Fox's fall schedule includes three new series, three back-to-back sports nights and time slot changes for five returning shows.
The network, newly separated from 20th Century Fox Television after the studio's sale to Disney, will end its week with "Thursday Night Football," Friday's "WWE Smackdown Live" (imported from USA Network) and Saturday's fall college football games.
But its first schedule as an independent network quells fears the network would abandon scripted programming. Besides three fall newcomers, seven more sitcoms and dramas are on tap for midseason, including a spinoff of "9-1-1" set in Austin, Texas, starring Rob Lowe that's planned for January. Returning series "Last Man Standing" and "The Orville" will also wait for midseason debuts.
Fall newcomers include "Not Just Me," starring Brittany Snow as an only child who discovers her fertility-doctor father (Timothy Hutton) used his own sperm to conceive more than a hundred children, and forms a bond with two sisters.
Also due: "Prodigal Son," a "darkly comic" drama starring Tom Payne (“The Walking Dead”) as the son of a convicted serial killer (Michael Sheen) who makes hunting murderers his career. And in a big bet on animation, three new cartoons will hit Fox next season, including fall's "Bless the Harts," about a struggling Southern family, featuring the voices of Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz.
The upcoming sixth season of "Empire" will also be the last, Fox announced Monday, likely without star Jussie Smollett after he was accused of faking an attack. "We have an option to do it, but there are no plans at this point" to include him in the final season, says Fox chief Charlie Collier, who declined to say whether the controversy led to the cancellation.
The show will also return to Tuesdays along with a relocated "The Resident" as part of a significant scheduling revamp. Sunday's animation lineup will be rejiggered, with "Bob's Burgers" moving to 9 EDT/PDT and "Family Guy" sliding a half-hour later. And "9-1-1" and "Masked Singer" will move an hour earlier on Mondays and Wednesdays, respectively.
"Masked Singer" was a huge hit last winter, and will be back for two more editions, the second premiering after the Super Bowl. But it has fared less favorably with other new series. Gone are freshmen "The Cool Kids," "Rel," "The Passage" and "Proven Innocent," along with "Gotham," "The Gifted" and "Star."
Yet Fox is the only major broadcast network to add viewers this season, thanks mostly to the addition of the NFL and "Masked," this season's top-rated series among younger viewers. The network is averaging 5.5 million primetime TV viewers, up 10% from last season, and is up 3% among young adults. But it still ranks fourth among all viewers and is tied (with CBS) for second among the 18-to-49 crowd.
Other midseason shows include "Duncanville," an animated comedy from Amy Poehler, and "Filthy Rich," a family soap starring Kim Cattrall.
Fox's fall schedule
All times EDT/PDT; new shows in bold; new time slots in italics
Monday: 8, 9-1-1; 9, "Prodigal Son"
Tuesday: 8, "The Resident"; 9, "Empire"
Wednesday: 8, "The Masked Singer"; 9, "Not Just Me"
Thursday: 8, "Thursday Night Football"
Friday: 8, WWE's "Smackdown Live"
Saturday: 8, "Fox College Football"
Sunday: 7, NFL overrun; 7:30, "The OT"; 8, "The Simpsons"; 8:30, "Bless the Harts"; 9: "Bob's Burgers"; 9:30, "Family Guy"
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fox plots more 'toons, a '9-1-1' spinoff, the end of 'Empire' and plenty of 'Masked Singer'