Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ABC's Fall 2011 Schedule

UPDATE: (1:00 PM) ABC has just released clips from their upcoming shows, including one for each new fall show. Accordingly, I have updated each commentary below to include my take on them, constituting first impressions.

With ABC, I have to admit something right away -- I always have some strange fascination with this particular network. It's not that they have spectacular shows, although I will admit to liking Castle and Modern Family. And it's not that they're particularly successful, constantly racing against NBC to avoid landing in fourth place while still maintaining consistantly strong ratings for a few key shows. And their days of cultural relevance are well behind them, with the TGIF block remaining in the 1990's (and I'm aware of the more ill-fated revival from around 2003), serving as only a source of nostalgia the network can't benefit from.

To be perfectly honest, the thing I like the most about this network are it's promos. Like I said last fall, I enjoy how they play out and that they seem to have a real energy to them. It was true back in the TGIF days and it's true at these upfronts. I mean, I enjoyed NBC and FOX's newest trailers, but it's the ones from this network I'm looking forward to the most!

Anyways, onto the fall schedule itself. There have been a lot of pickups at ABC this season, reflecting their issues trying to get a new show off the ground. As such, there are a fair share of new series put on hold until midseason, specifically Apartment 23, Good Christian Belles, Missing, The River, Scandal, and Work It. Also shelved until midseason is Cougar Town, Courtney Cox's very popular comedy.

And this is the fall schedule, with commentary on each night:

8/7c - Dancing With the Stars (Reality; 7th Season)
10/9c - Castle (Drama; 4th Season)

Of course! Why mess with a good thing? You've got ABC's monolith of a reality competition with such familiar faces. And the choice of chaser feels like a real proven success -- Nathan Fillion helping to solve crimes for another season. ...So, yeah. This is absolutely no surprise.

8/7c - LAST MAN STANDING (New Comedy; Tim Allen comes to grips with his masculinity when considering the woman leading all around him)
8:30/7:30c - MAN UP (New Comedy; A trio of friends come to grips with their sense of masculinity)
9/8c - Dancing With the Stars Results Show (Reality; 7th Season)
10/9c - Body of Proof (Drama; 2nd Season)

And with ABC, we get more multi-camera comedies, but this time it's not so surprising. Oh sure, this network has scored with a trio of Wednesday night single-camera comedies after years of efforts at it. But still, they did have one traditional-style sitcom lingering around the past season -- Better With You, which drew mixed rating results and was eventually cancelled. Personally, I liked that even with it's corny moments. Regardless, we have two more this coming season, airing on their own night but on a network that's seemed to remain open to having more than one kind of sitcom on the air. It just comes off as Paul Lee's desire to start another night of comedy, sticking to a genre that ABC has the most to be proud of. He tries a night that's had limited success with dramas the last few seasons, and let's be honest, some ideas he had were even worse, like trying a new TGIF block. The premises of the two shows are akin to each other, so it makes perfect sense to pair them up. For the moment I don't have any first impressions, I have yet to see either of any show. Still, with plots like those it should be interesting to see how they come off in the trailers. And it's nice to see Tim Allen return to his TV roots. (I consider his film career, and there he was as indeed a sad, strange little man.) The rest of the night is unsurprising, with the other night of Dancing With The Stars followed by procedural Body of Proof. It's not unlike Monday's arrangement with Castle, especially since it's their one recent dramatic success and it's similarly spearheaded by a strong character actress lead in Dana Delany. Perhaps it'll grow to the same success Castle had over time.

UPDATE: It turns out, I was wrong on my sources regarding these two new comedies. Only one of them, Last Man Standing is actually a multi-camera comedy. Man Up, at least based on the clip I saw is actually a single-camera comedy. In any case, I have commentary to add based on the new clips released. Tim Allen's new show appears to be the funnier one, with his father and husband character trying futily to leave an impression on his wife and daughter to amusing results. The second show looks okay, but didn't leave much of a comic impression so far. Hopefully, the trailer will be better.

8/7c - The Middle (Comedy; 3rd Season)
8:30/7:30c - SUBURGATORY (New Comedy; A teenage daughter is forced to move into the suburbs with her father)
9/8c - Modern Family (Comedy; 3rd Season)
9:30/8:30c - Happy Endings (Comedy; 2nd Season)
10/9c - REVENGE (New Drama; A contemporary, female twist on The Count of Monte Cristo, with a young woman planning to exact revenge)

On Wednesdays, ABC's wisely not messing with what works, keeping solid performer The Middle and the hit comedy Modern Family in their old time slots. The way they're playing with it is by touting Happy Endings, a solid and likable relationship comedy that's gotten a reprive from ABC for another season, after Modern Family in a bid to increase awareness. And just as we've gotten an hour the next night over for the traditional-style sitcom, the only new comedy here is a single-camera comedy Suburgatory. With the premise of a father-daughter relationship touted like that, it of course fits in nicely between the two popular family sitcoms on this night. At the 10 o'clock hour, which ABC's been desperately trying to work for it for several seasons now, we get a new drama with a potentially bold, innovative storyline. Should be interesting to see the trailers for it.

