NEW YORK – Brad Garrett's return to domestic comedy and two new thrillers are among the few changes on FOX's fall schedule as the most popular network for young viewers pledged stability for next season -- as much as it can muster.
Garrett, who took a year off from TV after playing the put-upon brother on "Everybody Loves Raymond," stars in "'Til Death" as half of a long-married couple that tries not to let their cynicism infect the newlyweds next door.
Ming-Na of "ER" plays an FBI agent trying to solve a missing person case in the new serial "Vanished," while "Standoff" is about two FBI crisis negotiators who are a team professionally and romantically.
Otherwise, the schedule FOX revealed Thursday contains 16 returning shows that will appear on the same nights they did this season, said Peter Liguori, network entertainment president.
"We were really able to build a schedule that has strength and incredible stability across the board," Liguori said.
Stability is relative, however, considering the two big events that guide FOX's executives. They must schedule around baseball playoffs and the World Series in the fall, which makes it difficult to launch new shows, then completely rearrange things when "American Idol" returns in January.
As a result, FOX (owned by News Corp.) released pre- and post-January schedules on which every night except Thursday and Saturday were different.
FOX is coming off a strong season bolstered by the continuing status of "American Idol" as a phenomenon, and "House" breaking out as a hit. After ranking No. 1 for the first time last year among viewers aged 18 to 49, FOX is close to doing it again.
"There's no question we feel that we are the network, the network of choice, for young viewers," Liguori said.
Like this season, "24" will return in January and run uninterrupted, while "Prison Break" will take a long break in midseason. "The O.C." will start after baseball in November, and air with as little interruption as possible, Liguori said.
Liguori acknowledged that some "Prison Break" fans were upset by the midseason break, but that time off the air "certainly winds up building anticipation for the show." Next season, producers will try to build a natural break in the story, he said.
The long-running comedy "Bernie Mac" was canceled, as was "Stacked." "That '70s Show" and "Malcolm in the Middle" both ended their runs this month. FOX hasn't decided whether the reality show "Unan1mous" will be back, Liguori said.
In an attempt to give its series some attention before the baseball postseason causes interruptions, FOX will air season premieres of about a half-dozen programs in August, a month before the traditional start to the season.
FOX will premiere two other new shows in the fall: the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama "Justice," about a team of lawyers with an expertise in forensics, and the comedy "Happy Hour," about a suddenly single youth in Chicago.
Two other new shows will premiere in midseason: "The Winner," a comedy with Rob Corddry of "The Daily Show" playing a man who went through an extended adolescence (though it has no time slot yet), and "The Wedding Album," a drama that looks at marriage through the lens of a lothario wedding photographer.
Simon Cowell, who's turning into a backstage impresario with a talent show on NBC this summer, is also behind "Duets," a limited-run series that will air twice a week in September. It will pair singing stars with non-musician celebrities who will compete performing duets.
Next spring, FOX will also air "On the Lot," a partnership between producer Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg, where 16 aspiring filmmakers compete producing short films.
FOX is also premiering a late-night talk show on Saturday nights with Spike Feresten, a writer who worked on "Seinfeld" and David Letterman's "Late Show."