Fox at TCA: Mariah, Britney and Mindy

Mindy Kaling stars in "The Mindy Project."

Monday was Fox day at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. And though “American Idol” is no longer the unbeatable ratings juggernaut it once was, the singing competition still managed to top the day’s TCA headlines.

In an unnecessarily dramatic display, Kevin Reilly, Fox President of Entertainment, announced Mariah Carey would be joining the “Idol” judges’ table by calling the multi-platinum-selling pop star on his cell phone and putting her on speakerphone to have her confirm the gig. Carey apologized for not attending press tour in person — Reilly said the deal had just been finalized just hours before — but assured critics she is “so excited to be on ‘Idol’” and “can’t wait to get started.”

Carey is filling one of the seats vacated by departing judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Reilly had no news on the identity of the second new judge, though he insisted “it’s 100 percent [confirmed] that Jennifer won’t be back to the show.”

This was in reaction to a comment “Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe made hours earlier in a panel for “So You Think You Can Dance,” the show he judges. Lythgoe himself is in negotiations to return to “Idol,” and when asked about his future role with the singing competition (“no comment”), mentioned he hoped J Lo. would return.

“I was really upset to hear of Steven leaving us and the possibility of Jennifer leaving us,” he said. “She did say 99 percent she was leaving. Strange thing to say, 99 percent. You’re either leaving or you’re not leaving. So I’m hoping that 1 percent may mean she’s not leaving.”

One thing’s for sure: viewers who fell in love with “New Girl” last season have another smart, funny, messed up lady to adore on the new sitcom “The Mindy Project,” from “The Office” writer and star Mindy Kaling.

Kaling plays Mindy, an OB/GYN who is great at her job, but not so much in her personal life. When asked how she will keep that TV trope fresh, Kaling responded, “it’s interesting — there is this cliché … but that’s also really true of me and all my friends. So you don’t want to not do something that’s relatable simply because you’re worried that it might be cliché.” That balance, she added, is all in execution. “Formula isn’t bad if it’s executed at a really high level. In fact, it can be kind of cozy and nice if the jokes are amazing and the acting is great.”

Meanwhile, on “The Office” front, Kaling confirmed she would return for at least one episode this fall, and possibly one more.

Also new on the Fox comedy slate is “Ben and Kate,” created by Dana Fox and inspired by her brother, whom she referred to a very Ferris Bueller-like in his antics and knack for getting in trouble. Nat Faxon — who won a screenwriting Oscar for “The Descendents” and landed this sitcom the day after the Academy Awards — plays Ben, that wacky brother who becomes a father figure to Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), the daughter of his single-mom sister, Kate (Dakota Johnson).
“He’s a really, really smart guy who intentionally does dumb things all the time,” Fox says of her brother and, by extension, the character. But, Fox says, her writing team is acutely aware that some of his actions may veer into the outlandish.
“We’re very careful to never make him cross the line — if it goes too far, [viewers will say], ‘Ah I’m off the ride, no thank you.’ It’s really about keeping him grounded. He has a bizarre logic to all of his behavior — he might be a genius.”
 
Meanwhile, Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) is a genius surgeon — with a family debt to the mob in “The Mob Doctor.” The idea of a great doctor living a double life and stitching up soldiers in the Chicago mob scene may seem far-fetched, and even series creator Josh Berman thought so. But then he found a book about a real mob doctor called “Il Dottore,” on which, he says, the series is loosely built.

“The more we dug, we found out how most … doctors to the mob are motivated by greed,” he said. “They get seduced by the mob world. It’s not because of the reasons we have in our pilot. Hopefully we’re a little bit more idealized version of the mob doctor. But who knows what the character of Grace will be seduced by in the future.”

Speaking of seduction: How does one of the biggest pop stars of the last decade decide to join a relatively new reality TV competition? Apparently, it’s all thanks to a makeup artist.

“I’ve seen the show a couple of times,” Britney Spears, new judge on “The X Factor,” said of the series, “and I was such a fan of the show. My makeup artist was the makeup artist for Simon [Cowell]. And we talked about [the show] a couple of times when I was on tour, but really never took it seriously until she went back and she started working for him. Then we just all met up, and it made sense. I adore Simon, and it was something I really wanted to do,” Spears added.

Meanwhile, judge Simon Cowell admitted Spears was “the No. 1 person I always wanted on one of these [reality competition] shows. I was fascinated with her as a person, as a pop star, and there’s something intriguing about her. She’s a really, really good judge.”


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