Guessing The Upfronts: ABC

OK, FOX and CBS were somewhat easier.



Now it gets a little more challenging. ABC and especially NBC have bigger needs. Interestingly, on paper, they both seem to have the most buzzworthy pilots. As a result, I’d like to talk about these two networks a little differently and single out a few of the interesting sounding pilots before I get to how they might be scheduled. ABC has fewer holes than NBC, so let’s tackle them today.

I must say, regarding ABCs drama pilots, all except 2, sound unique, on brand and fresh. The other 2 –  Identity, well it’s another procedural and Partners, is also a cop procedural BUT where the two leads are “Secret” sisters. It’s not just my lack of interest in procedurals that makes me question them for ABC. Most straight ahead cop procedurals just don’t work for ABC, the latest example being the terrific Detroit 1-8-7. Identity boasts two amazing leads however, Angela Basset and Orlando Jones. If this show doesn’t go forward, ABC should try to attach them to another project as leads or just sign them both to development deals. Angela Bassett is too powerful an actress not to be getting roles worthy of her. She’s a leading lady. Interestingly enough, Identity might be the kind of summer scripted that could work on ABC. It’s not high concept and has a great cast.

ABC’s biggest successes since ’04 have all come with shows that were completely different and unlike anything on TV: Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Dancing With The Stars, Ugly Betty, Modern Family. I don’t think a police procedural will be ABCs next big hit. It will likely be from something not currently on TV.

Some Pilots that stick out on paper in a very good way: (These will require unique scheduling ideas and I’m honestly not sure where they go at this point):

The River sounds thoroughly unique and unlike anything that’s currently on TV or has been before. It’s created by “Paranormal Activity’s” Oren Pelli and directed by feature helmer, Jaume Collet-Serra. It feels different in the way that LOST was. Most that have reviewed the script are blown away. If the pilot comes out as good as the script, I am sure ABC will order it and get behind it in a big way. Some people are questioning how it can  sustain itself as a series but they said that about LOST and that went 6 years. Scheduling it will be tricky. I don’t think a show like this can break out at 10p and 8p slots have other smashes like Glee or assumed hits like X Factor. When LOST launched in ’04 it faced a quickly cancelled new show called Hawaii.

Once Upon A Time – this could be about someone reading the phone book and I’d be interested (at least in seeing the pilot). Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, wrote some of the best eps of the LOST throughout its 6 year run and I am interested in anything any of that show’s creatives are involved with. Plus the logline sounds unique (there’s that word again). It takes place in a town where fairy tales may be real. No one has mentioned this and I haven’t seen the actual show obviously, but I am getting a Pushing Daisies vibe (which I still miss). But again where to schedule.

Grace – Krista Vernoff, who has written some of the best eps of Grey’s, created this family drama, but it’s a different kind of family drama. It’s set in the world of dance. Eric Roberts plays a choreographer who sleeps with many of his dancers. Show centers around his 3 daughters from 3 different moms and his struggling dance studio. Show will feature dance every week. Carrie Ann Inaba is a producer. Mia Michaels the choreographer of the pilot. Debbie Allen plays once of the kids mothers in what would be become a recurring role. There is no scripted show that features dance. Glee brought music to TV on a weekly basis. This could do the same for dance. If they picked it up, where would ABC schedule this? Does it go before DWTS, after it, away from it? I’m not sure.

Missing – Ashley Judd is marking her return to TV with this show, which unless I am mistaken, was already given a 10 episode commitment as it was picked up for Summer before her involvement. Once she joined, ABC wisely realized it was too good to waste in low viewing months. So what do they do with it? Midseason? Air it as a limited mini series. Not sure. Filming hasn’t begun yet and it is set to film all over Europe. I guess they will evaluate all that after they see it.  

Bubble Shows:

Out of the Tuesday shows, to me, only V has a smidge of a chance. The fact that no one booked a pilot is strange to me. I’d imagine Elizabeth Mitchell and Morenna Baccarin were in mega demand. Maybe ABC brings back for limited eps, I don’t know

Brothers & Sisters – I have said this before – I really feel it’s time to end this show. Lately the numbers are even lower and for an expensive show, I don’t see a big order coming. I could see maybe ABC ordering a movie or 6 eps (at most) to wrap things up. They could always run them in 2 hour installments for 3 weeks in December when most shows go into reruns. But otherwise I don’t see an upside to them renewing this show.

