Upfront Roundup: ABC

Before beginning, let’s review what I said in my previous post:

  • “Wife Swap” and “What About Brian” didn’t seem to work on Mondays, but it was the first time ABC actually had to program the night in fall in a quarter century. Now “Dancing with the Stars” seems to be working on the night; will it stay there in fall? Where would that leave Tuesdays?
  • ABC has announced that it will hold three more abbreviated seasons of “Lost” and end the show in 2010. That leaves Wednesdays an absolute mess until “Lost” returns.
  • Does ABC have any plan for Fridays?
  • Would ABC move “Ugly Betty” again to shore up another night, or does it not want to break up the “Betty”-“Grey’s” combo that blew away expectations this season?
  • Strong nights: Monday (with “DwtS”), Tuesday (with “DwtS”), Thursday, Saturday (during football season), Sunday. Weak nights: Monday (w/out “DwtS”), Wednesday (with or without “Lost”), Friday, Saturday (after football season). Personally, I think “Saturday Night (College) Football” proved that you can make Saturdays as strong as any other night of the week if you actually try. But it also confirmed a long-lingering suspicion of mine, that sports is the way to go on Saturdays. Wednesday was a winning night when it had the one-two punch of the “Dancing with the Stars” results and “Lost” but it did poorly when “DwtS” ended and “Lost” went on vacation.
  • Quick tip: Monday or Wednesday is going to be without “DwtS”. Move one of your other hits there to bide time until “Lost” returns (in the likely scenario the night in question is Wednesday).

Now, how did ABC carry that out? (All recaps come from ABC’s schedule page itself.)


Sun

7pm

7:30 pm

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Am. Funniest Home Vids
Extreme Makeover Home
Desperate Housewives
Bro’s & Sis’s


Can’t argue with this. “DH” has lost a lot of buzz but the night clearly works for ABC.


Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Dancing with the Stars
Sam I Am

The Bachelor


It’s a tremendous vote of confidence to “Sam I Am” to give it “DwtS” as a lead-in. But I suspect some groups might be put off by its premise:

“It’s a common fantasy: rewind your life, erase all the mistakes and cringe-worthy moments and start over with a clean slate. But for Samantha Newly, the fantasy is far too real. After a hit-and-run car accident puts her into an eight-day coma, she wakes up with retrograde amnesia — meaning that she can function in the world but she can’t remember a single fact about her own life. That’s when our heroine begins the long, comic process of starting over and digging for clues about her former not-so-nice self.”

This sounds like one of those shows whose description seems to describe a drama, not a comedy. It will get more eyeballs than it otherwise would, but it doesn’t sound particularly appetising.

Here’s the midseason schedule, for when “DwtS” and “Bachelor” aren’t on:

Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Wife Swap
Sam I Am
Ntes/Un’bly

October Road


Plans can change, but this looks like they’re going to move “Sam I Am” to 9 pm, and then return it to 9:30 later. What’s wrong with just keeping it at 9:30?


Tue

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Cavemen
Carpoolers
Dancing w/Stars Results

Boston Legal


Hmm. “DwtS” isn’t being used to lead in to the two new comedies. That means ABC thinks they can carry the night on their own – a rather risky proposition. Yes, “Cavemen” is the show based on the GEICO commercials:

“Over the last hundred thousand years, mankind has evolved from primitive creatures to sophisticated beings, except for a small minority who unfortunately didn’t evolve physically at all. Now three sophisticated cavemen (who already have a fan base from their popular GEICO commercials) are living in modern-day Atlanta, where they are at odds with contemporary society as they struggle to overcome their physical appearance and the accompanying stereotypes.”

ABC makes it sound like they were going for a thought-provoking premise but blew the execution. If the show was taken on its own merits, it sounds like you could replace “cavemen” with “black people” and it would be right at home on the old UPN. But it already has a reputation for being little more than a 30-second commercial, and the fact that it’ll probably be rather shameless doesn’t help either. Oh, and it also probably won’t help that it’s getting no help whatsoever. It probably [i]will[/i] help, though, that there rarely is much competition at the start of Tuesday… unless “American Idol” is on.

“Carpoolers” is reliant on the success of “Cavemen”:

“There are men who actively try and figure out the world — together. These men are more complicated than we might think — they have hopes, ambitions, families, careers, and insecurities. These men are the Carpoolers; four guys, living different versions of the modern suburban family life who obsess, dream, and strategize as they rocket their way up and down the carpool lane every day.”

