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My coverage of the “upfronts” in New York—the television networks’ annual presentation of their fall schedules to foaming-at-the-mouth advertisers and media outlets—continues with a look at ABC’s fall schedule.
In probably the biggest shakeup of the season, ABC has made plans to move Sunday night juggernaut Grey’s Anatomy (which has now surpassed Desperate Housewives as the network’s number one show) to Thursdays at 9PM. The shakeup is necessary for ABC, though. After an out-of-nowhere 2004 season that launched Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Grey’s Anatomy as monster hits, none of ABC’s shows from last season are making it back for sophomore seasons (except What About Brian, which was one of the biggest surprise renewals this year, and I think had more to do with appeasing executive producer J. J. Abrams than anything else). It doesn’t help that ABC is still smarting from the colossal flameout of Commander in Chief (this is what happens when you hire Geena Davis, people), which was poised to be the “next great drama,” with huge ratings and positive reviews last fall, until it crashed and burned under the weight of its own pedigree.So ABC is casting a wider net this season to see what they catch with the ten (!!!) new shows slated for the fall. Betting on so many new shows mean a lot of old ones had to be let go, which in most cases on ABC’s schedule was not a bad thing. Of the cancelled shows, only Invasion (finally, picking up steam after a lackluster half season) and midseason comedy Sons & Daughters (a worthy successor to the Arrested Development dysfunctional family throne) were worth saving. Other shows like Hope & Faith, Freddie (I admit a guilty pleasure of mine, but certainly not changing the face of television as we know it—although Brian Austin Green’s comedic talents must be put on display elsewhere), and In Justice, had either passed their prime or had a failure to launch. So ABC is spreading the wealth and hoping that the relocation of a big hit like Grey’s will serve as a launching pad for some new series. Here’s what the schedule looks like:
I have to laugh because America’s Funniest Home Videos starts the night off at 7PM, and I am completely shocked to find out this show is still on television. Seriously. Not only did I think it was off the air, I was pretty sure it had been cancelled for a decade. Whoops. ABC is keeping the feel good vibe at the front of the evening with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition at 8PM. This opinion doesn’t make me very popular, but I hate this show. I mean Ty Pennington. Really? Isn’t he like Billy Bush’s long-lost, even more annoying brother? And Paul!?!? He and Daddy McPhee could have a manly cry-off to see who the burliest crier on national television is. That being said, I think the purpose of the show, rebuilding houses for families in need, is a good one. It’s nice to help people who are so obviously down and out. But sometimes I feel like they pick the most extreme cases. Like they find a family with no arms and no legs and they build them a house that has arms and legs or something. Why not just a single mother of three whose husband DIDN’T die of ebola or whatever, who just kind of needs a break? I’m sure they do things like that every once in a while, but ehh… Regardless, at 9PM, Desperate Housewives will stay where it is, since the network doesn’t think the show is strong enough to sustain a big move to a different night. Umm, you think? If you have any question of whether or not that is true, PLEASE read my last two DH recaps. Credit does need to be given where it is due, and while the ladies of Wisteria Lane have certainly tumbled (okay, crashed) this season, they ended on a high note, and the show still pulls in more than 20 million viewers a week. ABC is hoping the post-DH timeslot is still a viable launch pad for a new show.
That’s why Grey’s has vacated its 10PM post (get used to it, because you’re going to be reading A LOT about this move over the long summer months) to make room for the ensemble soap Brothers & Sisters, starring Ally McBeal herself, Calista Flockhart. Thankfully, she plays a character far removed from her Ally McAnnoying days, who actually isn’t suffering from delusions and visions. Did anyone else think that whole entire show was one long, very bad acid trip? The show revolves around a well-to-do family and the secrets that start bubbling to the surface during a family party that will change their lives forever! Although the description sounds a little melodramatic, the show must have impressed someone to be getting this timeslot in the first place. Though early screenings have been only lukewarm to Calista, the cast is top-notch: Ron Rifkin, so evil as Sloane on Alias, and fellow Alias refugee Balthazar Getty, who has yet to live up to any promise he showed 15 years ago in Lord of the Flies, are joined by Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) and Patricia Wettig (I wonder how this bodes for the evil Vice President/new Commander in Chief’s position on Prison Break?). Things aren’t complete smooth sailing however, as the producers have recast Betty Buckley as the clan’s matriarch and Jonathan LaPlaglia as one of the siblings. Despite a soapy premise, early word suggests that it may be a bit more subtle then say, Desperate Housewives, and certainly worth a try.