Mr. Sunshine – I like this show, there’s much potential. Maybe with the star power involved, it gets a limited pickup. Could go either way.

Better With You – unless ABC needs a multi camera show to go along with a new one on Friday night, I don’t think this show is returning.

Happy Endings – Out of all ABCs new comedies I think this is the best one, with the most potential. I’m surprised by how much I like it. It seems to be reacting online as well. Read any entertainment site that covers TV and that’s the general reaction. It has also launched at 10p in the lowest rated weeks of the TV season. Still doing as well or better than any of ABC recent 10p Wed offerings especially 18-34. Unless it tanks in the next few weeks, this one might be worth nurturing – MORE than any other of their new comedies.

Let’s look how the sked might play out:


This night needs an Extreme Makeover. Speaking of EM:HE, it shouldn’t be their 8p anchor anymore. Some suggest ABC ship it off to Friday. I don’t agree. I think that would finish off the show. It still got a 2.0 at 8p this week with DST affecting 8p viewing levels. For an 8 year old show, that’s still valuable. They could do one of two things. 1) Move it to 7p Sunday OR 2) Hold it for midseason. A few years ago The Bachelor was thought to be dead. ABC rested it and now it’s a very valuable franchise for them. I think if the show takes a break and gives people a chance to miss it, it could find new life. It’s worth noting that America’s Funniest Home Videos was off the air for a bit after Bob Saget left. It had  a break and now it’s going into season 22. EM:HE could follow a similar path but a hitaus couldn’t hurt. They could bring it back in Dec and January on Sunday when shows are in reruns and opposite big events like The Globes and AFC games. It could help them conserve more eps of their dramas for sweeps months and/or run consecutively March-May.

So what goes at 8p – well Secret Millionaire will certainly be renewed and did very well this spring in an hour when viewing levels are lower and most weeks it aired in front of DH reruns. That’s a very strong and likely option or ABC could really try to rejuvenate the night and put a new drama at 8p and 10p surrounding Housewives (yes that’s more risky). If they go for a new 8p drama it will certainly be Charlie’s Angels. It’s already pre-sold. There is no other drama in the hour. Would make a nice lead in to Housewives. This will be the last year DH can anchor at 9 and ABC needs to find their Sunday successors.

I also wouldn’t be shocked to see ABC put Secret Millionare at 8p, their best new drama pilot at 9p and slide DH down to 10p. My guess for the other Sunday drama would be Pan Am. It’s buzzworthy –  Jack Orman wrote it. Thomas Schlamme directed it. Christina Ricci stars. Stewardesses in the 60s.  It’s Mad Men in the sky. If they go with a new drama at 9p (a long shot) then Secret Millionaire stays at 8p. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Charlies Angels, DH, Pan AM. Yes it’s very hard to launch a new drama at 10p but if ABC does it, my guess is it happens on Sunday (with only CBS as scripted competition in fall). Marc Cherry’s Hallelujah is also a possibility for this night. Stellar cast, gospel singing. Marc Cherry.


DWTS always needs to be 2 hours. As Cougar Town proved this week (after many other examples, comedies just don’t work at 9:30). At 10p, after 3 years, Castle has proven its worth. Yes it gets helped with DWTS as its lead in, but without that lead in it has its own core audience in the 2.5 area. Does ABC move it to another slot and use the mammoth lead in to launch another new drama? They finally have a Mon 10p player, do they chance it? If they’re risky and their pilots turn out well, maybe Grace could air after DWTS, or is too perfect a fit? Do they try Poe, basically Castle in the 1800’s? Honestly they seem to have so many buzzworthy pilots, and outside the year it takes place, this sounds like another procedural and those don’t work so well for them. But maybe this one’s distinctive enough and character driven like Castle and Body of Proof. Do they go for the Mike Kelly Soap Revenge? Good Christian Bitches (or is that destined for Sunday)? If Castle isn’t here, there’s only one other place for it (read on) and if they go for new drama, seems like they have a few options.


