With The Gifted, Ghosted and The Orville on deck for the fall, joining the continuing X-Files revival, Fox has joined the increasing parade of supernatural genre shows on TV.
But Fox Chief Dana Walden denied that being an intention of the network.
“Everybody is ordering their best pilots. The Gifted is very much a family adventure. Orville is an exploration of space and the human condition. Ghosted is a buddy comedy. They didn’t come under genre programs. The Gifted speaks to romance, relationships, family and you can tap into recognizable IP, the X-Men universe. There’s a built-in fanbase that’s going to give us a shot,” said Walden.
Long seen as a detriment, genre shows have thrived in this era of peak TV.
“You want to break out of the clutter and feel original. Some years, the trend feels more procedural, some years the trend feels more genre. We’re competing with a lot of different shows, and we choose the shows that we think could breakout, were executed the best, could market the most effectively, and with people who we trusted to make 13 to 22 episodes.”
That includes creator and executive producer Matt Nix and director Bryan Singer for The Gifted, arguably Fox’s biggest tentpole of the fall.
Made with Marvel Television and set in the X-Men universe, the series stars Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Amy Acker (Person of Interest) as parents to children who have mutant powers. In the pilot, the family joins up with a clandestine group of mutants to save themselves from a hostile government.
“In our world one of the things we’re unpacking is the specific relationship of this group of characters to the X-Men,” said Nix. “The X-Men are gone. It’s a thing in the show, and we’re going to be exploring it. And it’s a huge deal to these guys – a huge deal in the world. It’s one of the central mysteries.”
The Gifted premieres Monday October 2 at 9/8c.
On the other end of the supernatural spectrum is Ghosted, an action comedy pairing a skeptic (Craig Robinson) and believer (Adam Scott) that investigate supernatural phenomenon in Los Angeles. The series certainly echoes The X-Files, but the writers cite other inspirations.
“We drew inspiration from classic buddy comedies like Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop,” said Ghosted’s executive producer Kevin Etten. “Then we were influenced by recent movies like This is the End. We thought we’d do a true action sci-fi buddy-based relationship comedy.”
“From the very beginning, we were all kind of hoping that Ghosted at its best, ideally, would be the baby of something like Midnight Run and Stranger Things,” said executive producer and star Adam Scott.
With an emphasis on practical FX and these touchstones, the show has positioned itself as a nostalgic (and comedic) homage to the 80s.
Ghosted will air Sundays at 8:30 PM and premieres October 1.
Rounding out the three genre entrants for the fall is The Orville, a sci-fi comedy from Seth MacFarlane.
The show has been marketed as a comedy, but the show is an honest homage to Star Trek, and MacFarlane was asked if he had concerns about the marketing of the show.
“That thought has crossed my mind, but the comedy is a significant part of this. I feel great about the shows we’ve done. Tonally they’re going to speak for themselves. Once people tune in and see what the hour has to offer, it’ll become clear,” said MacFarlane. “There’s a tidiness to the way they’re promoting it. I tend to trust the marketing department because it’s not really my area of expertise. I’m very happy with the promoting. It is one piece to a larger geometric shape.”
That dichotomy of tone flummoxed critics, who asked for clarification on MacFarlane’s vision for the show.
“The show is seeking to break a little new ground tonally. It’s not something that’s really been done in recent years, at least not in the hourlong format. I think how you roll that out in a 30 second segment is [hard]. I’ve been thrilled with what they’ve come up with,” he said.
“This is completely original, and yet a return to a kind of storytelling that I really miss,” said Executive Producer Brannon Braga. “It’s a standalone one-hour drama with a beginning, middle and an end. That’s something of a rarity these days.”
“The show is not serialized. You can watch episodes out of order and still get a fulfilling viewing experience. Again, that’s something I’ve missed about TV. Everything expects me to invest from day one,” said MacFarlane.
MacFarlane cites the hourlong format as the cause for the confusion.
“If this were a half hour, it would be cut and dry what this is. Because we’re an hourlong show, the story has to come first. It can’t be gag gag gag. There has to be some reality of where the jokes come from. There isn’t anything that exists in the Spaceballs or Family Guy realm. Jokes come out of who the characters are and adhere to the reality of the science-fiction world,” said MacFarlane.
“Nothing delves into the Mel Brooks realm, and that’s by design. We see it as a sci-fi comedic drama. We allow ourselves room for levity in ways that a traditional hourlong sci-fi show doesn’t. We’re trying to break some new ground here. Whether we’ve succeeded is obviously up to the viewer.”
The show obviously draws from Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, and is a throwback to a simpler time of TV.
“Because I miss the optimism. Because I’m tired of the grim, dystopian, killing each other for food. I’ve had enough of that,” said MacFarlane. “I miss the hopeful side of science fiction, which goes back to the roots of science fiction. It was a conscious choice because I miss that flavor of science fiction.”
“I miss the forward-thinking aspirational optimist place that Star Trek used to occupy. They’ve chosen to go in a different direction, and its left open a space that has been unoccupied for a way,” said MacFarlane. “It’s a space that’s waiting to be filled. In this day and age when we’re getting a lot of dystopian science fiction. It can’t always be a Hunger Games nightmare scenario. This is an aspirational blueprint of if we get our sh*t together. This is an attempt to fill that void in the genre.”
Fox hopes that many other people will fill that void when The Orville premieres September 10 at 8/7c.
Given the demand for genre TV and in the cineplex (see: Marvel movies), it’s no surprise that Fox hasn’t (yet?) pulled the plug on Wayward Pines. As of now, creator M. Night Shyamalan has talked with Dana and David about what a third season would be, but no decision has been made.
But the network has certainly made the same decision that multiple networks have over the past few years: that genre TV offers perhaps its best chance at a breakout hit.
[All images courtesy of Fox]