May 08, 2014 7:05pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
ABC Orders 'How to Get Away With Murder,' 'Black-ish,' 'American Crime,' 'Selfie,' 'Galavant,' More to Series
ABC joined NBC, The CW and Fox and got into the series pickup game Thursday, ordering its most high-profile drama -- Shonda Rhimes' How to Get Away With Murder -- to series. The network also added a drama from 12 Years a Slave's John Ridley and Anthony Anderson comedy Black-ish to series. They're joined by alien drama The Whispers -- previously known as The Visitors; sci-fi hourlong Forever and Marvel's Captain America spinoff Agent Carter. On the comedy side, the network added Jeff Lowell's entry, which is now known as Manhattan Love Story, high-concept musical fairy tale Galavant as well as Emily Kapnek's Selfie.
From exec producers Rhimes and Betsy Beers, Murder has been a frontrunner heading into this week's pickups. Murder, a sexy and suspense-driven legal thriller starring Viola Davis as a brilliant and mysterious criminal defense professor who becomes entangled in a murder plot, rated as one of the buzziest dramas this season.
The series pickup gives the Grey's Anatomy and Scandal producers three shows on the air for the second time following the end of Private Practice. Rhimes has tremendous clout at the network -- she rarely, if ever, receives notes on Scandal -- and is incredibly valuable to ABC. From ABC Studios, Peter Nowalk penned the pilot and will executive produce the Shondaland drama. The series becomes the latest African-American-led show to join the broadcast networks' schedules this season. Dramas starring Octavia Spencer (Fox's Red Band Society), Taraji P. Henson (Fox's Empire) and Alfre Woodard (NBC's State of Affairs) were picked up to series this week.
American Crime, written, exec produced and directed by 12 Years a Slave's John Ridley and former ABC Studios head of drama-turned-producer Michael McDonald, examines the personal lives of the players involved in a racially charged trial as their worlds are turned upside down. Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman star in the ABC Studios drama, which marks Ridley's return to TV after The Wanda Sykes Show and HBO's passed over boxing drama Da Brick.
Comedy Blackish, loosely based on the life of showrunner Kenya Barris (The Game), stars Anderson as an upper-middle-class black man who struggles to raise his children with a sense of cultural identity despite constant contradictions from his liberal wife, old-school father and his own assimilated, color-blind kids. Laurence Fishburne recurs in the single-camera comedy and exec produces alongside Barris and showrunner Larry Wilmore, Helen Sugland, Tom Russo, Peter Principato, Paul Young and Brian Dobbins. Sources tell THR that the comedy tested extremely well and helped push the entry over the similarly themed Kevin Hart comedy Keep It Together, which was the early front-runner.
Whispers -- previously known as The Visitors -- hails from Under the Dome's Soo Hugh. The alien invasion drama stars Lily Rabe, Barry Sloane, Milo Ventimiglia and counts Steven Spielberg among its producers. The ABC Studios drama was produced by Amblin TV's Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank and Dawn Olmstead and marks a big sci-fi swing for the network.
Galavant, from The Neighbors boss Dan Fogelman, is another big swing. The fairy-tale musical centers on Prince Galavant (Rogue's Joshua Sasse) and his quest for revenge against the king (Psych's Timothy Omundson) who stole his one true love (Mallory Jansen). The high-concept single-camera comedy features original music from Oscar winner Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas) and lyrics from Glenn Slater (Tangled). Chris Koch exec produces and directed the pilot for the U.K.-based Abbey C Studios and Rhode Island Ave. Productions. The pickup, which comes after Fogelman inked an overall deal with ABC Studios, likely will edge out the showrunner's Friday night bubble comedy Neighbors, sources tell THR. For their part, Fogelman, Menken and Slater recently teamed to produce a musical episode of Neighbors. The pickup may likely inject some additional revenue streams into ABC's bottom line from the original music featured on the series. Galavant becomes the second musical ordered this season and fourth on the broadcast networks overall, joining ABC's country drama Nashville, whose fate has yet to be determined; Fox's hip-hop entry Empire and aging veteran dramedy Glee.
Forever, meanwhile, stars Ioan Gruffudd as a New York City medical examiner with a secret -- he studies the dead for a reason -- he is immortal. With the help of Detective Jo Martinez, the layers will be peeled back on Henry's colorful and long life through the cases. Chuck's Matt Miller penned the script for the Warner Bros. Television drama. Lin Pictures' Dan Lin and Jennifer Gwartz exec produce the drama, which co-stars Alana De La Garza and Judd Hirsch.
The Lowell comedy (previously known as My Thoughts Exactly) stars Analeigh Tipton, Jake McDorman, Nicolas Wright, Chloe Wepper and Kurt Fuller. The single-camera comedy from ABC Studios and Brillstein Entertainment exposes the internal monologues of a young couple embarking on a new relationship. It was one of several relationship comedies to be developed this pilot season and joins NBC's engagement entry Marry Me on the schedule for next season.
Selfie, from Suburgatory boss Kapnek, is described as a modern take on My Fair Lady. Inspired by the musical and tells the story of a self-obsessed 20-something woman (Karen Gillan) who is more concerned with "likes" than being liked. After suffering a public and humiliating breakup, she becomes the subject of a viral video and suddenly has more social media "followers" than she ever imagined -- but for all the wrong reasons. She then enlists the help of a marketing expert at her company to help repair her tarnished image. John Cho co-stars in the single-camera comedy from Warner Bros. Television and Piece of Pie Productions. Meanwhile, the fate of Kapnek's bubble comedy Suburgatory has not yet been decided. A final verdict will likely come Friday.
The new series joins previously ordered dramas Astronaut Wives andThe Club at the network. More announcements are expected to come Friday on the remainder of the network's pilots and bubble series. For a look at ABC's renewals, click here and here.