Upfronts Week — ABC's Fall Schedule

We are in the midst of Upfronts Week, a time when networks unveil their fall schedules and new shows. It's a time of promise and hope. Today, we take a look at ABC, which could use a little of both. Its been mired in the middle for too long, and now it's hoping a revival of "American Idol" can be the answer. But that will come in January. First, we have to get through the fall.

Network: ABC
Best Scheduling Move:
ABC is shaking things up on Sunday nights. NBC has football in the fall, so you're never going to be in first place against that. But you can move up the ladder. Last fall, ABC tried to use dramas, including "Once Upon A Time" and "Quantico" to get a Sunday night audience. It hasn't worked. At all. But the other networks have had similar struggles. We haven't seen CBS's fall schedule, yet, but they haven't had a lot of luck on Sundays, either. So what is ABC doing about it? They're changing the formula. Gone are pricey dramas, in is reality shows. They keep "America's Funniest Home Videos" and add the game show "To Tell The Truth" and the reality hit "Shark Tank" to give them some counter programming. The weak link in the chain is the new drama "Ten Days in the Valley," because it doesn't totally fit, but I like the idea that they're trying something new and inexpensive to get more of a lift on Sunday nights.

Most Curious Scheduling Move:
OK, CBS found a steady level on Friday nights with scripted crime dramas. And FOX and NBC have offered supernatural fare on Friday nights and found a niche audience. But ABC frequently had the top show of the night on Fridays with "Shark Tank," which it moved to Sundays. Instead, it's moving "Once Upon A Time" and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," two aging dramas with flagging audiences, to Friday nights. Of course before "S.H.I.E.L.D." takes over, ABC will launch eight episodes of "Inhumans" on the night, too. Not sure this is the make over the night needed. And to make room, ABC cancelled "Last Man Standing" and "Dr. Ken," comedies that weren't great but held steady on a tough night for broadcast networks. I don't see the logic here.

Most Promising New Show:
ABC is offering five new series this fall, four dramas and a comedy. The network has done well in recent years with niche family comedies and diverse comedies. And they may actually be doing something smart with "The Mayor," a sitcom that is joining the Tuesday night lineup. It is about a young rapper who runs for Mayor and wins. The premise is unique, and the cast, which includes Lea Michelle and Yvette Nichole Brown along with newcomer Brandon Michael Hall in the title role. I liked the trailer more than I thought I would, and I really like the scheduling after "Black-ish" as part of the Tuesday night comedy block. I think this is a sitcom that can stick.

Least Promising New Show:
To be honest, I don't love any of the five new offerings on ABC this fall. I think many of them feel tired and cliched, even "Inhumans" which feels like it's coming at a time of superhero burn out. But the one that probably stood out the most to me was "The Good Doctor," which has a flaccid title and a cliched premise. Freddie Highmore stars as a high functioning autistic surgeon who is a brilliant doctor but can't really relate to people well. It has a great cast, including Richard Schiff and Hill Harper, and it hails from "House" creator David Shore. All the pieces are there. But the trailer is as bland and predictable as the title, and it's hard for me to get excited about this. Especially since the past few seasons we've had similar hospital premises for shows that have fallen flat. And airing Mondays at 10 p.m., I don't have a lot of faith this sticks. If the three-minute trailer was putting me to sleep, what happens when the whole show spans an hour. This just feels unnecessary.


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