Early Upfront Thoughts – ABC:

ABC had a great development season last year. The network launched new drama hits Once Upon A Time and Revenge. They launched two new comedy hits in Suburgatory and Last Man Standing. Several of their midseason shows look like they will return. Even shows like Pan Am and The River that won’t return, were big swings for the network and mostly delivered, especially the latter. (I still don’t get how American Horror Story resonated and The River didn’t). The only shows that can be considered critical and commercial disappoinments are: Charlies Angels, Man Up and Work It.

ABCs biggest hits usually emerge when they swing big and also stay on brand. For example, standard procedurals don’t usually work for them. They didnt greenlight to series the two they had in development last year and this year’s development roster, smartly, contains zero procedurals.  Just examining ABCs  biggest hits this year – Once Upon A Time was unlike anything else on TV currently and yet it has elements that are very ABC. There’s romance and a central couple to root for. What’s also interesting and unique to ABC,  is that the three protagonists and principal leads who are driving the story, are women.

Revenge is a return to the soap genre that has been dormant for quite some time, but done with twists, turns, romance and once again – two women driving the story. Different, but very on brand for ABC.

As they set their fall schedule I think the shows that ABC should pick up should once again  be on brand, but unique and different from what else is currently on TV. Desperate Housewives, LOST, Grey’s, Dancing With The Stars, Ugly Betty, Modern Family, Once Upon A Time – ABCs biggest hits come from taking big swings and doing something different.

Looking at their newly launched midseason shows, I actually think barring some huge ratings downturn the next few weeks – most of them will return.

GCB – has proven to have an audience that will turn up to watch it, after only 8 eps. Even last Sun when its lead in was a .9 it grew to a 1.5.

Scandal – has only aired for 3 weeks but has been consistent at a 2.0 every week. If it remains in that vicinity this week against a new Mentalist, I’ d say its a renewal will be locked.

Both these shows also have a nice amount of buzz too and they’re both very much on brand.

I should mention that even Missing, while airing against the 2 biggest shows on TV and at 8p, has never gotten less than 7.2 million and a 1.4 after 6 weeks. Obviously ABC can’t pick up every show, but given the fact that this is a co-production and slightly cheaper to produce, I could totally see ABC ordering another 10 eps for Summer 2013 and might be good 10p option for the summer months. I don’t expect it to return anywhere else but summer.

Dont Trust The B____ in Apt 23 has only aired for 2 weeks, but this has garnered stellar reviews and nice buzz and if it gets around the 2.5 area this Wed out of a rerun Modern Family I would assume that would all but lock a renewal. With all this good buzz, this is a show a network wants to renew and at this point as long as it doesn’t take any big drops, I think its chances of coming back are very good.

I have also mentioned before that I believe the network will renew Body of Proof for Friday or midseason and especially after Private Practice’s numbers in its slot last week, I think that is even more assured.

That leaves Private Practice. Given all the shows I expect them to bring back, one would assume this show is done. You can’t renew everything. But this show is from Shonda Rhimes who has been very good to ABC and the show still does decently. I will assume the network will bring it back for a final season of no more than 13 eps and likely hold it off the fall schedule to use it as a midseason replacement. Also I expect ABC to continue to order shows with different episode orders, some maybe as low as 6 and it’s possible some returning shows on the bubble get less than the standard 13. ( I also wouldn’ t be shocked to see Kate Walsh as Addison possibly return to Grey’s after PP ends).

The show I feel confident saying won’t return is, sadly, Cougar Town.

Even with Scandal and GCB on the fall schedule I still see 3 slots open to launch new dramas, should they desire to launch that many (ABC launched 4 dramas this fall). There will likely be an hour open on Sunday, an hour on Tuesday (or Monday if they move Castle) and an hour on Thu.

It’s also worth mentioning that ABC has already ordered to series (for 10 eps) Mistresses. It was ordered initially for summer 2013, but I assume as when ABC procured Ashley Judd for Missing, once Yunjin Kim and Alyssa Milano were assembled for the cast, the network has now slated it for sometime next season, which to me means, if it comes out really great, we might use it in fall or midseason.

