Faith in 'SHIELD,' Lead-Ins Matter and Three More Lessons From ABC
ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee also responds to Fox topper Kevin Reilly's plan to follow the pilot season cable model and other lessons from TCA.
Do lead-ins still matter? Will ABC -- after pulling limited series The Assets -- stick with the short-order series? How will the network's Marvel series differ from Netflix?
These and many other questions were fair game on Friday as ABC presented at the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour. ABC's Paul Lee also addressed questions about international hit Rising Star's U.S. format and its approach to pilot season as part of its daylong presentation that also included panels for Resurrection, Mixology, Suburgatory, The Black Box and Mind Games.
Here's a look at what we learned:
1. Lead-ins matter. "The reality is [lead-in] matters, but it does not matter the way it did in the '80s," Lee said when asked about ABC's struggles to launch a new comedy behind Modern Family. Mixology will fill that slot come February, with the executive noting he wanted to give the high-concept half-hour its best chance in the slot. Lee also expressed a strong vote of confidence in the future of freshman comedy The Goldbergs and Marvel drama Agents of SHIELD.
2. ABC will stick with "gap" scheduling. Confessing that he should have stuck with the original plan to schedule Once Upon a Time spinoff Wonderland as a midseason filler for the flagship series, Lee said he plans to stick with his "gap" scheduling. That approach allows dramas, including Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, to air episodes straight through during the fall and spring, earning what Lee hopes are higher returns than repeat programming. The Assets, canceled after two airings, was a "great experiment," he said, and the network will continue testing out different series that are both financially and creatively appealing so ABC can air original programming year-round.
3. Faith in SHIELD. Marvel's first original scripted primetime series got off to a slow start, Lee said, admitting the series, from executive producer Joss Whedon, took some time to find its legs. Lee called SHIELD one of ABC's "assets" and said Netflix's upcoming four original Marvel series will be for the super fan, while ABC's will be bigger and broader. He also confirmed that Hayley Atwell will star in Marvel's Agent Carter and said the script for the potential series is from Captain America writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas (Ressurection).
4. Resurrection isn't The Returned. Butters and Fazekas noted they avoided the similarly themed French series and stressed the ABC drama is based on the treatment for Jason Mott's book of the same name -- two completely different projects. The producers also noted the series -- ordered for eight episodes -- could work in 13 episodes but would be diluted with a full 22-episode order.
5. Kyle Killen goes "mainstream." After two one-and-done series in Fox's Lone Star and NBC's Awake, the Mind Games writer-producer hopes the Christian Slater-Steve Zahn-starrer has a broader appeal, while still exploring the same dual worlds that made his previous shows critical favorites.