ABC has had a really hard time on Monday nights as of late, and losing Monday Night Football (heading over to sister network ESPN) certainly isn’t going to help. Last year, after the football season ended (MNF is always a big ratings winner for ABC), the network famously spent millions of dollars touting the Heather Graham (this should have been there first sign of something foul) comedy Emily’s Reasons Why Not only to pull the plug on it after one tepid airing (as it did for the returning Jake in Progress). This season they’re going with seasoned, if not graying, reality shows Wife Swap and The Bachelor (in the fall) and then Supernanny (in the spring). Look, I’m not a huge reality fan, mostly because watching these people who can’t handle their lives on such a level that they need a British nanny and a naughty step to come in and take charge makes me more nauseated than entertained. I’ve never seen an episode of The Bachelor, but I enjoy watching it over commercials (I think a whole hour of it would literally invert my penis), but I can’t imagine that this show is ever going to have an uptick again. Once a show is responsible for plaguing us with that Trista monster and Bob Guiney (why do I know their names?!), it’s time to take it off the air for the sake of mankind.
At 10PM, ABC is bringing back back What About Brian after it completely underwhelmed this year as a midseason replacement. As I mentioned earlier, I think this decision had a little more to do with not ticking off J. J. Abrams, who’s the creator of Lost and has the new, very buzzed-about Six Degrees on Thursday nights. That being said, while What About Brian sounds very charming, it probably won’t make much more headway this season going up against CSI: Miami and NBC’s Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, arguably the most talked-about show of the fall. The problem with What About Brian isn’t really anything specific, but rather a lot of little things. The show centers around Brian (Barry Watson, surprisingly endearing) who is the last single man standing in a group of twentysomethings (!!!). With the recent engagement of his best friend Adam (Matthew Davis) to Marjorie (Sarah Lancaster – another Saved by the Bell survivor, this time Rachel from The New Class), Brian is crushed, because, get this, he is in loooove with Marjorie. And that, right there, is the problem. Even though Marjorie clearly has feelings for Brian, she still accepts the proposal from Adam. It’s like that one plot strand with Keira Knightley from Love Actually only stretched out to sustain itself over the course of an entire series. Marjorie herself is also kind of a problem, because despite being ridiculously hot (and newly brunette), there isn’t all that much that makes her so special two guys would be so deeply in love with her. Also, Rosanna Arquette is in it, and well, that’s a problem unto itself. I wasn’t a fan of Abrams’s last romantic adventure, Felicity (why won’t they stop whispering!?!?!), but I love his more action-centric Lost and Alias (though it should be noted he hasn’t actually worked on the day-to-day operations of either of those shows in years). And while I don’t by any means love Brian with the obsessive ferocity of Abrams’s other shows, I have enough faith in him and the glimpses of greatness that I’ve seen this past season to give it a real shot in the fall. But don’t get too attached. This is the weakest night in the ABC lineup, and Brian will be lucky to make it to November sweeps if the schedule isn’t severely revamped.
At 8PM, ABC will be putting the reality hit Dancing with the Stars, hoping the glitter hasn’t faded over the past year. I doubt it has, but the real test will be to see who they get to hoof around with this season. More breakouts like super-ripped super-hyper Lisa Rina? Or more zoned-out train wrecks like Oscar winner Tatum O’Neal (I use Oscar winner as her title not because it’s an honor but because it’s just so tragically funny)? As long as we’re spared another Master P, this show should keep trucking along just fine. When Stars ends in the winter, the new game show Set for the Rest of Your Life will premiere. Contestants compete over different amounts of monthly checks, and then they compete over how long they could get those monthly checks, with the ultimate goal being—you guessed it—Set for the Rest of Your Life. All the while a partner is in a soundproof booth helping and possibly unintentionally hindering your chances at winning the prizes. I never really jumped on the primetime gameshow bandwagon, but this one sounds like it might be worth checking out, if only because I think there’s a very good possibility someone will got shot by episode three.
At 9PM and 10PM ABC will be premiering two new sitcoms, hoping to hit pay dirt in this genre since they haven’t had a hit (no, not you James Belushi) comedy since… well… since… Roseanne? Home Improvement? Up at 9:00PM is Let’s Rob…which looks pretty great. It follows the misadventures of a ragtag team of crooks who set out to rob Mick Jagger (who will appear occasionally on the show but is not a series regular). They better get the job done before he croaks, because Mick Jagger has got to be about 500 years old by now. The premise sounds like one of those things that can run out of steam pretty quickly, but with the producers of Ed standing behind it, I’m pretty excited for some quirky, hilarious hijinks. The timeslot will do it no favors though. At 9:30PM will be Help Me Help You, a comedy in which Ted Danson plays a psychiatrist who may be even crazier than the patients he’s treating! This show is going to have to payoff with comic GOLD to make up for such a lame premise. And somehow, I don’t see that happening. Boston Legal will stick around at 10PM after a year of decent, if not solid, ratings this season. I’ve made myself a promise to try to watch at least the first four episodes, because I’ve heard such great things about this show. I just can’t get past William Shatner. And, for me, James Spader will always just be a preppy monster from Less Than Zero.
