May 22, 2009

upfront thoughts: abc

It's been sad to see a lot of quality programming sink on ABC this year. I've commended the network in the past for taking chances on noncop/nonmedical shows. Unfortunately, the effort hasn't reaped many rewards. I can't shed another tear for Daisies or Eli Stone, but I will say I'm a little sad about Samantha Who, which was a cute show and The Unusuals, which had some potential. ABC has the largest contingent of news shows premiering in 2009/2010. Here's hoping for some victories this time around.

No huge surprises here, except the unfortunate news that Ugly Betty will be relegated to the dreaded Friday timeslot. It's a shame because Betty had found a good home on Thursday night preceding Grey's. Seems like ABC is going for the Friday audience that CBS's Ghost Whisperer brings in - sorry, not the same audience. At all. A small surprise was the renewal of Scrubs. Most major characters have left at this point, and I'm hearing they're essentially creating Scrubs 2.0 with new characters. Does it really do that well in the ratings?

What's Staying
America's Funniest Home Videos (phew)
The Bachelor
Better Of Ted (midseason)
Brothers & Sisters
Dancing with the Stars
Desperate Housewives
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Grey's Anatomy
Lost (midseason)
Private Practice
Scrubs (midseason)
True Beauty
Ugly Betty
Wife Swap

What's Going
According to Jim (finally)
Samantha Who?
The Unusuals
In the Motherhood
Dirty Sexy Money
Eli Stone
Pushing Daisies
Surviving Suburbia

What's New
The following 4 new half-hour comedies represent ABC's first attempt at a comedy night (Wednesdays). Probably their biggest risk in the lineup, but smart not to compete with CBS Monday or NBC Thursday:

Hank: Kelsey Grammer is giving it the old college try once again with this comedy about a titan of industry who suddenly finds himself unemployed and nearly broke with a family who barely knows him - sounds hilarious. Other notables: Melinda McGraw who recently played Bobbie Barrett in Mad Men, and David Koechner - hilarious in films like Anchorman and Talladega Nights.

The Middle: The Hecks are a middle class family living in the middle of Indiana trying to keep their heads above water. Notables: Patricia Heaton of Everybody Loves Raymond (might be time to try a different role) and Neil Flynn (Janitor from Scrubs).

Modern Family: Shot from the perspective of an unseen documentary filmmaker (copy cats) taking a modern look at American families coming in all shapes and sizes. This will either be really bad or really goof. Notables: Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy), Julie Bowen (Ed), and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who I actually really like but keeps being cast in failing comedies (The Class, Do Not Disturb).

Cougar Town: I know it's part of the vernacular now, but why can't I get behind the term cougar? This is the new Courtney Cox comedy about a recently divorced single mom. I really want this to work for Courtney like it has for Julia Dreyfus, but I'm skeptical. Other notables: Christa Miller (Scrubs, Drew Carey), Busy Phillips who I love (Freaks & Geeks, Dawson's Creek), and Ian Gomez (the fabulous Javier in Felicity).

Eastwick: Based "The Witches of Eastwick" novel by John Updike. Three women in a small New England town find themselves drawn together by a mysterious man who grants unique powers to each of them. I'm a little skeptical, but the cast is promising. Three witches: Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price (Janet from 90210), Jamie Ray Newman (Veronica Mars, also Kristina Cassidine in General Hospital for soap fans) - also Sara Rue, who I love, and Matt Dallas from Kyle XY.

Flash Forward: A mysterious event causes the world to black out giving everyone a glimpse of their near future. I'm left wondering how this works as a series premise, but the EP was responsible for "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" so that's promising. Notables: Joseph Fiennes, John Cho (of Harold and Kumar fame), and Sonya Walger who is none other than Penny (Lost)!

The Forgotten: A Jerry Bruckheimer creation about a team of amateur crime investigators working on cases involving unidentified victims after the police have given up. Sounds a little stale to me - Cold Case? Notables: Reiko Aylesworth (Amy from Lost) and Bob Stephenson (Jericho).

Happy Town (midseason): This one may have my strongest curiosity. ABC is billing this "from the network that brought you Twin Peaks". Bold statement from the network that cancelled this show after 2 seasons nearly 20 years ago. Haplin, Minnesota is approaching a decade of peace after being riddled for years by unsolved kidnappings. The first crime in years reveals some dark truths about familiar faces. Notables: Geoff Stults (of October Road, 7th Heaven, and just plain handsomeness), Dean Winters (Rescue Me and Oz), Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under), and a bunch of other familiar faces.

The Deep End (midseason): Legal drama about new recruits at a prestigious LA law firm. Sounds a little like Grey's for lawyers. Notables: Billy Zane, Matt Long (played Jack in Jack & Bobby), and Tina Majorino, who I love (played Deb in Napoleon Dynamite among many other things).

V (midseason): Based on a 1980s miniseries of the same name about the world's fist encounter with an alien race calling themselves The Visitors. Notables: Elizabeth Mitchell (the doomed Juliet of Lost), Morris Chesnut, and Scott Wolf.

...and of course a reality attempt (but just one!)

Shark Tank: Gives budding entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to convince five tough multi-millionaires to invest in their ideas.

Sadly missing among the new lineup are Lauren Graham's dark comedy pilot, which was apparently dead in the water, and David E. Kelly's pilot Legal Matters, which featured Kristin Chenowith. Oh well.


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