ABC unveils fall schedule

Lineup includes 7 new shows; incumbents keep time slots

ABC introduced a fall schedule Tuesday that includes slots for seven new shows, with incumbent hits continuing to enjoy their current perches.

A network known for making bold scheduling moves, ABC next season will keep its top shows in their existing time periods. Overall, it has 10 new programs planned.

The stabilizing strategy has dramas "No Ordinary Family," "Detroit 1-8-7," "The Whole Truth," "Body of Proof" and "My Generation" as well as the comedy "Better Together" airing in early slots or with nonpremium lead-ins.

At the network's upfront presentation to advertisers Tuesday in New York, entertainment president Steve McPherson emphasized that the network has "passion, vision and a plan" for success. ABC led its trailers with "Detroit," which also arguably landed the best time period among the network's new fall shows, coming out of Tuesday's "Dancing With the Stars" results show.

McPherson also singled out the documentary-style ensemble drama "Generation" and superhero drama "Ordinary Family" as the network's "big swings" creatively. "Lost" star Matthew Fox took the stage to introduce the shows as ABC successors that will carry on in the tradition of his concluding hit.

ABC also took a riff from NBC's past upfront presentations, empathizing the viewer use of multiple digital platforms and advertiser-friendly content integration, a theme NBC and Fox largely shied away from this week.

Ad buyers seemed to respond best to "Ordinary Family" on the drama side, with "Together" receiving a rousing response among the comedies.

Before the upfront, ABC executive vp scripted programming Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs explained how each new show's slot fits the network strategy.

"With ('Dancing With the Stars') and 'Castle' on Mondays, obviously that's performing well for us," she said. "On Tuesdays, 'No Ordinary Family' is very much a broad-appeal 8 p.m. show that families can watch together. In terms of Wednesday, we went out of our way to establish a comedy block last season, and we want to shore them up and make them stronger rather than move things around. 'My Generation' is very current and modern, very compatible with ('Grey's Anatomy') on Thursdays, and we weren't going to move ('Private Practice')."

On Sundays, the network expects to use "Desperate Housewives" to launch Shonda Rhimes' medical drama "Off the Map" in midseason, just as ABC did with "Grey's."

The network also will air the former Fox reality show "Secret Millionaire" on Fridays. ABC still has the option to pick up the unscripted shows "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" and "Shark Tank" (both were in contention for the "Millionaire" slot). The procedural crime drama "Body of Proof" also will get a Friday slot.

In the wings for midseason: "Off the Map" and the comedies "Mr. Sunshine," starring Matthew Perry, and "Happy Endings" as well as the recently renewed returning drama "V."

While acknowledging waiting a long time to bring back a heavily serialized show like "V" always is a concern, Patmore-Gibbs said the alien-invasion drama could return in November. ABC is considering having "V" take over the "Dancing With the Stars" results show slot on Tuesdays once the reality show airs its fall finale, which will give "V" a genre-appropriate lead-in from the superhero drama "No Ordinary Family." The network also wanted to ensure that the special effects-filled "V" had enough production time before its premiere date.

On the comedy side, Patmore-Gibbs said the network is eager to get "Sunshine" and "Happy" on the schedule. "Better Together" seemed to work best for the family-themed comedy block in the fall because the show is about three couples who are part of the same extended family.

More Upfronts coverage  
Just how satisfied ABC is with its new programming has been a question in development circles. The network stayed quiet about its pilots during the pickup process, and there were agency rumors that the network was displeased with its crop. Members of the media also were surprised to learn that ABC was scrapping its annual pre-upfront news conference, where McPherson walks reporters through the schedule and takes questions. Instead, various ABC executives conducted one-on-one phone interviews, with the network saying the change was made to accommodate scheduling demands.

Said Patmore-Gibbs: "There's been a lot of speculation on the agency side of things; when we don't talk to people, it leads to all sorts of rumors -- sometimes about our to reaction to shows we haven't even seen yet. We feel very excited about the things that we have and are only frustrated there aren't more time periods. You can only launch so many new shows effectively at one time."
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