Now this actually sounds like a decent premise; there’s a “Friends” or “Seinfeld” element in it. If there was a comedy on ABC’s lineup that would save the ABC comedy from going extinct, it might be this one. (“Cavemen” really suffers by comparison.) Too bad it’s on [i]before[/i] “DwtS”.

“Cashmere Mafia” takes over the “DwtS” time slot when “DwtS” isn’t on:

“From the creator and executive producer of Sex and the City and the writer of Working Girl comes a comedic drama focusing on four dynamic women, friends since their days at Business school together, who support each other through rocky marriages, ridiculous dates, parenting challenges, professional rivalries and the hunt for the perfect apartment. Mixing the sass and wit of the film The Devil Wears Prada with insight of the novel I Don’t Know How She Does It , this nuanced dramedy taps into the thoroughly modern, but eminently relatable dilemmas of today’s working women who valiantly struggle to “have it all.””

Hmm. Sounds like ABC and NBC (“Lipstick Jungle”) are stepping on each other’s toes.


Wed

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Pushing Daisies
Private Practice

Dirty Sexy $


Well, so much for moving an established hit here to bide time until “Lost” returns. These three shows will all have to support each other. It’s a shame, because “Pushing Daisies” actually has received rave reviews:

“Pushing Daisies is a love story about a pie-baking young man with a very special gift… the ability to return dead people briefly back to life with just a simple touch — enabling him to help a P.I. crack murder cases by asking victims to name their killers. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, writer-producer Bryan Fuller, and the producers of Fish blend romance, crime procedural and high-concept fantasy to create a fairytale in the spirit of Amelie, Stranger than Fiction, and Chocolat. Features a stellar cast.”

Uh… yeah. I think this is either one of those “too-good-to-last” shows or just too quirky for network television. Read the full report: apparently he’s brought back his childhood sweetheart back to life for good, and if he ever touches her again, she’s dead for good. Wonderful, Holmes. (Sounds like each episode should be a lot quicker, too.)

Which is probably bad news for “Private Practice,” the recently-previewed spinoff of “Grey’s Anatomy” that is the closest thing to moving a hit to the night:

“Grey’s Anatomy executive producer Shonda Rhimes combines the heart and soul of television’s top-rated drama with exciting new faces in a sun-drenched new city to create a show with a whole new vibe. This intimate portrait of the choices and changes we make in our search for happy lives, centers around neonatal surgeon Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery of Grey’s Anatomy. After a failed attempt at reconciliation and two disastrous affairs, a move to Southern California to join her friends’ health cooperative could be just the right prescription to jump-start Addison’s own life.”

One wonders why this show doesn’t premiere after “GA”, especially since that time slot is being used to debut a new show. Spinoffs aren’t guaranteed success and need to be nurtured like any other show. “Private Practice” will probably get the best ratings for ABC on the night, and will probably beat its only known current competition (“Bionic Woman”), but it could net only mediocre ratings without support.

“Dirty Sexy Money” has also been acclaimed:

“Power, privilege and family money are a volatile cocktail thrust on an idealistic lawyer when he inherits the job of tending to the legal (and sometimes illegal) needs of the absurdly wealthy Darlings of New York City. Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh and William Baldwin star in this younger, sexier, redheaded stepchild of Dallas and Dynasty.”

It’s a rather unique premise and it also sounds like it’s a potential recreation of the “Ugly Betty” formula. It’s what Fox’s “MyNetworkTV” shows were getting at but failed to accomplish. It’s going up against “CSI:NY” but again, that’s the weakest of the “CSI”‘s. It also has a modestly strong lead-in, though it’s a bit of a crapshoot, not as good as if it were a show that were already established. It certainly has the chance to become the established hit “Lost” was this past season for the Alphabet on Wednesday night.


Thu

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Ugly Betty
Grey’s Anatomy

Big Shots


No real objections; “October Road” is continuing this season, moving to Mondays in midseason, so you might wonder why move it from this winning night, but it’s really only a modest success, drawing at roughly the same level as the moribund “ER”. It’s certainly a vote of confidence to “Big Shots” that it’s getting the cushy post-“Anatomy” time slot:

“The line gets blurred between the boardroom and the bedroom in a new outrageous drama about four dysfunctional CEOs who will do anything to stay on top. This foursome takes refuge at their country club where they can discuss business, confide secrets, seek advice. It’s lonely at the top and they have to trust someone to cover their back. Michael Vartan (Alias, One Hour Photo), Golden Globe® winner Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Christopher Titus (Titus) and Josh Malina (The West Wing, Sports Night) star as our greedy, horny and competitive — yet sexy and likeable — CEOs.”