Looks like ABC finally solved the Tues 10p problem. After 4 weeks, Body Of Proof is holding 80 percent of DWTS. That’s the best retention the show has ever produced. Plus it’s consistently 2.4 and 2.5 in the demo and 11.5 million viewers. ABC has NO drama at 10p with that amount of total viewers, except Castle on occasion and Monday’s DWTS lead in is far bigger. If BOP wasn’t doing well on Tue, I wouldn’t advocate even moving Castle (they need all the 10p players they can get). Some people think ABC should move DWTS:Results to 8p opposite Glee. I think BOP still needs the cushion. But at this point it’s doing far better than Castle did in its first season after DWTS, so there’s reason to assume after reruns this Summer and another season behind DWTS, it could grow even more.

So what about 8p? They have tried reality, family drama (No Ordinary Family). None have worked. DWTS and BOP are older skewing so I say ABC should make this whole night a 25-54 night. The Jack Burditt penned/Tim Allen starrer, The Last Days of Man/AKA Tim/AKA Untitled, doesn’t need a lead in. Tim Allen’s return to TV is all you need in the promo. Is it guaranteed to hit? Of course not. But that alone should get it sampled. It needs to be good after that. There are no multi cams on Tues currently, it’s a good counter to Glee and NCIS. At 8:30 it seems the Andrew Reich/Ted Cohen created Smothered, starring Marcia Gay Harden and Adam Arkin would be a perfect fit. This whole night seems to flow pretty well and provide good counter programming (although NBC could put multi cams here too and they announce first). In between DWTS seasons, Winter Wipeout would make a good replacement, either at 8p and slide comedies to 9p or just at 9p in between comedies and BOP. WW should just be an 8 week run next season and then rest it from March til June.


What ABC lacked this season was a great new single cam family comedy to go in between The Middle and Modern Family (and possibly after). ABC has 3 great sounding options this season with 3 shows created by talented female writer/producers. It seems they have something special with Suburgatory which was written by Parks & Recreation writer, Emily Kapnek (She wrote this season’s Ron and Tammy ep). Jenna Elfman stars in Bad Mom (created by British writer/actress Sharon Horgan who also co stars). That could be an option too. Jenna Elman’s last 2 multi cam’s failed but she was winning on Dharma & Greg. This is single cam and just like Patricia Heaton re-invented herself with The Middle. Bad Mom could do the same for Jenna. Does Bad Mom go at 8:30 with Suburgatory at 9:30 OR does Suburgatory go at 8:30 with My Frickin’ Family (created by South Park‘s ERICA RIVINOJA) at 9:30? I guess it depends on how they come out. The other problem is that ABCs most buzzed about new comedy (which I assume is guaranteed for a fall slot) is Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23.  Like Modern Family it was directed by Jason Winer. I’m sure ABC wants to give it the best shot to succeed. Do they put it after Modern Family? It’s not really a family comedy. I don’t know.

My gut says ABC still should try sitcoms at 10p. It’s their comedy night. Besides, where else would Cougar Town go? A 10p hour with Cougar Town and Happy Endings seems like a good finish to the night. Plus every drama ABC has tried here in the last 20 plus years, be it a soap, a procedural has failed. Do they try another new drama? My gut says they would be better served trying the new drama after mammoth DWTS lead in on Monday and move Castle here. It’s light enough that it fits with the comedies, plus it’s a 10p hit for them and with a new comedy at 9:30 it’s a cushion for that new comedy between MF and Castle. This move would require holding Cougar Town for midseason. Lots of questions. But it seems that ABC has the ingredients necessary to strengthen their comedy night.


8p Odds are whatever goes here will be against X Factor, so if any new drama goes here it needs to be something bigger than My Generation. Only one thing comes to mind is the pre sold Charlie’s Angels (unless it airs on Sunday). Would fit well with female skewing Grey’s. But ABC might not want to waste the show vs. X FACTOR. But I can’t see Wipeout airing year round and the only option is another reality show that won’t get above a 2.0. Not a simple answer.

