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Fox bosses talk up 'The Four,' their answer to 'American Idol,' and future of '24'

Contestant Sonika Vaid performs during a dress rehearsal for the final season of "American Idol" on Fox. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Contestant Sonika Vaid performs during a dress rehearsal for the final season of "American Idol" on Fox. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

"American Idol" who?

Top on Fox's agenda during the network's portion of panels Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills was talking up it's new singing competition series slated for next year, "The Four."

The new reality competition not only fills the void left by "American Idol," which had long been a tentpole series in the genre, but "The Four" also serves as a bit of retribution as "American Idol" makes its jump to ABC.

"Its concept feels fresh and timely and it has inherent urgency," Fox Television Group Co-Chairmen Dana Walden told reporters. 

"The Four," the show's working title, begins where most singing competitions end: with the finalists. Each week, four singers selected from their auditions from a panel of music experts will sing against challengers, which could include viewers, to keep their spot on the show. The panel of music experts--not yet cast--will guide the winner's career.  Rob Wade, Fox's head of alternative programming,  described "The Four" as "'Game of Thrones' with better singing and less nudity." The series is based on an Israeli format.

"The prize is unique. It's designed to discover and build the career of a new music star--and that's something we feel has been missing lately in music competitions," Walden said. "They've become much more about celebrity panels and much less about star making.

When it was implied that some might view the series as Fox's attempt to sabotage ABC's run of "American Idol," Walden jokingly deadpanned: "Really?"

A premiere date has not been announced, but the series is expected to launch next year. But it likely won't run against "The Voice" or "American Idol," Walden said.

"We really believe in this show," she said. "We're not developing it to just try to create some noise in the same space."

Wade also noted that the series was being treated as an event and, therefore, would have a shorter run than most singing competition series.

But even with all the talk of the network's new singing competition series, questions remained about the network's decision to cancel "American Idol" and, moreso, how it let the show slip away to ABC--topics Walden has addressed before and attempted to again: citing high cost and dwindling ratings.

When Walden was asked who was making a mistake--Fox for canceling the show or ABC for reviving it so soon after it went off the air--Walden wryly shot back, "ABC... I'm just kidding."

Time was also spent discussing the future of "24."  Though "24: Legacy" won't live on, Walden and David Madden, president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Co., made it clear the "24" brand is not dead at Fox. "Perhaps it will live in a more anthological story franchise," Walden said.

Talks of its next possible iteration have begun with executive producers Howard Gordon ad Brian Grazer. And Madden said the next version of "24" will likely not be aligned to the show's fictional counterterrorism organization, CTU.

"We want to take the same kind of ticking clock and apply it to something else," Madden said.

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