UPDATE: Based on the clip of Suburgatory I've seen, the show looks like it could be funny. Jeremy Sisto and his daughter share a bit of banter in regards to his efforts to leave a positive impression on her, and it's fairly amusing. The clip we got of Revenge displays what appears to be the inciting incident of the series, with the murder of a young man. It's sort of hard to tell from just the 90-second snippet, but I'm almost inclined to believe that's the protagonist's brother or boyfriend. It's got some good going for it, but it's not exactly the best dramatic clip I've seen for this network.

8/7c - CHARLIE'S ANGELS (New Drama; A reboot of the 70's action-heroine thrill-ride)
9/8c - Grey's Anatomy (Drama; 8th Season)
10/9c - Private Practice (Drama; 5th Season)

On Thursday nights, Shonda Rhimes' series are staying put. Say what you will about them, but these two still do well enough to earn their ratings keep. Leading into it is the one foregone conclusion among new ABC pilots -- the new Charlie's Angels. Yes, it would appear TV is picking up some of the same shortcuts as the film industry, utilizing the "What's old is new again" philosophy. Now, I barely remember the original, which I last saw as a little kid. But we've also got Drew Barrymore producing, which only brings to mind the insipid and bombastic feature films based on the shows. Those are the only judgements I can make, and they don't say if the show will be good or not. The closest we can come is with the trailer, which I haven't seen yet. In any case, it's certainly going to be interesting with this classic returning to it's home network.

UPDATE: Okay, the best thing I can say of the Charlie's Angels clip is that it appears to be faithful to the show. Then again, I can't exactly be the best judge on this series. It does seem to have the right amount of action for a contemporary show, though.

8/7c - Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Reality; 7th Season; New Night and Time)
9/8c - Shark Tank (Reality; 3rd Season)
10/9c - 20/20 (Newsmagazine)

Friday night remains the second least-watched night of the week (Saturdays are behind it), so the choice of stacking one unscripted show on top of another is the most sensible decision on hand here. Furthermore, we also have the choice of series, including one of ABC's veteran reality shows trying it's hand on Fridays. It's ratings have been mixed the last season, so it's unsurprising to see it pop up here. Nothing else about this lineup is noteworthy, although ABC is the most exhausted at trying to program this night.

8/7c - Saturday Night College Football (ESPN Sports Coverage)

Aside from FOX, the most consistant Saturday schedule I've seen the last several years is on ABC. In the fall, it's the simple, popular coverage of NCAA football, a longtime staple on the network in general.

7/6c - America's Funniest Home Videos (Reality; 22nd Season)
8/7c - ONCE UPON A TIME (New Drama; Fantastic drama reimagining the story of Snow White and the Wicked Queen)
9/8c - Desperate Housewives (Drama; 8th Season)
10/9c - PAN AM (New Drama; 1960's period piece soap set on the legendary airline)

And on Sunday nights, the biggest change is with the displacement of the reality veteran in favor of a bold new drama. Desperate Housewives will of course stick to it's timeslot, and so will America's Funniest Home Videos, staying on the air even as it would be obsolete in theory. The new dramas certainly sound unique and interesting, marking three new, adventurous dramas for ABC. The trailers for Once Upon a Time and Pan Am almost seem guaranteed to offer a beautiful look to them. On top of that, the cancellation of Brothers & Sisters opened up the potential for two dramas like this to kick off, for the price of one. Still that decision is the most surprising among the ABC cancellations. This past season saw an upgrade from 18 episodes just to wrap things up to a full 22 in the wake of improved ratings. There was also talk of bringing the show back for a brief final season, but that plan fell through.

UPDATE: I have to say, both the clips for Sunday's new dramas look absolutely marvelous. Not since Pushing Daisies have I seen ABC put so much effort into the style of a dramatic series, with such a rich, stylistic appeal for both. Pan Am really puts us into the time the show's set (not unlike NBC's The Playboy Club, which takes place the same decade), and I already expect a good show sporting women trying to rise above their given circumstances. The clip for Once Upon a Time is even better, creating a lush, rich, fantastic atmosphere for it's fairy tale setting, and not just by broadcast standards. This must've been expensive to put together, and I can only hope that the show itself delivers with such a high standard set.

The shows that ABC won't be bringing back are Better With You, Brothers & Sisters, Detroit 1-8-7, Mr. Sunshine, My Generation, No Ordinary Family, The Whole Truth, and V.

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