At 8PM, the Dancing with the Stars results show will air. ABC has been wise to keep this show on in the fall only, so we’re not blinded by all the sequins and to avoid going head-to-head with American Idol. Stars might be entertaining and all, but it’s got nothing on the Soul Patrol. Returning in the midseason is The George Lopez Show and According to Jim, which by all accounts are two of the reasons why the world is going to hell. At 9PM, Lost will pick up where its amazing/stupendous/glorious season finale left off. This year the show started to take a hit in the ratings once Idol came back in the winter, and because of all those reruns. Next season the show will air in probably three chunks, so we’ll get, for example, seven fresh episodes followed by a break, followed by eight new episodes, etc. Sure, this isn’t ideal, but the reality of the situation is that there are only 22 episodes of a show produced and thirtysomething weeks in the television season. Something’s got to give. And I’d rather have it be set up like this than wait until January for the show to run straight through à la 24. Despite its inability to launch Invasion last season, ABC is putting The Nine, one of its most talked-about new shows, in the post-Lost timeslot at 10PM. The Nine follows the lives of nine back robbery hostages as they try to cope with the trauma from—as well as what actually happened during—a 52-hour bank robbery (each episode will flash back to 10 minutes of the bank robbery itself). I love the premise of the show and think this could end up being one of the best new shows of the season. The really solid cast includes Scott Wolf, Chi McBride, and Kim Raver (I can’t imagine this bodes well for Audrey/Jack on 24), doesn’t hurt either.
After last year’s success of Dancing with the Stars, ABC has realized that CBS and NBC don’t have the lock on Thursday evenings they used to (what was your first clue? Joey? Four Kings?). In the 8PM hour, two more sitcoms will premiere. Big Day is going to last about two airings in this timeslot, as it’s a 24-style comedy about the titular “big day”—in this case a wedding. With Marla Sokoloff and showkiller Josh Cooke in the lead roles, this looks destined to be yet another show that Wendie Mallick (Dream On, Just Shoot Me, Jake In Progress) costars in but is way too good for. I have higher hopes for Notes from the Underbelly, about a couple preparing for the impending birth of their first child, with a little help from their wacky friends. The early word is that it’s a quirky, fun show that will probably get lost in the shuffle. Bonus points for costarring Rachel Harris from I Love the 70s/80s/90s fame. Even if they are both great shows, I wouldn’t expect them to stick around for too long. At 9PM, I don’t know if you’ve heard, Grey’s Anatomy will be moving from its cushy Sunday at 10PM timeslot. The show probably won’t be clearing 20 million viewers at first, but it should be just fine. Grey’s is probably the most consistently great show on television, thanks in no small part to creator Shonda Rhimes’s iron fist. The show ended on a high note (don’t worry, Izzie is out of the program, not off the show), even if you (like me) don’t care about who Meredith picks (although that sex scene was HOT). Hopefully Grey’s will help make a hit out of J. J. Abrams’s new show Six Degrees. This twisty series is kind of like a merging of Lost and What About Brian, a relationship show, that will involve six strangers whose paths keep crossing through their connections in the world. Also probably my favorite cast of the year: Jay Hernandez, Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Bridget Moynahan, Dorian Missick, and Erika Christensen. There were no clips at the upfronts, but rumor has it ABC is riding high on this show. And J. J. Abrams’s track record for quality is almost untouchable at this point.
No longer scared off by Jennifer Love Hewitt and her helmet hair, ABC (once again) abolishes its TGIF lineup for two new shows. At 8PM is the English language remake of the telenovela Betty the Ugly, about a less-than-attractive woman (America Ferrara, truly charming) who gets a job working for the newly appointed head of Mode fashion magazine played by the creepy Dean Hess from The O.C. Vanessa L. Williams is also onboard to play the resident bitch on wheels who makes life, umm, ugly for our heroine Betty. I saw the clips for the show, and while a bit muddled, it looks kind of cute—ABC could have a sleeper hit on their hands. If they do, look for a season two remake of Betty as a Latina hottie played by Salma Hayek. The show won’t be helped, however, by the Anne Heche vehicle Men in Trees, premiering at 9PM. It’s basically Northern Exposure, but with Anne Heche. I like Anne Heche as much as the next guy—what’s not to love about a bisexual nutjob?—but this show about a widow who ends up living in Alaska sounds like so many other bad shows I’ve skipped before. At 10PM, ABC sticks with the stalwart 20/20.
ABC will be getting its fix of football Saturday nights with the airing of Saturday Night College Football. When the football season’s over, this will be the dumping ground for reruns and occasional broadcast premieres.
What do you think? Look forward to anything in particular? I’m definitely on board with Six Degrees and The Nine. What about the new structure of Lost? How do you think they can avoid rerun fatigue next season?