Quick Take: Tim Goodman on ABC
A look at the network's fall shows and programming strategies -- plus positive and negative signs.
I will say it for the third time, then at least one more time in the coming days: The obligatory disclaimer: As a TV critic, I’m not going to comment definitively on any of ABC’s trailers. Because that’s all they are – trailers. It’s hard enough to judge a series (particularly a comedy) based on a pilot episode, much less a cut-down trailer.
At best, whatever I say is a shrug. And don’t hold me to that.
Also, to understand how I feel about the upfront dog-and-pony show and the inability of networks to learn from the mistakes of the current industry model, you might want to read this.
Well, I’m always a lover of ballsy, ridiculous spin, and apparently fourth-place ABC and its entertainment chief Paul Lee laid on a pretty thick coat to the assembled masses in New York about how ABC really isn’t a TV network and even still, it’s No. 1 in a bunch of other quantifiable categories that aren’t the ratings advertisers pay for. It sounds brilliant, like it fell just a notch below the CW’s now patented Network of Magical Thinking nonsense and for the first time in five or so days, I was wishing I was there to witness it.
As for strategy, ABC opted for a bit of split personality, keeping familiar shows in their place for consistency while hoping the great influx of its new series (which means it canceled a bunch of shows to make room) will coalesce into something that has flow. Even if flow may be overrated if you’re a TV network, which ABC apparently is not anymore. Translation: Some helpful continuity, some stuff thrown against the wall hoping it sticks.
I would definitely put Joss Whedon’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D in the positive category, because it’s big and ambitious and looks like a lot of fun, plus a bunch of us TV critics have already agreed to never call it by that stupid title and never use the pointless periods, so SHIELD it is. (Hey, at least you’re getting the all-caps thing, so pipe down.)
Also in the positive arena, I’d put in the shuffling-off to Fridays of The Neighbors, which will be paired with Last Man Standing in an hour I won’t watch (and those two will be paired with Shark Tank and 20/20, giving me an ABC-free Friday. We take our positives where we can find them.)
Even though critics haven’t seen the pilot, much less a couple of episodes after that, I’d also toss Rebel Wilson into this category because she absolutely should have her own show. Oh, and don’t forget the network taking some of the bloat out of Dancing With the Stars, which is a good thing.
A final plus is Lee’s new idea of taking his serialized dramas and packaging them into blocks of 12 straight episodes before they take a break and come back later to finish off the run. Any idea that cuts down on the shell-game nonsense that networks have played for years – pulling shows off and putting them back on and moving them around to different nights without much notice – is a step in the right direction.
Well, ABC loves churn. It makes a lot of series and cancels a lot of series and then does it all again the next year. That doesn’t exactly breed viewer loyalty or interest, no matter what metrics you’re using. And the frantic pace that ABC gets on often leads to giving up on shows too early or premiering them too late to have an impact. I’m not saying this was a series bound for greatness, but ABC really had something to develop in the comedy How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) – despite the title – but squandered it too late in the season and gave up on it. Also, even if ABC doesn’t believe in comedies that get cable ratings, if you’ve finished in fourth place the last two seasons in a row, it’s a little audacious to kill comedies like Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23. Sometimes patience is not only necessary, but so is an understanding that cultivating excellent comedies can’t be underestimated in importance (does ABC not have a newfangled metric for that?).
It may not be a negative, but four new series in a row on Tuesday night? Yikes.
Oh, um, how about Dancing With the Stars? Cutting back the length is admirable, but ABC is probably riding this horse too hard.
And while I like the Saturday night play with college football, more can be done there. Branch out.
The shows (you can watch them here):
Of course I’m interested in SHIELD and look forward to it; Once Upon a Time In Wonderland is also intriguing and certainly fits the branding buzz; Super Fun Night and The Goldbergs are quick to earn some eagerness, but mostly for more episodes so we can find out if the concepts have legs; Lucky 7 and Back In the Game didn’t grab me at all in the trailers, but there could be something in Resurrection and Betrayal that would extend the original conceits. Trophy Wife and Mixology – the latter, especially – didn’t give off any hope but they did make me wince a time or two. Killer Women? Sure, just because I’m not adverse to ridiculous fun, especially with guns and lovely women. But Mind Games played none on me during its trailer.