Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ABC Upfronts: Quick Thoughts

Anybody remember that wicked cool moment a couple seasons back when ABC had "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" and the network looked like it had all of the building blocks to be a powerhouse for the next five or six years? At the time, ABC President Steve McPherson said that ABC was just a couple pieces away...

Flash forward to Tuesday (May 15) and ABC announces a schedule at upfronts that includes 8 new shows premiering at the start of the fall, with another set for late fall and two other new shows set for some point at midseason. Then ABC also has "Lost" coming back in the spring and "October Road" and "Notes From the Underbelly" floating around like loose bone chips in the pre-surgical elbow of the network's schedule.

If NBC's schedule yesterday was characterized by a lack of risk-taking (and an inability to take risks), ABC's schedule is characterized by the kind of chaos you don't expect out of a network that seemed to be in strong position just two years ago.

Oh and since nobody else will say it, I'm gonna miss "What About Brian." Not a lot. But a little bit.

A quick night-by-night review and a glance at the pilots ABC didn't pick up is after the bump, so click on through:

MONDAYS: "Dancing with the Stars," "Sam I Am," "The Bachelor." Hi new Christina Applegate comedy wedged between two reality shows! What are you doing there? Wouldn't you be better suited with another comedy or with some of your scripted brethren? Oh well. The comedy-in-a-sea-of-reality strategy can't possibly work, can it? Oh well. ABC doesn't really understand "comedy" anyway.

TUESDAYS: "Cavemen," "Carpoolers," "Dancing Results," "Boston Legal." Why are we restricted to turning contemporary commercials into TV shows? My pitch: Three old ladies travel the world looking for the finest beef, no matter how extreme the situation. Every week, they just end up back at Wendys. It's called "Where's the Beef?" (obviously) and the pitch is "Golden Girls meets National Treasure only with cows." Who's with me? If you start your night with a 30-minute Geico commercial, you lose the right to be taken seriously. Sorry.

WEDNESDAYS: "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice," "Dirty Sexy Money." We may be intellectually lazy, but neither Sepinwall, my Zap2it colleague Rick nor I can think of a precedent for a network rolling out a night of three new dramas. And you start the night with "Pushing Daisies," which is from Bryan Fuller ("Wonderfalls"), which means critics will love it, stupid viewers will be confused by it and it'll be cancelled within 6 episodes. And then you go to "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off "Private Practice," which very few people actually liked when it was presented (and still frustratingly isn't titled "Montgomery's Ward"). And then you end the night with a drama from Greg Berlanti, one of his three shows at the network. If this night works, I wonder what lesson ABC will learn.

THURSDAYS: "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy," "Big Shots." The season-long ratings slide for "Ugly Betty" has been under-reported because the media turned the show into a sensation and can't bear to admit if the sensation is fading. Anywho... You get a night that skews towards younger, female viewers and you close it with a show about four Alpha Males? Tiny bit confusing.

FRIDAYS: "Men in Trees," "Women's Murder Club," "20/20." I've always liked Laura Harris, who was fantastic on both "24" and "Dead Like Me," but the odds of my watching "Women's Murder Club" are very very slim.

SATURDAYS: "College Football." Fight on 'SC!

SUNDAYS: "America's Funniest Home Videos," "EM: Home Edition," "Desperate Housewives," "Brothers & Sisters." Ah, sweet stability. ABC had better pray that people are still watching "Desperate Housewives" by next fall. It's no guarantee.

INTERESTING PILOTS (BASED ON PLOT AND CAST, NOT ANYTHING I'VE SEEN) THAT DIDN'T GET PICKED UP: You get Bryan Singer directing a pilot based on a popular British format and you get a cast that includes Lucy Lawless, Gabrielle Union, James Van Der Beek, Eddie Cibrian and several dozen other recognizable actors and you still don't get picked up? How awful must "Football Wives" have been? Ditto with "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," which was doomed from the minute they tried to get Martin Henderson and Jordana Brewster to replace Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I feel bad about "Marlowe," which got pretty super buzz and featured Fien Print favorite Amanda Righetti. And "The Thick of It" had a good cast and came from Mitch "Arrested Development" Hurwitz, so that's got to be considered a miss. Ditto with the untitled legal comedy from "Freaks & Geeks" vets Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. Come to think of it, ABC had a ton of pilots I wanted to see and they picked up some of the ones I wanted to see least.

And check out our more exhaustive upfronts coverage over at Zap2it.


  1. Anonymous2:45 PM

    "What About Brian" looks like the frickin' "Sopranos" compared to "October Road".

    Along those same lines, I'm sure "Cavemen" will make "According to Jim" look like "MASH".

  2. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Is ABC using the same Cavemen actors from the commercials? If not, I'm gonna be PISSED.

    I ended up hating What About Brian by the end if its run, but it was watchable and I have a high tolerance for crap. I gave up on October Road after two episodes. It is supremely terrible, especially the dialogue. Oh, God, the dialogue.

    I'm kind of into ABC's Wednesday night schedule. Pushing Daisies has the potential to be interesting, I'm giving Private Practice a shot and Dirty Sexy Money also sounds like it has potential. Therefore, all of these shows won't last longer than a year. I am the kiss of death.

  3. Anonymous7:44 AM

    ABC has had unusually strong development the last few seasons, which always leaves some pretty decent sounding pilots on the scrap head.

    It also probably accounts for why they've picked up so many shows the last several years and have had to do some really odd scheduling (there's Eyes and Grey's getting thrown on for limited spring runs; Jake in Progress and Sons & Daughters airing their episodes back to back; and of course everything under the sun airing post Grey's this year.)

    Still, despite a killer season 2 years ago, they really haven't found a new hit. It's particularly weird when you realize that the breakouts from the '04-'05 season-DH, Lost, Grey's, and Boston Legal-are now the oldest scripted shows on the network!

    I actually think their new shows sound pretty good and am especially interested in Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, and Big Shots (though the last one has mixed buzz, it still sounds like it may have potential.) I just wish at least ONE network would really start focusing on comedy again.