Possible scheduling moves:

1)Revenge – ABC finally fixed the Wed at 10p problem and their whole Wed night lineup is stellar from start to finish creatively. It is one of their strongest nights ratings wise and you can tell just how much advertisers like it by the amount of commercials occupying an ep of Revenge, if you watch it live. That being said, there is a ceiling for 10p dramas lately, around the 2.4 area, even the mighty CBS is not pulling 3’s at 10 anymore. One can understand why ABC might want to move this show to Sun at 9 where it should likely do better (especially with Once at 8). To me, it all comes down to development. If ABC dramas come out well and if some of the more fantasy driven shows ABC developed (Gotham, Beauty & The Beast) come out well, then I think ABC might pair one of those with Once on Sunday (possibly air a new show at 8 and slide Once to 9 or vice versa) and at that point Revenge stays put. It’s this simple  – the only way ABC moves Revenge, is to put it at a 9p slot, Sun 9p, otherwise they don’t move it. They’re not gonna move it to another 10p slot and at this point unless their development sucks, I’m inclined to think it’s staying Wed at 10. Maybe I’ll change my mind in the next few weeks, but at this moment I’m thinking it’s not moving to Sun.

2) Castle – I’ve written about this before, and while it’s probably one of the worst times to move Castle, now that both CBS and NBC are players on Monday at 10, there are two-time periods Castle could potentially immediately improve: Tuesday 10p or even Thu 8p. Let’s face it Bones is doing very well with a 2.2 this spring against strong competition Mon at 8. ABC might be reticent to try to launch another new drama in that competitive slot that is Thu at 8. The one thing not occupying that timeslot is a light cop procedural. In fact the last show of that genre that was in that slot and did well was… Bones. But then again X Factor results aren’t IDOL results and CBS likely will move TBBT to 9p, so if ABC has a strong new drama contender,  Thu at 8p might be a good place to launch it. Grey’s won’t be at 9 forever and like they did with Once, they can potentially launch their next Thu drama at 8.

I’m gonna now turn my attention to possible scheduling scenarios for each night. Even if ABC launches 3 new drams in the fall, I expect them to pick up, up to 6 for use through the entire season. The new dramas I mention are ones that sound like they are unique enough to possibly pop on ABC, but who knows, it’s all in the execution.

Sunday

I’m feeling pretty confident currently that ABC will leave GCB at 10 and let it grow some more. Once Upon A Time will either be at 8 or if one of their more family friendly fantasy shows I mentioned above turns out well, I could see it debuting at 8 and Once being the 9p anchor. Another potential option for Sunday is Shawn Ryan’s Last Resort. Assuming this comes out well, you have a unique concept with a mega talented co creator/producer and a great cast headlined by Emmy winner Andre Braugher. If this makes the cut, this is the kind of marquee drama that would get the bulk of ABCs promotional muscle in the fall and out of any night of the week, Sunday would likely represent the best place for it to break out. The only drama competition would be on CBS and it likely a procedural like The Mentalist or a new drama. Yes it’s more male skewing than any other ABC drama and it would be airing opposite the NFL but I don’t think airing vs CBS on Tue or airing Thu at 8p would give it any easier welcome and the cast suggests it should appeal to both sexes. Finally, before you say GCB is a bad fit out of it, LOST tried many similar skewing shows following it and none worked. So while GCB is tonally different from Last Resort, I don’t think it’s a huge concern especially since it appears GCB is carving out an audience that will tune in for it. Another option might be 666 Park Avenue which would bring Terry O’ Quinn back to ABC and also has in its cast ABC Sunday veterans Vanessa Williams and Dave Annable. I would love to see ABC greenlight Devious Maids mostly because the wonderful Ana Ortiz and Judy Reyes front the cast but also because I really feel there is not enough diversity on TV and this show has 4 Latin woman as the leads. Obviously a Marc Cherry soap wouldn’t be foreign to Sun at 9.

Monday

DWTS will remain 8-10. Yes airing vs The Voice has hurt both shows but The Voice keeps dropping while DWTS maintains or grows as of late and their disparity in the demo was only .6 this week. Plus DWTS is far and away ahead in viewers, so that show is staying put. If Castle does move, I expect ABC to air one of their more female skewing, or soapy new shows here, like the aforementioned Devious Maids, or Scruples, or Americana.

There are two other shows that sound like they possibly are unique enough to pop and yet in the ABC pocket. One is Gilded Lillys which sound like a more commercial Downton Abbey that takes place in a New York hotel in 1895. It has a large impressive cast including John Barrowman and is executive by Shonda Rhimes. This might be a Monday option OR

Nashville – This takes place in the country music capital of the world. The terrific Connie Britton stars as a former red-hot country singer and there’s original country music in it. Between the cast and the genre this sounds like this could be something really fresh while the soapier aspects are right in ABCs wheelhouse. Callie Khouri wrote it and RJ Cutler directed. Love to see this make the cut.

