment is partnering with Stage Entertainment UK to launch the show that’s written by British comedian Harry Hill.
Hugh Jackman Honored At Zurich Film Festival
Hugh Jackman will receive the Golden Icon Award at the Zurich Film Festival which runs September 26 – October 6. The fest’s most prestigious symbol of recognition is awarded “in appreciation of the lifetime achievements of an actor or actress.” Jackman’s latest film, Prisoners, will be screened at the fest. “Hugh Jackman is in a class by himself as a multi-talented entertainer with a global following,” said fest co-director Karl Spoerri. “There is nothing he can’t do and he proves this time and time again with every project he’s involved in. We’re honored to recognize his brilliant career at the Zurich Film Festival.”
Fox has a Thursday problem. The problem is X Factor followed by Glee. Their ratings are not catastrophic — they’re just not what the show once enjoyed, or what Fox would like to see again. The X Factor’s Thursday results show was down 25% in overall audience last season, and 21% in the demo (9.5 million viewers, 3.3 rating) compared to the season previous, and the season previous wasn’t anything to write home about — which is why all but one of the show’s non-Simon Cowell judges, and one of two hosts, are not returning in the fall. Glee, meanwhile fell another 13% in the demo, and 10% overall, last season (3.3 rating, 8.1 million viewers) – and that’s with just one rerun in the ratings mix – making it that show’s lowest-rated season yet. Back in its second season, Glee managed to snag 10.3 million viewers and a 4.2 rating with around a dozen repeats factored in.
Enter Demi Lovato.
In one of those the-whole-is-bigger-than-the-sum-of-its-parts theme nights, the popular singer/former child star has been signed to appear in at least six episodes of Glee this coming season, while also appearing as X’s sole surviving non-Simon judge. That’s at least six Lovato-themed Thursdays this season — more than a third of Glee‘s episode order for the season. It’s the former Disney Channel star’s first major acting gig since Sonny With A Chance called it a day. She’ll first appear in the second part of Glee’s Beatles tribute, on October 3, as TVLine noted.
“It’s like having a dinner party – you invite people for dinner and sometimes it’s a fun night and sometimes not as fun as you thought it was going to be,” Simon Cowell said of last year’s judge panel on his singing competition series. When did Simon realize last season’s “dinner party” — Britney Spears, LA Reid, Demi Lovato and Simon – wasn’t going well? “It was more of a feeling it was similar to what everyone else was doing and I had this impatience to get on to Season 3 so I could do what I wanted to do,” Simon told TV critics at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. “This is a fun dinner party,” added Simon of his new all-girl judge panel, seated with him on stage. Last May, Fox announced former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, and Mexican singer/actress Paulina Rubio had replaced Reid and Spears. Rowland is not new to the gig, having been a judge on the Brit version in ’11.
Fox Fall Premiere Dates: Network To Debut Lineup Outside Of Premiere Week, Launches Staggered From September To November
As usual, given the number of pre-emptions for postseason baseball, Fox is getting ahead of the pack with early fall launches to give affected series longer uninterrupted runs. Last fall, Fox premiered The X Factor, Glee, Bonesand Mob Doctor in the two weeks leading to premiere week. The same shows (with newbie Sleepy Hollow in for the defunct Mob Doctor on Mondays) again will launch early this year, joined by Fox’s Tuesday comedy block. Only Friday entry Masterchef Junior and the Sunday animated block will open during the official premiere week, with Almost Human, Raising Hope and Enlisted held back until the end of baseball season. Check out Fox’s fall premiere dates after the jump:
Related: Fox New Series First Looks
Veteran News Corp. TV executive David Hill is stepping in to oversee Fox’s flagship reality series American Idol and The X Factor. Hill, who serves as Senior EVP of News Corp. after a long tenure as chairman and CEO of Fox Sports, is not a replacement for Fox’s departing alternative programming president Mike Darnell but will take over his duties on Idol and X Factor. Following Darnell’s recent announcement that he was stepping down, there has been a decision-making vacuum on the two shows, with Idol in particular in dire need of someone to oversee its upcoming overhaul following record-low ratings.