After Grey’s I really think ABC needs to try a new drama and to me, the obvious choice is the Shonda produced Scandal/AKA, Damage Control/AKA In Crisis. It’s the first pilot Shonda has written since Private Practice (which was really a backdoor pilot/spinoff). So it’s her first new show, in a new world- that she wrote and created-  since the pilot of GREYS. Really looking forward to this show. Kerry Washington is a star. Private Practice could be held for midseason or as a replacement for whichever drama fails first. Another possibility for this slot is the similarly Washington set Georgetown from Josh Schwartz with a crazy good cast including James Wolk, Boris Kodjoe, Katie Cassidy and many more.


It’s been rumored that Paul Lee wants to resuscitate TGIF. If they attempt it this season, I only see it for one hour to start. If they move Extreme Makeover: Home Edition back to 7p on Sunday, I could see America’s Funniest Home Videos leading off Friday night into 2 multi cams. Unlike EM:HE, I don’t think AFV would get hurt on Friday. An option for multi cams on Friday could be the Bosom Buddies like Work it or Other People’s Kids or both together or one of them into Better With You (the only way I see BWY renewed is for Friday). OR ABC could just stick with some version of unscripted. Shark Tank will likely be renewed for either Friday or summer and WWYD has proven to be useful. ABC has won the last few Fridays with this lineup and with other nights more pressing and viewing levels continuing to erode on this night, it might not be worth to try anything else. The only thing that might work is a couple of low-cost multi cams.

ABC has many buzzwothy pilots and of the ones mentioned above, I assume some I set as being for fall might be used for midseason and vice versa. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them use 1 or 2 for next summer.

Up Last: NBC which might take me a bit longer as there are MANY options.

For another different, yet very smart, take on ABC, check out Wesley Ambrecht’s thoughts:

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4 Responses to Guessing The Upfronts: ABC

  1. forg says:

    I love making up schedules! And ABC is my favorite network to schedule because it’s the right balance of stable hits and so many spots to fill and strategize unlike CBS/Fox which has few spots to take care or NBC where it’s a major trainwreck (CW is just too low rated and too boring to speculate now they have no major competition unlike the days of WB vs UPN)

    I like the concepts of most ABC pilots, I hope they will turn out well. Anyway, if I were ABC scheduler, this would be my schedule (I’m picking pilots which I find the concepts good and has potential)


    7 pm – Secret Millionaire
    9 pm – Desperate Housewives

    8-10pm – DWTS
    10 pm – Castle


    8pm – HALLELUJAH
    9 pm – DWTS
    10pm – Body of Proof


    8 pm – The Middle
    8:30 pm – SUBURGATORY
    9 pm – Modern Family
    9:30 pm – BAD MOM*
    10 pm – DON’T TRUST THE BITCH IN APT. 23*
    10:30 pm – Cougar Town

    * Bitch should have a MF as lead in for the premiere though ala Happy Endings


    9 pm – Grey’s Anatomy
    10 pm – Private Practice


    8 pm – America’s Funniest Home Videos
    9:30 pm – Better With You or SMOTHERED
    10 pm – 20/20


    Shark Tank
    Extreme Makeover Home Edition
    What Would You Do
    Brothers & Sisters or V (to replace any new drama that bombs)
    The River (very interesting premise and would benefit if the show runs uninterrupted)
    The Revenge (same with The River)
    Happy Endings or Mr. Sunshine (to replace a flop new sitcom)

    • forg says:

      Oops forgot to edit, this should be the right one:


      7 pm – Secret Millionaire
      9 pm – Desperate Housewives
      10 PM – Castle

      I think Castle will help up just fine on Sundays with a DH lead in as safety net as well. Body of Proof didn’t do well after DH a few weeks ago so maybe DH can’t help launch a new show anymore and ABC should play it safe with a veteran replacing Brothers and Sisters.

      8-10pm – DWTS
      10 pm – DAMAGE CONTROL

      * The 10pm slot should be used to their most promising new drama, I think this could be it

  2. Pingback: Guessing The Upfronts: NBC | Random Musings from a BigTVfan

  3. Pingback: Armchair Scheduling: ABC Fall 2011 « TV Musings and Thoughts

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