It sounds much the same as “Dirty Sexy Money” but with a tamer approach. But unlike that show, it sounds almost boring. Why not put the bigger jewel behind the guaranteed hit on Thursdays? Because that also means getting it killed against “Without a Trace”; putting “DSM” on Wednesdays in some ways is a move to protect it.


Fri

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Men in Trees
Women’s Murder Club

20/20


The moaning about “Men in Trees” being renewed and almost immediately removed for the rest of the season has played out now. If being consigned to Fridays wasn’t bad enough, being put behind a show that’s already been abused can’t be good for “Women’s Murder Club”:

“When you are a woman working in a man’s field, you get a lot further by teaming up… so to circumvent the Justice Department boy’s club, San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon, Law & Order) assembles a secret all-female team of experts — the Women’s Murder Club. Two-time Emmy Award®-winning Director/Producer Scott Winant (Huff, thirtysomething) adapts the bestselling novels by James Patterson into a thrilling new crime series that redefines women’s work. Because sometimes, the best way to get your man is with a woman.”

“It’s a ‘CSI/Law and Order’ ripoff… BUT IT’S ALL GIRLS!” The lukewarm premise and terrible time slot probably spells doom for “Women’s Murder Club”.


Sat

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Saturday Night College Football


Various “movies and specials” will take over when college football season ends, but it won’t be the same, as “SNCF” did so well last year you wonder why they didn’t do it all along.

“Lost” doesn’t have a timeslot reserved for it at midseason, which could be trouble. “Supernanny” will also be hoping for a timeslot. Only two scriped shows will debut at midseason, including “Eli Stone”:

“Following the success of their work on the current hit Brothers and Sisters , Ken Olin (Alias ), Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Berlanti (Everwood ) create a unique, character-driven drama that explores the very different worlds of law and spirituality in a humorous and heartfelt way. Joining fantasy and spirituality from The Ghost Whisperer , sincerity and passion from The Practice and quirky humor from Monk , the show asks if we can change the course of our life midstream. Eli Stone is the cutthroat lawyer who risks everything he’s worked for in order to explore a higher calling.”

Sounds like another show, like “Pushing Up Daisies”, that attracts a cult following and gets uncereminiously cancelled. That’s if it’s done well, which is no guarantee. “Miss Guided” sounds like “Ugly Betty” in a school, but the clips show influences of “The Office” as well:

“You can run and you can hide but you can never escape… who you were in high school. Becky Freeley thought she had left her teenage self behind when she returned to her old school to work as the guidance counselor. But when her gorgeous former nemesis joins the faculty, Becky’s cover is blown. From producer Ashton Kutcher and Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle, The Larry Sanders Show) comes a show about second chances.”

Everything depends on where it falls on the schedule. So, how did ABC do on the points I laid out?

  • Would Tuesdays suffer from getting a shorter version of “DwtS”? Grade: C-. Well, they hurt their own chances by not using the results show to build a new show.
  • Wednesdays without “Lost”. Grade: D. They didn’t follow the Quick Tip at all, but their schedule makes some semblance of sense, since Wednesdays have become very weak at the Big Four (until “American Idol” returns, that is).
  • ABC’s Friday plan. Grade: B-. It’s certainly better than what they’re putting on now, and Fridays are the second Saturdays, but “Women’s Murder Club” seems destined for the scrap heap.
  • Overall grade: C. ABC is in good shape and has strong nights that can be used to build the rest of the schedule. However, they didn’t really shore up their weak nights, and only two or three new shows have real support. When you have nine new shows, that’s a problem.
  • Nights that improved: Wednesday, but not by much. Nights I approve of: Monday (w/”DwtS”), Thursday. Both nights will give their new shows big opportunities. It’s only a shame that the new shows don’t look that great. Nights that look like a train wreck: Tuesday (w/out “DwtS”). Two of the new shows will have time to build an audience but won’t have a show to feed off of, except local syndication. “Carpoolers” sounds like a good show but its fate is dependent on ABC promotion and how well “Cavemen” does. And “Cashmere Mafia” is dependent on “Carpoolers”. It has a chance to fall like a house of cards if ABC isn’t careful. If those two comedies falter, ABC better have a plan B for “Mafia” and put it into place after “DwtS” ends.

One Comment

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