Tuesdays

have continued to be a problem for ABC especially in between DWTS cycles. Adding a Voice results show has only made it more difficult. Last Man Standing has done better for ABC on Tue than any show has recently and opens up the possibility for a multi cam block. Until ratings went to hell for all of TV this spring, it  was never lower than a 2.2 and 7 million. It needs a stronger partner. With comedies so hot now, part of me wonders if ABC should just make this a 4 multi camera night with DWTS at 10. They wont do that as they have never aired DWTS at 10, plus with FOX likely to schedule a 4 single cam lineup maybe its better to have the cushion of DWTS at 9p. I do think ABC will pair Tim with Reba McEntire’s Malibu Country. She’s a beloved star and has a huge fan base and I could see ABC possibly starting the night with Reba and sliding LMS to 8:30. Once DWTS ends it might be smart to add two more 25-54 multi cams with beloved stars. Counter Culture boasts a terrific cast including Margo Martindale and sounds a bit like Golden Girls with siblings in a Texas diner. Sounds different enough and yet familiar. Kristie Alley has a sitcom still in contention (Manzinis) and 4 of those 25-54 multi cams of beloved stars sounds like a decent lineup. Either Castle or one of the aforementioned new dramas at 10.

Wednesday

might look almost the same except for one new sitcom. I think Apt 23 will return and possibly be paired somewhere with Happy Endings which I also expect to return (maybe midseason for both). I think ABC will finally add a single camera family comedy after Modern Family. They developed a bunch that sound like they are being eyed for this slot: Family Trap with Mandy Moore, Dan Fogleman’s alien family comedy, The Neighbors, and American Judy starring the wonderful Judy Greer. (Would be great for her to be in a vehicle that finally makes her a star.) Another comedy that’s getting some early buzz is How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest of Your Life starring Sarah Chalke. It was initially reported as being a hybrid comedy (like HIMYM) which to me looks and feels more multi cam. Recently I have seen it listed as single cam. If it is more single cam its likely more of a fit for Wed, if more multi cam seems like a Tue option.

There is the possibility that ABC will move the terrific Suburgatory to 9:30 and put the new comedy at 8:30 but I think they really would like to use Modern Family to launch something new, so probably not.

Depending on how Apt 23 does the next few weeks there is a outisde chance ABC will leave it here if it maintains or even grows over the next month. They might see potential and want to protect it a bit more before they send it on its own. Will have to see how it shakes out the next few weeks. My gut says new family single cam 9:30, but next few weeks will confirm that.

Thursday

I do think it’s likely to remain Greys and Scandal with a new 8p option, either a new drama – Last Resort, Nashville could potentially air here, though they will likely have an easier time breaking out in the other slots I mentioned. Castle is another option, like I mentioned above, or ABC may just go back to the reality well. It’s airing in the summer but part of me wonders how Secret Millionaire would have worked here. As I said,  X Factor is no Idol and TBBT likely will move to 9p so launching a new drama here might not look as daunting as it looks this spring.

Friday

This night is currently working really well for ABC. The only difference I suspect will be that something will likely share the 9p slot with What Would You Do. It might very well be Body of Proof.

I also think ABC should order 30 eps of Shark Tank. It only takes few days to shoot it and is relatively inexpensive. It reruns remarkably well and extra eps could be used on nights during the week when serial shows are on a break.

Speaking of scheduling here’s a thought: If ABC orders 24 eps of Once Upon A Time and airs 9 eps in the fall,  they will virtually be uninterrupted the whole season (they only air 2 eps in Feb with Oscars and Super Bowl).

If Revenge stays on Wed here is how I suggest ABC schedule it, in order to run as consecutive as possible and interrupt it the least: Run 9 eps in the fall, which barring one week of for the CMAs, takes them thru Nov sweeps. Then, take a break for December and January. If they can get producers to produce 24 eps (which is hard for such serialized shows) then it can return at the start of Feb sweeps and run uninterrupted for 15 weeks thru May Sweeps. If producers only will produce 22, they can add a clip show the first week back as a recap and maybe end a week or two early in May. This way they are covered mostly thru all sweep periods, they are off the 2 least important months of the year and run essentially uninterrupted when it’s on.

Up Next: NBC

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