Fox’s Michael Thorn Warns Of “Shallow Pools Of Talent” In Broadcast As Net Moves Ahead With New Development Models

Our Kind of People, Monarch and The Big Leap – three of Fox’s new originals for the 2021-22 broadcast season – all took different routes to screen.

The network has been shaking up its development process for the past couple of years, using a mixture of traditional pilot orders, straight-to-series orders, script-to-series greenlights and low-cost summer commissions.

It’s a good thing too, given that Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn revealed that this year the network received fewer traditional development pitches than ever before.

“Every year, the traditional cycle of development changes. This year has the fewest amount of pitches I’ve ever seen. Shallow pools of talent is challenging for every platform. That said, [with] our strategy, being year-round and looking at all different types of programming, we’re really well suited and in a position to handle. We’re not reliant on two months of a pitching window. I’d like to think we’re ahead of the curve and prepared to weather that,” he said.

Our Kind of People, which comes from Lee Daniels and Karin Gist, was the first show to come out of its script-to-series model introduced last summer, which involves the opening of a writers room. The series is inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class and takes place in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, a historical stronghold where the rich and powerful Black elite have come to play for more than 50 years. It stars Yaya DaCosta and Morris Chestnut.

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Monarch, meanwhile, is a country music drama created by Melissa London Hilfers and starring Anna Friel and Susan Sarandon. The show, which will launch midseason as part of a two-night premiere in January, similarly came out of the script-to-series model that utilizes a writers room.

The Big Leap, however, was handed a pilot order, six years after first landing in development at ABC. The series, a ballet-themed hourlong comedy-drama, comes from The Passage writer/executive producer Liz Heldens and producer Sue Naegle.

It will be joined midseason by another pilot-order-through-to-series in The Cleaning Lady, based on an Argentinean series.

Thorn said he and his team have felt “emboldened” by the creative on The Big Leap and Our Kind of People, which both launch this month.

“We’ve been living with The Big Leap and Our Kind of People, along with a few other series, throughout the whole pandemic and we’ve remained as passionate about them as when we first committed to the pilot of The Big Leap and the script-to-series room for Our Kind of People,” he said.

He called The Big Leap “aspirational” and called Our Kind of People “exciting.”

Thorn added that there was no longer a “one-size-fits-all” approach to development and included summer series Fantasy Island, which utilizes a lower cost approach, in this strategy.

“We’re trying to rethink what broadcast TV can be to our audience and some of that is playing with the process to get to that greenlight,” he said.

He pointed to the pilot order of its adaptation of The Last Policeman; the Naomi and Wynonna Judd anthology drama series Icon, which is in the works as a script-to-series; and a new procedural from Greg Berlanti.

“We have a few off-cycle, all year-round pieces of development that are standing out,” he said. “We’ve [also] been ramping up our Fox Entertainment-owned dramas and comedies so we’ve been optioning IP and we have been quietly making unique script deals with talent.”

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