CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its summer press tour last week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters. This week sees the tour's focus shift to the broadcast networks as FOX held the first of its two sessions on Thursday for the press.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of FOX's presentation:
-- FOX has extended its stay at "Paradise Hotel" for another six weeks, keeping the show on its schedule through the end of the summer. With the pickup, a total of 28 episodes of the series are set to be produced. The news comes despite middling ratings for "Hotel," which comes from the British production company Mentorn and the U.S.-based A. Smith & Co., however executives stressed its competitive performance in the key 18-49 demographic. Currently airing Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9:00/8:00c, the series is expected to go back to Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:00/8:00c beginning the week of August 4.
-- The network has been mum thus far on the future of "Keen Eddie." While distributor Paramount Television has said the series will move to Thursday nights next week, FOX hasn't announced any air dates for the series beyond July 24. Scheduled for Thursday, July 31 are the specials "Bug Attack!" and "101 Things Removed from the Human Body" (no, we're not making these up). Then on August 14 and 21, NFL pre-season takes over the Thursday slot for Oakland at San Francisco and Dallas at Pittsburgh respectively.
-- Ford Motor Company will once again sponsor a commercial-free season premiere of "24" on Tuesday, October 28 at 9:00/8:00c. In addition, the network plans to air a four-minute trailer for the new season on Sunday, September 7 as part of the broadcast premiere of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." And that's just the start of the push for "24." Also on tap: a two-minute edited version of the trailer will play in 2,400 movie theaters across the country from Oct. 3�30; advertisements and a special CD-ROM will be inserted into issues of "Entertainment Weekly" and "People" which includes the four-minute trailer as well as Ford commercials and exclusive "24" bonus material; a co-branded site on FOX.com will include a national sweepstakes; and a special insert promoting season three of "24" will be included in season two DVDs, which go on sale September 9 (moved up from September 23).
-- A huge slate of guest voices are planned for the upcoming season of "The Simpsons." Among those planned are: Prime Minister Tony Blair, stage and screen actress Glenn Close, Jane Leeves ("Frasier"), Jennifer Garner ("Alias"), legendary comedian Jerry Lewis, famed author J.K. Rowling, Sir Ian McKellan ("X-Men 2"), documentarian Michael Moore, Simon Cowell ("American Idol"), boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya, "Joe Millionaire" Evan Marriott, Mr. T, Jackie Mason and the late Robert Stack.
-- Not to be outdone, "King of the Hill" also has lined up several special guest voices including Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, Christina Applegate, the first "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson, Melissa Etheridge, Laura Dern, Gene Simmons from KISS, Fred Willard, Jamie Kennedy and the band Sum 41. Additionally, country music stars Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Deanna Carter and Travis Tritt will all appear in a special country-themed Christmas episode.
-- And lastly, FOX announced Fred Willard ("A Mighty Wind") has joined the cast of its fall comedy "A Minute With Stan Hooper." He'll play Fred Hawkins, the local cheese mogul on the series, opposite star Norm Macdonald. "Hooper" is a half-hour comedy about a New York television personality and his wife who move to a small town in search of old-fashioned values.
Upcoming TCA schedule: Thursday-Friday (July 17-18) - FOX; Sunday-Monday (July 20-21) - CBS; Tuesday (July 22) - UPN; Thursday-Friday (July 24-25) - NBC