Upfronts: Musings on ABC’s schedule

This week is one of the most exciting and hectic times for the television industry and those of us who like to pontificate about it — upfronts! All week the broadcast networks will be announcing their fall schedules for advertisers, which means all sorts of stories about pick-ups, cancellations and armchair quarterbacking from people like me in response to the new schedules. So I’ll be chiming in every day with my thoughts on new schedules. Obviously I haven’t seen any of the new series and I won’t pretend as if I know anything outside of the small tidbits of information gathered from press releases. But I still have something to say, damnit!

Time for ABC!

Honestly, not a whole lot to be excited about here. For a network that needs some help, ABC stayed fairly complacent with its schedule, moving only one of its current shows to a new time slot — The Middle drops to 8 p.m. — and failing to introduce any new series that seems overly compelling.

MONDAY
8:00 p.m.       Dancing with the Stars
10:00 p.m.     Castle

Thoughts: Hey! Exactly what they’ve done this season! I know the old adage about things that are not broke and it’s nice to see Castle actually exist as a hit for the network. Good for Nathan Fillion. But why not try to move Castle to a weaker spot and build a new series in the post-Stars slot?

TUESDAY
8:00 p.m.       No Ordinary Family
9:00 p.m.       Dancing with the Stars the Results Show
10:00 p.m.     Detroit 1-8-7

Thoughts: No Ordinary Family is the network’s best chance for a big hit next season. It’s a broad family comedy with some action adventure elements and basically riffs on the plot from the Pixar film “The Incredibles.” Who doesn’t love Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz and Tate Donovan? Detroit 1-8-7 is the network’s latest attempt to develop a police procedural, and the fact ABC’s still trying proves their audience just doesn’t one that kind of series. Interesting that Dancing didn’t lead off the night, giving Family a solid lead-in.

WEDNESDAY
8:00 p.m.       The Middle
8:30 p.m.       Better Together
9:00 p.m.       Modern Family
9:30 p.m.       Cougar Town
10:00 p.m.    The Whole Truth

Thoughts: A lot of people assumed there would be a second comedy night for ABC since the network did so well with them this season, but alas, that is not the case. We also assumed Cougar Town would A.) have a new name and B.) not follow Modern Family, but as of now, both of those things did not happen. Better Together is an odd choice at 8:30 since it is multi-camera amid a sea of successful single camera comedies. This is especially true since ABC held the Matthew Perry single camera comedy Mr. Sunshine for later in the fall — but not midseason — which seems like an obvious candidate for a hit. Maybe when Better Together or one of the new dramas fails, ABC will use Sunshine to create that third comedy hour somewhere else. The Whole Truth looks dumb.

THURSDAY
8:00 p.m.       My Generation
9:00 p.m.       Grey’s Anatomy
10:00 p.m.      Private Practice

Thoughts: It seems to me that ABC should be a little worried that it doesn’t trust Private Practice to succeed without its Grey’s lead-in, especially when Grey’s isn’t the powerhouse it used to be. Again, one would think that ABC would try to put a new series behind its flagship drama while it still has some gas left in the tank. My Generation is an ambitious-looking, high-concept series about the class of 2000 looking back over their lives and is written by Noah Hawley, who was the creator of ABC’s best chance for a good police procedural in recent memory (The Unusuals), but the network hasn’t had a lot of success building series that air before Grey’s.

FRIDAY
8:00 p.m.       Secret Millionaire
9:00 p.m.       Body of Proof
10:00 p.m.     20/20

Thoughts: Dana Delaney doesn’t deserve to be trapped on Desperate Housewives anymore, but I’m guessing that she didn’t expect all the hype about having her own series leading to the lovely Friday @ 9 p.m. spot. Friday is more competitive than it used to be, but I can’t imagine anyone involved with Body of Proof is feeling that good right now.

SATURDAY
8:00 p.m.       Saturday Night College Football

Thoughts: Musberger!

SUNDAY
7:00 p.m.       America’s Funniest Home Videos
8:00 p.m.       Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 p.m.       Desperate Housewives
10:00 p.m.     Brothers & Sisters

Thoughts: ABC noted that they plan to use the post-Housewives slot to build up the third Shonda Rhimes’ produced medical drama Off The Map, but supposedly that’s not happening until midseason or a little earlier. That means a shorter episode order for Brothers & Sisters and it will probably be moved to another night at some point. But again, I don’t understand ABC’s approach at all. The network has three high-profile, veteran series — Housewives, Grey’s, Dancing — and it is choosing not to introduce new series after any of them, at least up front. That seems really, really stupid for a network that doesn’t have as many prospects as they think they do.

MIDSEASON (or “late fall”): Mr. Sunshine, Happy Endings, Off The Map, V

Thoughts: I have commented on most of these, but I wanted to say a little bit about V. Though people might be angry about it not debuting to midseason, it’s really for the best. Not only does it allow the network to run new episodes straight through, but it will hopefully allow Scott Rosenbaum and his writing team to sit down and truly figure out what kind of series it wants to be. Fans seem excited about the series, but the quality hasn’t reached their enthusiasm yet — and it could.

This is definitely the most boring and complacent schedule so far. Even CBS is looking to mix it up more for next season. Hopefully the new series work out in the timeslots they are currently in, because ABC seems unwilling to use scheduling logic 101 to use hold series to build new ones. Meh.

Other schedule analysis:

NBC

FOX

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