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 “but at this point we have no plans for that.”
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.
There will be a new 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.
If misery loves company, then the makers and cast of “Star” and “Lethal Weapon” are far from alone.
Other series canceled by Fox are Kelsey Grammer's “Proven Innocent,” comedy “The Cool Kids,” X-Men universe series “The Gifted,” reality series “Love Connection,” sci-fi drama “The Passage” and sitcom “Rel.”
Fox's prime-time schedule for fall 2019 (new series in bold):
8 p.m. – “9-1-1”
9 p.m. – “Prodigal Son”
8 p.m. – “The Resident”
9 p.m. – “Empire”
8 p.m. – “The Masked Singer”
9 p.m. – “Not Just Me”
8 p.m. – NFL Football
8 p.m. – “WWE Smackdown Live”
7 p.m – “Fox Sports Saturday: Fox College Football”
8:00 p.m. – “The Simpsons”
8:30 p.m. – “Bless the Harts”
9:00 p.m. – “Bob's Burgers”
9:30 p.m. – “Family Guy”