ABC Orders Shondaland and Jenna Bans Dramas, 'Muppets' Revival, More

The network kicks off its 2015-16 series orders with six dramas and three comedies, with another half-hour pickup expected to come.
The Family

As its May 12 upfront presentation nears, ABC has begun doling out series commitments.

Of its nearly 25 pilots, the network is moving forward with six dramas: Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers' The Catch, Jenna Bans' The Family, Biblical saga Of Kings and Prophets, Josh Safran's Quantico, crime anthology Wicked City and an untitled hour-long from Josh Pate and Rodes Fishburne (previously titled Boom). The network has also handed out series orders to three comedies: Ken Jeong vehicle Dr. Ken, fellow family sitcom The Real O'Neals and the Bill Prady-produced revival of The Muppets. The network is said to be done with its drama additions, with another comedy expected to come Friday.

The orders come after a promising season for the female-skewing network. ABC's decision to embrace diverse fare in both comedy and drama paid off, a relief after a few particularly rough years. Though it's still expected to round out the year in third place among the coveted 18-49 demo, chief Paul Lee can claim newcomers Black-ish and How to Get Away With Murder as hits, and he is no longer being knocked for the network's inability to produce a solid comedy block.

Which is not to say the network — which, unlike its rivals, lacks a lift from NFL games — doesn’t have needs. Tuesdays, for instance, have been a tough night for ABC, with a string of ratings duds including Selfie and Manhattan Love Story coming and (quickly) going.

In a bid to satisfy those needs, ABC has naturally moved forward with the latest drama from Shondaland. After scoring record ratings (and millions of tweets) ABC will build on its hugely successful TGIT lineup of Rhimes dramas (Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder) with a fourth: The Catch. Starring Mireille Enos, the forensic thriller from writer Jennifer Schuur has been considered a lock — just as How to Get Away With Murder was a year ago. This will mark the first time in the ABC Studios-based Rhimes' career that she'll have four shows on the schedule in one season. The soapy thriller centers on a gutsy female forensic accountant (Enos) who exposes fraud for a living and has finally found fulfillment both at work and in love, until a case comes along that threatens to turn her world upside down. Damon Dayoub, Rose Rollins and Bethany Joy Lenz co-star in the Shondaland drama directed by Julie Anne Robinson.

Meanwhile, a Shondaland disciple has also nabbed a series pickup with Bans' (Scandal, Off the Map) The Family. The drama revolves around a politician's (Joan Allen) son who returns from the dead, and the mailman accused of his slaying. It was one of pilot season's hottest scripts and didn't lose any steam after screenings, with the series already working on its budget since last week. The ABC Studios/Mandeville Television drama co-stars Zach Gilford, Andrew McCarthy and Liam James, with Bans exec producing alongside David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Laurie Zaks and director Paul McGuigan.

Biblical saga Of Kings and Prophets, which sources say is being eyed as a 15-episode order, is a story of faith, ambition and betrayal, and stars Ray Winstone as a weary king. From ABC Studios, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (Exodus) penned the script for the drama that filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. The limited series becomes the latest biblical saga, following Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's NBC drama A.D. and CBS mini The Dovekeepers, the latter of which bombed.

Previously titled L.A. Crime, Wicked City is an anthology that aims to follow a different case set in a different noteworthy era of L.A. history each season. For that reason, many of the cast — Adam Rothenberg, Ed Westwick, Taissa Farmiga, Gabriel Luna and Erika Christensen topline the series — are only locked in for one season. From writer Steven Baigelman, the first installment takes place in 1982 and follows a murder case bubbling up around the cocaine-happy Sunset Strip. The show, from ABC Studios, will be exec produced by Baigelman, Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman and Laurie Zaks.

FBI drama Quantico, set at the famous Virginia training facility, hails from Gossip Girl EP Safran. Starring Priyanka Chopra, Dougray Scott, Jake McLaughlin, Aunjanue Ellis, Yasmine Al Massri, Johanna Braddy, Tate Ellington and Caleb Haas, it is an ensemble piece that follows recruits as they arrive at the base — and one becomes the suspect in a deadly domestic terrorist attack. Also an ABC Studios production, Quantico will be executive produced by Safran, Mark Gordon and Nick Pepper.

Meanwhile, the untitled Pate and Fishburne drama comes from ABC Studios' lower-cost cable-focused arm, ABC Signature. Previously titled Boom, the drama centers on biggest oil discovery in American history (bigger than Texas and as big as Saudi Arabia), which has triggered a geopolitical shift and an economic boom in North Dakota on a scale not seen since the 1849 Gold Rush. The drama tracks the epic pilgrimage of a young, ambitious couple (Chase Crawford) to the oil fields of the Bakken as they seek their fortune and a better life — a classic tale with modern twists. As viewers follow their trials and tribulations in a modern-day "Wild West," they negotiate a colorful ensemble of roughnecks, grifters, oil barons (Don Johnson), criminals and fellow prospectors against a stark and beautiful backdrop. The cast includes Delroy Lindo, Amber Valleta and Scott Michael Foster and marks one of ABC's bigger swings this season.

From The Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady and Bob Kushell (3rd Rock From the Sun), the new Muppets is described as a contemporary, documentary-style show that, for the first time ever, will explore the Muppets' personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, breakups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires — a more adult Muppet show, for kids of all ages. Producers filmed a pilot presentation for the ABC Studios-produced series that sources say was incredibly well received. The series pickup was seen as a forgone conclusion given the network's corporate synergy. Randall Einhorn and Bill Barretta exec produce alongside Prady and Kushell.

This marks the second time Prady has attempted to revive The Muppets. The writer-producer shot some test footage before CBS' The Big Bang Theory that Disney ultimately passed on. For his part, Prady earned an Emmy nomination in 1991 for writing the tribute The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson in 1990 and has contributed writing to Disney's Muppet-themed attractions. Meanwhile, Prady — who does not have an overall deal — will juggle both Muppets and CBS' The Big Bang Theory, which is renewed through season 10.

The Muppets revival comes as variety shows are in the midst of a resurgence on the broadcast networks. NBC has made the format a priority, unspooling the Marlon Wayans-hosted celebrity variety series I Can Do That! in the summer, and the network has Neil Patrick Harris' Best Time Ever in the works, among others.

The Real O'Neals revolves around a picture-perfect family turned upside-down when their youngest son (Noah Galvin) comes out of the closet. What seems like the end of their idyllic life turns out to be the beginning of a bright new chapter when everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real. From ABC Studios, the single-camera comedy edged out fellow LGBT-themed semi-autobiographical comedy starring Fortune Feimster from Universal Television and exec produced by Tina Fey. Martha Plimpton and Jay R. Ferguson co-star in O'Neals. David Windsor and Casey Johnson penned the script and exec produce alongside Brian Pines, Dan McDermott and Savage.

Dr. Ken, currently in talks with writers from MTV pilot Ken Jeong Made Me Do It about coming to ABC, stars the Community grad as a frustrated HMO doctor juggling medicine, marriage and parenting — and succeeding at none of them. Trophy Wife favorite Albert Tsai co-stars in the co-production between ABC Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Davis Entertainment. Jared Stern penned the script with Jeong and Mike O'Connell, who co-produce. John Davis, John Fox and Mike Sikowitz exec produce the multicamera comedy. With Dr. Ken and Real O'Neals, the series become ABC's latest family comedies focusing on a minority family and joins Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, which are both considered likely to return.

Keep up with all the renewals, cancelations and new series orders with THR's handy Scorecard.

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