‘Empire’ to get 1 more season on Fox amid schedule shake-up

Associated Press
Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson in "Empire."

New York – “Empire” will return for its final season this fall on Fox – with Jussie Smollett a question mark – and should count itself lucky.

Fox, the lowest-rated network among the big four broadcasters, is hitting the reset button for the 2019-20 season by canceling eight shows and adding 10 new ones.

“Empire” companion drama “Star” is among the goners as the network makes room for an eclectic mix of wrestling, two new animated comedies and a “9-1-1” spinoff starring Rob Lowe.

“We are turning the final season of ‘Empire’ into a large television event,” Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier told a teleconference Monday. “One of the great benefits of announcing a final season is that you actually allow the fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve.”

Collier dodged questions about Smollett’s future with the show after the actor was accused of staging an attack in which he said two masked men beat him, hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, doused him with a chemical substance and put a rope around his neck. Criminal charges were dropped but the uproar has yet to subside, making Smollett a continued publicity liability for Fox.

When pressed, Collier said there is an option to include him in the series “but at this point we have no plans for that.”

As for “Star,” which had been paired on the schedule with “Empire,” it fell victim to Fox’s prime-time schedule, which is an hour shorter per night than the other networks, Collier said. The network also wanted to give “Empire” a strong send-off by pairing it with returning medical drama “The Resident,” he said.

Fox was split from sibling studio 20th Century Fox Television after Walt Disney Co. purchased the studio and other major assets of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. But Collier, in a strenuously upbeat statement, said today “marks a beginning for Fox Entertainment” as it works with a variety of studios for its new shows.

“Fox is not only open for business but we feel like we’re stronger than ever,” Collier said.

The voices are familiar

Fox has long been known for its animated comedies, most notably “The Simpsons,” and is betting viewers want more. To sweeten the deal, three shows will include actors known for their on-screen work.

“Bless the Harts,” about a Southern family that’s poor but rich in friends and relations, will debut this fall with Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Mary Steenburgen in its voice cast. It’s created by Emily Spivey, whose credits include “The Last Man on Earth.”

Later-season entries include “The Great North,” from “Bob’s Burgers” creator Loren Bouchard and featuring the voices of Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Jenny Slate and Will Forte in the tale of a single Alaska dad and his kids. “Duncanville,” about an imaginative teenage boy and his father, includes Amy Poehler, Ty Burrell and Rashida Jones in its voice cast.

Asked why Fox isn’t fielding a live-action sitcom this fall, Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn said it does have a “signature” comedy in “Bless the Harts.”

There will be a new multi-camera comedy in midseason, “Outmatched,” starring Jason Biggs and Maggie Lawson as a blue-collar couple raising four kids, three of them genius-level, and “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen will be back then as well.

So long, pal

If misery loves company, then the makers and cast of “Star,” including Jude Demorest and Queen Latifah, and “Lethal Weapon” and star Damon Wayans are far from alone.

Other series canceled by Fox: Kelsey Grammer’s “Proven Innocent”; comedy “The Cool Kids,” which starred veterans including David Alan Grier and Vicki Lawrence; “The Gifted,” which was set in Marvel’s “X-Men” universe; reality series “Love Connection” with host Andy Cohen; sci-fi drama “The Passage,” and sitcom “Rel” with Lil Rel Howery.