Unlucky Fox plays the Christmas cheer card

Ever wanted to make your own Fox network Christmas card? Now you can with this handy little app, send to critics this week via email. You can choose which Fox stars you want to party with om your card. I chose all the Canadians, ‘natch.
This gift of festive cheer follows a terrible bit of timing for the network. Late last week, I arrived home to find a box on my doorstep with all these quotes from Edgar Allen Poe scrawled all over it. Inside was a creepy Poe mask along with some screeners for The Following.
Now, the psychological thriller, which begins Jan. 21 on Fox and CTV, is probably the best new show of the season. Critics were high on it way back last June when screeners started arriving promoting all the new shows for 2012-13.
There are, however, disturbing and violent images in the pilot. The series finds lead actor Kevin Bacon’s character on the trail of a sicko serial killer who is threatening to strike again. This is a dark series, with “mature” content more often found on a U.S. cable network like FX (especially American Horror Story) or HBO.
Fox’s great misfortune is that the promotional package arrived on Friday, the day of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings.
They were sent out the day before, so the Fox publicity team had no way of knowing the tragedy in Connecticut would occur.
Still, the example underlines the risk associated with trying to promote a series like this. Selling fright with fright can come back to haunt you in this uncertain world.
Fox has weathered bad timing before. Kiefer Sutherland’s anti-terrorist drama 24 launched just as the world was exploding on 9/11. A scene in the pilot of an airplane exploding in the air nearly grounded the series. It took that entire first season for 24 to capture enough viewers to settle into a long run.

Opportunity missed? Letterman kept gun talk off the
table in segments Monday with guest Tom Cruise

This week, sensitive episodes of Haven, American Dad and Family Guy were pulled or rescheduled while season finales of Dexter and Homeland went ahead as planned. ABC briefly yanked an episode of Scandal showing children in peril off their web player. Gala premieres of the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained as well as Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher were also cancelled out of respect for the families still grieving their loved ones.
Saturday Night Live showed great poise in their show-must-go-on weekend holiday-themed episode. Monday night, David Letterman, who has a son in grade school, also tackled the tragedy in Connecticut. He used his entire second segment to point out that there had been 70 school shootings in the United States since the Brady Bill was passed in 1994. “I’m not dumb enough to think that this is a problem with guns,” he said before going on to mention that guns can be found in 50% of U.S. households. He was encouraged by president Obama’s response so far and hoped it would lead to some action. Still, he seemed about as broken and bewildered as everyone else.

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