Something borrowed, two new

ABC's sked is light on new fare, but 'Scrubs' is 'great addition to brand'

A stable schedule with only two new fall additions and a welcoming of NBC's "Scrubs" that had been two years in the making highlighted ABC's upfront Tuesday.

Gone from ABC's presentation this year were the elaborate production numbers of the past as well as the parade of cast members of returning series. "As you can see, we're doing things a little different this year," Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney said.

Added ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson, who wowed 'em with a torrid cha-cha two years ago, "There will be no dancing this year; there will be no bells and whistles."

But again, some things never change — like Jimmy Kimmel stealing the show with a spicy, equal-opportunity-offender routine.

"Is this the WGA strike afterparty or the SAG prestrike party?" he quipped. "I'm the biggest star here, and I'm not even the biggest star at my kids' parent-teacher conferences."

Kimmel directed most of his zingers at fourth-place NBC, which passed up its traditional upfront presentation this year for an "in-front" event in April that unveiled a 65-week schedule.

"They're calling it the in-front because they're just 'in front' of the CW," he joked.

Meanwhile, McPherson defended the pilot development model, questioning the viability of the direct-to-series strategy employed by NBC this season.

"I totally agree with the idea of year-round development, but the pilot process is the smartest process we can have in our business," he said. "It's the R&D in our business. You wouldn't produce 700,000 cars with only a sketch, no prototype, nothing. … Shows like 'Lost' and 'Grey's' would not exist without the pilot process."

ABC ordered 20 pilots this post-strike development season, the most of any network, but did deviate from the traditional cycle by deciding to shoot 17 of them after the upfront for midseason consideration.

"We're trying to do it in two cycles," McPherson said earlier in the day. "We're trying to have comedies done midsummer and then dramas in fall."

At the presentation, he showcased three of the projects in development, a David Kohan-Max Mutchnick buddy comedy; animated series "The Goode Family," which was best received by the audience; and the MSN online comedy "In the Motherhood," starring Leah Remini, Jenny McCarthy and Chelsea Handler.

McPherson also said that ABC will develop MindShare's "Motherhood" for midseason.

As for fall, ABC's additions include an U.S. adaptation of the BBC drama "Life on Mars" and game show "Opportunity Knocks," which McPherson describes as a combination of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

"Given the fact they've piloted 20 programs, it gives them a leg up," Horizon Media's Aaron Cohen said after the presentation. " 'Life on Mars' puzzled me; it seems to me there's been other programs like that, so it's a matter of execution. As for 'Opportunity Knocks,' the idea of a neighborhood game show is a unique one; if it's worked for 'Home Edition,' it might work for this."

On Tuesday morning, McPherson also said that the upcoming fifth season of "Boston Legal" will be its last, that "Scrubs" — which he called "a great addition to our comedy brand" — could go beyond next season on ABC and that "Oprah's Big Give" won't return for an encore.

"We loved that show and absolutely would have loved to bring it back," he said. "But it was something (Oprah Winfrey) didn't want to do."

ABC plans to roll out the bulk of its fall schedule during premiere week in September.

McPherson also was asked to comment on ABC's potential plans to go after departing "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.

"I'm really interested to see what happens to NBC late-night when he leaves," McPherson said. "He is still the No. 1 late-night talk show host, so it is an odd time for him to be leaving."

But McPherson stressed that "any conversation would have to be done in conjunction with Jimmy (Kimmel)."

Spoiler alert: He also confirmed that Nicollette Sheridan and Dana Delany will be back on "Desperate Housewives" next season. (partialdiff)
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