In advance of next week’s upfront presentations, I’ve spent the last couple of days placing myself in the shoes of the network scheduling gurus by predicting NBC’s fall schedule and giving my thoughts on what Fox’s fall lineup might look like. Now it’s time to turn my attention to ABC, which I’ve surprisingly found to be the most difficult scheduling challenge.
The cause for the difficulty comes from what Vulture’s TV guru Joseph Adalian effectively laid out in a post yesterday — the fact that, though it hasn’t gotten the media coverage of NBC’s implosion or Fox’s American Idol decline, ABC is struggling. Big time. Which begs the question — will the alphabet network take some chances next season, or will they play it safe?
Adding to the confusion is the large amount of unknowns — unlike CBS and Fox, which have announced all of their renewals, and NBC, which has at least announced its drama renewals, as of this writing ABC has not publicly announced the return of any of its current series. None of them. Not even no-brainers like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Modern Family. Not even Once Upon a Time, for which has a spin-off ordered, for God’s sake! In addition, due to the double digit ratings decline of Dancing with the Stars, there’s speculation that ABC might air the veteran reality series just once this season. Dancing with the Stars currently makes up 17% of the schedule, so whether or not it airs in the fall has a major impact on figuring out the rest of the lineup.
So what is a prognosticator to do?
Take some risks, which is what I’ve done by moving around some shows in the schedule you see below. I’m hoping ABC will take some risks as well, both in what new shows they order, and where they put them. They can’t play it safe, or they risk digging the hole they are in even deeper. And if NBC does manage to score a couple of hits next season, the media spotlight will switch over to ABC, right quick.
Back in January ABC President Paul Lee told reporters that the two-cycles-a-year format for Dancing with the Stars will remain in place, and I have to believe that will be the case. If not, they will have three extra hours to fill on their schedule in the fall, and because no freshman series from this past series (save, hopefully, Nashville) is likely to return, I just don’t think they have the inventory to make that move. As such, I expect to see Dancing with the Stars back in its standard Monday-Tuesday position next year, and though I’d like to think they’ll move Castle to make room for a new drama to take advantage of that lead-in (in terms of total viewers, if not Adults 18-49), that’s one risk I don’t think they’ll take. Especially not if it’s true, as Deadline is reporting, that Castle is being considered for a two-season pickup.
The changes would start Tuesday, then, where I’m predicting they’ll start the night with Suburgatory. That, in and of itself, is a bit of a risk, as the show is no sure-thing for a renewal, but I think it’s family friendly enough to begin the evening, and would provide a good lead in to the promising sounding Trophy Wife, starring the adorable Malin Akerman. If that pairing doesn’t work they can always replace it in midseason with a Trophy Wife/Super Fun Night combo — it’s hard to imagine ABC won’t figure out some way to get Rebel Wilson onto the schedule at some point during the season, considering how hot she is post-Pitch Perfect. At 10PM I’m thinking they will launch a new drama, and most likely one with a procedural bent — maybe Killer Women, but more likely Doubt, from House creator David Shore. And though I think Body of Proof may be the actual worst show on television (seriously – it’s terrible), I won’t be surprised when it gets renewed and is waiting in the wings to take over that slot if Doubt does not perform.
The Middle and Modern Family are staples on Wednesday night, so I don’t expect to see them going anywhere, and if neither The Neighbors or How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life come back in the fall, the 8:30 and 9:30 slots could be optimal launching pads for new comedies. The Untitled Cullen Brothers show about a divorced mother moving in with her father (James Caan) seems like it could be a good fit out of The Middle for the 8:30 slot, while the 80’s-set Untitled Adam Goldberg (which may or may not be called How the Hell Am I Normal?) could continue the wacky family comedy tone set by Modern Family. But really — these are stabs in the dark.
While I do think (and hope — lord, how I hope) that Nashville will return, it doesn’t make any sense to me for ABC to keep it at 10PM on Wednesdays — I just can’t imagine it will miraculously starting sprouting new viewers in the same slot. That’s why I’m predicting the revamped Revenge (minus show creator Mike Kelly, who has left the show) will return to the site of its former success — Wednesday’s at 10PM. Nashville, meanwhile, seems perfect for 10PM on Sundays, as counterprogramming to football on NBC and whatever crime drama CBS is airing next season. (My guess is it won’t be The Mentalist, but that’s for tomorrow’s post on CBS’ fall schedule).
That leads me to the big change I hope ABC will make on Thursday — breaking up the very successful Grey’s Anatomy/Scandal combo. Scandal has had major buzz this season, and we all know Shonda Rhimes knows how to put together a season finale, so I expect a cliffhanger to continue that traction into next season. Add to that the fact that Scandal has actually outperformed Grey’s Anatomy in the ratings a couple of times in the past few months, and I think it’s clear the show can stand on it’s own. Why not put it in the 9PM slot on Sunday’s, where juicy Desperate Housewives once reigned supreme? Doing so would provide an excellent lead-in to Nashville. Just sayin’.
On Thursday’s, then, I think ABC will start the night with its one no-brainer pick-up, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s been years since the network had a successful show in the Thursday lead-off slot, but with its built-in fanbase, this might be the one. (Though I must say I think Castle could also be used effectively here). At 10PM using Grey’s Anatomy to launch a new soap-y drama seems like the right move — whether it will be Betrayal or Westside is anyone’s guess, but for purposes of this schedule I’m going with Betrayal.
The return to TGIF seems to have had moderate success this past season, so I don’t expect ABC to mess with that, and predict Last Man Standing will be joined by the new family comedy starring John Leguizamo. Those shows will lead in to Shark Tank and 20/20.
While I personally think it’s a terrible idea to spin off Once Upon a Time, based on the fact that it’s ratings are down more than 10% this season, apparently the Alice in Wonderland project is a lock for a pickup. I’m guessing it, along with Big Thunder (based on a theme park ride? Really?) will be held for midseason, along with Rebel Wilson’s comedy and maybe Lucky 7 and The Returned.
But seriously — I could be dead wrong on absolutely all of this. Guess we’ll see next Tuesday!
8:00-10:00 Dancing with the Stars
8:30-9:00 Trophy Wife (New comedy)
9:00-10:00 Dancing with the Stars
10:00-11:00 Doubt (New drama)
8:00-8:30 The Middle
8:30-9:00 Untitled Cullen Bros (New comedy)
9:00-9:30 Modern Family
9:30-10:00 How The Hell Am I Normal? (formerly Untitled Adam Goldberg) (New comedy)
8:00-9:00 Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (New drama)
9:00-10:00 Grey’s Anatomy
10:00-11:00 Betrayal (New drama)
8:00-8:30 Last Man Standing
8:30-9:00 Untitled John Leguizamo (New comedy)
9:00-10:00 Shark Tank
8:00-9:00 Once Upon a Time