‘Monarch’: FOX Exec Speaks Out on Decision to Pull Show Until Fall

by TK Sanders
(Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMA)

Fox’s new country music drama, Monarch, was supposed to debut in two weeks following the NFC Championship game. The network had been running promotional ads for weeks in support of the show and its Hollywood star power. Unexpectedly, however, Fox bumped the show from mid-season to the start of next season, in the Fall.

In a statement announcing the change, the network said the change was pandemic-related. “The unavoidable realities of the pandemic and the profound impact Covid-19 continues to have on our industry and around the world [led to the decision],” Fox said.

Monarch Faced Some Creative Troubles Early On

Some creative issues within the show’s executive team have affected production, as well. Fox replaced showrunner Michael Rauch with Jon Feldman in November, well into shooting the series. Production paused while new leadership facilitated some creative changes.

“We’ve completed about five episodes, but when we made the showrunner change, there were some creative changes that were coming along with it that we’re implementing into the episodes that are really exciting,” Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn said last week. “We want to ensure that we’re able to do it and give our partners the time to implement them, so it’s all born out of setting the show up for success, and we’re really excited about it.”

Fox fully owns the production rights of Monarch, so they undoubtedly want to stick the landing. The show’s star-studded lineup also means big money and high stakes for the network. Susan Sarandon, Trace Atkins, Anna Friel, and Beth Ditto all star in the show about a famous family within country music.

Given the production delays, creative uncertainty, and possible COVID shutdowns (which could happen at anytime), it sounds like Fox just wanted to be safe. A failure to deliver a new episode in the middle of airing would devastate the credibility of the series and network in general.

“If we had a Covid interruption, it could ultimately create a delay in our air schedule, potentially in the middle. And that’s not the best way to do television today,” Thorn said. He also noted that Fox execs like the show and support the decision to bump to the fall.

“We stepped back. We’ve seen the first couple episodes that are very strong. And we wanted to give the show the longest runway possible for the launch to ensure, when we do premiere the series, that it has all the benefit of the campaign,” he said. “It deserves as uninterrupted an air schedule as we can give it and really support it.”

Original Shows with Music Storylines Are Challenging

Shows with music-driven storylines also provide their own set of unique circumstances, especially when original music is published. Monarch plans to incorporate lots of original music that the network will release on Arista Records, at least to start.

“Music-driven programming, as exciting as it is, it’s not just completing the actual episodic production. There are so many complementary moving pieces that go alongside a series that has music in it. We didn’t want to [miss] our schedule,” Thorn said. “So we had to start making creative compromises. Quite frankly, the show deserves better.”

Check back with Outsider for all of your Monarch updates through the Spring and Summer.