Three of the four judges — Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Randy Jackson — already announced they are not coming back. Executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warrick also are not expected to continue, but even that decision has not been formalized, along with the recruitment of new judges, with negotiations with Idol alumna Jennifer Hudson stalled. Hill’s coming on board is expected to help get things moving. It also will shift the way the two shows are run toward a more traditional network/producer relationship, with Hill serving as the network’s point person for the producers.
EXCLUSIVE: The reality TV landscape will never be the same. After 18 years at Fox, the dean of unscripted TV executives, Fox’s President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell, is stepping down. He will stay on through the end of June, when his current contract is up, and help with the transition. Darnell was offered a new long-term deal at the network but, after long deliberation, decided it was time to move on. Darnell faced similar agonizing soul-searching several years ago when he was offered rich producing deals elsewhere but ultimately opted to stay at Fox, where he’s had free rein on the unscripted side. This time around, he decided to leave the network, which he helped build first with noise-making reality specials like World’s Scariest Police Chases and When Animals Attack! and then with such tentpole series as American Idol and Family Guy. The colorful, unconventional, cowboy hat-wearing Darnell never shied away from controversy, relishing in the blockbuster attention projects like the Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? special and hit series Joe Millionaire brought on. In a testament to Darnell’s importance to Fox and parent News Corp, company chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch weighed in on his departure. “Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today,” Murdoch said. “He’s a smart and fearless executive who will be missed.”
Darnell is expected to take some time off before making his next move, which I hear likely will be in the producing/entrepreneurial arena. “I’m extremely grateful that Fox has offered me a new long-term contract (and anyone who knows me won’t believe I’m saying this), but I’ve decided it’s time for a change,” Darnell said. “With my current deal ending in June, and having been here for 18 years (kind of a record in Hollywood), I had to make a decision: either stay (and basically admit to myself I was going to retire at Fox … not a terrible choice) or leave and try something new. I’ve been in ‘Reality’ since before it was even called that, and it has truly been an amazing ride. However, the world has changed drastically over the last few years, and now with hundreds of channels and limitless ways to watch television, I’ve decided this was the perfect time to take advantage of the rapidly changing marketplace. To say I am going to miss everyone here and that the people at Fox are like a family to me would be the understatement of the decade. I have so many people to thank (and I will call all of you!), but first and foremost, I want to thank Kevin Reilly, Peter Rice, Chase Carey and Rupert Murdoch for all their amazing support over these many years,” the exec said in a statement Friday.
Related: Anyone Care Who Won ‘American Idol’?
Fox is expected to begin the search for Darnell’s successor, who will navigate veteran American Idol and The X Factor through their upcoming overhauls, soon as Idol is looking to rebound from all-time low ratings. “Mike has been a trailblazer for the entire industry and has made innumerable contributions to the growth and success of the network over the past two decades,” said Rice, Chairman of Fox Networks Group. “His passion for – and dedication to – television knows no bounds. He is like a member of the family, and Fox won’t be the same without him. While we wish he would’ve stayed forever, we regretfully accept his decision.”
The Extra co-host Mario Lopez is coming back for another season hosting Fox’s The X Factor, but Khloe Kardashian is not. “Khloe Kardashian will not be returning to co-host The X Factor. We really enjoyed working with her and wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” X Factor producers said today. Both Lopez and the E! reality star were named as the new hosts of the competition series’ second season in October 2012. A seasoned hosting pro, Lopez easily fronted the show but Kardashian struggled, earning the mockery of many viewers. In today’s announcement about Lopez’s return, X Factor’s main man made no mention of Kardashian’s departure. “I’m thrilled Mario is back for Season Three of The X Factor. Hosting a live show and keeping the judges — especially Demi — in line, is not an easy job, but Mario is a pro and we are glad he’s coming back,” Simon Cowell said in statement.