ABC presents fall lineup

Including two-hour comedy block for Wednesdays

ABC's new fall schedule includes an expanded "Dancing With the Stars," a two-hour Wednesday night comedy block and apocalyptic thriller "Flash Forward" being used as a lead-in for "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday nights.

On Mondays, "Dancing," expanded from its usual 90 minutes, will give a strong lead in to sophomore detective drama "Castle," which showed more ratings heft when provided a direct boost from the reality show at the end of this season.

Mark Burnett's new reality competition "Shark Tank" will run with a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" lead-in for the first few Tuesday nights in August, after which it will settle into its regular 8 p.m. time slot. The "Dancing" results show remains at 9 p.m. followed by Jerry Bruckheimer's latest crime procedural, "The Forgotten."

The headline here is Wednesday nights, where ABC will become the third broadcast network to offer a live-action two-hour comedy block. "Hank," "The Middle," "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town" compose the lineup. "Eastwick," ABC's update of the John Updike novel, will fill 10 p.m.

Launching an entirely new night of television is something ABC has done before, when it premiered "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" on this night a couple years ago. But having four comedies without a familiar title among them is considered a bold move.

"This is our biggest risk, but our biggest upside as well," said ABC entertainment president Steve McPherson at the network's press conference.

The ABC executive added that "Scrubs" and "Better Off Ted," while better known to viewers, were considered too male-skewing for the lineup. Both shows are planned for sometime in midseason.

A two-hour comedy block on Wednesday was a staple on ABC from 1987 till 2000 with such signature series as "Wonder Years," "Home Improvement" and "The Drew Carey Show." After surrendering the 8 pm hour to "Who Wants to a Millionaire" in the fall of 2000, the network last tried to revive a two-hour Wednesday comedy block in the fall of 2001.

Thursdays will lead off with "Flash Forward," which is unexpected, followed by the return of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice." Leading into a female-driven lineup with a genre could be considered risky.

"This was a big decision," said McPherson, who said "Flash Forward" is less sci-fi than an "intimate epic." He also noted "Lost" likewise launched at 8 p.m.

Asked if "Grey's" actors Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight are signed up to return next season, McPherson said, "They're both signed on, I can't say whether they will both be there," which drew a laugh in the room.

In "Flash," everybody in the world has a vision of their lives six months into the future. Since presumably the entire series wouldn't cover only six months, McPherson said producers have already pitched how the show will carry past its first season.

"It has an extensive multi-season arc," he said. "They've pitched me the last scene from this year ... each season has its own cycle."

Fridays will have "Supernanny," followed by "Ugly Betty" and "20/20."

Sundays remains the same with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters."

Also, McPherson confirmed "Cupid" and "According to Jim" are canceled, though said the network plans to run off the remaining "Surviving Suburbia" episodes this summer.

Regarding "Scrubs," the executive said Zach Braff's six contracted episodes may be spread throughout the show's 13-episode order, with showrunner Bill Lawrence still mulling whether he's going to do a complete creative re-boot of the show or merely segue to another generation of interns a la "ER."

Addressing conflicting about the episode order for midseason sci-fi reboot "V," McPherson suggested the series is both limited and yet extensive -- four seasons.

"At this point we believe the show will be four parts, with each consisting of anywhere from 13 to 22 episodes," McPherson said. "It will have a beginning, middle and end."

Asked about the impact of Jay Leno's 10 p.m. audience, McPherson said, "It's a different audience, I think it's an older audience. It will be interesting to see how many watch that show every night of the week and make it an appointment, that certainly isn't how they do it in late night. We think it's an opportunity that throws up audience for CBS and ourselves."

For video clips of new fall shows, next season's schedule charts and live-blogging from the upfronts in New York, check out The Live Feed blog.

ABC 2009 - 2010 Schedule

FALL

MONDAY:
8:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars" (two-hours)
10:00 p.m. "Castle"

TUESDAY:
8:00 p.m. "Shark Tank"
9:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars the Results Show"
10:00 p.m. "The Forgotten"

WEDNESDAY:
8:00 p.m. "Hank"
8:30 p.m. "The Middle"
9:00 p.m. "Modern Family"
9:30 p.m. "Cougar Town"
10:00 p.m. "Eastwick"

THURSDAY:
8:00 p.m. "Flash Forward"
9:00 p.m. "Grey's Anatomy"
10:00 p.m. "Private Practice"

FRIDAY:
8:00 p.m. "Supernanny"
9:00 p.m. "Ugly Betty"
10:00 p.m. "20/20"

SATURDAY:
8:00 p.m. "Saturday Night College Football"

SUNDAY:
7:00 p.m. "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8:00 p.m. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
9:00 p.m. "Desperate Housewives"
10:00 p.m. "Brothers & Sisters"
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