7:15pm PT by Lesley Goldberg, Mikey O'Connell, Kate Stanhope
ABC Renews Shonda Rhimes Trio, 8 Rookies, 'Castle,' 'Nashville' and More
With six new dramas and three comedies set to join the 2015-16 schedule, ABC has also started handing out renewals to current series. A total of 22 series got the official greenlight on Thursday night.
Among them are a solid eight members of the first-year class (How to Get Away With Murder, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Galavant, Agent Carter, American Crime, Secrets & Lies and Beyond the Tank), making for as big of a sophomore crop as any other broadcast network. Also renewed are dramas Castle, Grey's Anatomy, Agents of SHIELD, Nashville, Once Upon a Time and Scandal, comedies The Goldbergs, The Middle and Modern Family — as well as reality and alternative series America's Funniest Home Videos, The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars, Shark Tank and 20/20.
The majority of the renewals hail from ABC Studios, with only four — Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family (20th TV), The Goldbergs (Sony) and The Middle (WBTV) — coming from outside studios.
All of the orders don't appear to leave a great deal of room for new series, though exits for Revenge and several other series not mentioned in the group do leave some holes. Meanwhile, the network has canceled rookies Cristela and Forever, second year drama Resurrection and alternative entry The Taste.
Here's what's coming back:
To no surprise, Shonda Rhimes' flagship series will be back for its 12th season after moving from its longtime home at 9 p.m. to anchor ABC's TGIT lineup at 8 p.m., with Scandal moving to 9 p.m. and the Rhimes-produced How to Get Away With Murder at 10 p.m. The scheduling change for the ABC Studios drama didn't hurt the series, with Grey's still a top 20 performer — and pulling a 3.7 in the demo when factoring in DVR. This season, the veteran medical drama saw a massive cast shake-up when leading man Patrick Dempsey (aka Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd) was killed off late in the season despite having a deal to return for season 12. Meanwhile, leading lady Ellen Pompeo is signed through season 12 — as are increasingly valuable co-stars Sara Ramirez, Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr. and Chandra Wilson (the latter trio all original stars). With the loss of Dempsey, it's unclear if season 12 will be its last. (Co-star Caterina Scorsone recently told THR that there had not been any conversations about an end date.)
Rhimes' Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn starrer will return for its fifth season. The drama, from ABC Studios, moved from its 10 p.m. perch to 9 p.m. this season, which has seen some of its critical goodwill fade alongside ratings. Factoring in DVR, Scandal is still a top 10 series and collects 4.5 million total viewers among adults 18-49 and 13 million overall, but both down year-over-year. Meanwhile, Rhimes said at the top of season four that her fast-paced game-changing Scandal isn't a "10-season or eight-season show. ... I've already decided when Scandal is ending," she told THR. "I think there's only so much Scandal you can tell satisfactorily. The Fitz-Liv thing can only be told so long and in such a way. … I've already decided how long that is and what that's going to be."
How to Get Away With Murder
The Viola Davis starrer from showrunner Pete Nowalk and exec produced by Rhimes will officially return for a second season. The renewal was considered a formality after ABC teased a sophomore run immediately following its February season finale. The drama, one of the highest-rated freshman series of the season, will likely return with another abbreviated order of 15 episodes to accommodate both star Davis' feature work as well as its roller-coaster plot. Airing at 10 p.m. as part of ABC's big TGIT block, Murder netted star Davis a SAG Award win and continues to be at the forefront of broadcast television's diversity push. The drama became Shondaland's newest hit after opening to a whopping 14 million total viewers and a 3.8 among adults 18-49. The demo haul tied the fourth season debut of Rhimes' Scandal and topped its lead-in among total viewers. The ABC Studios drama was the most-watched scripted entry for the night, which included Scandal and veteran Grey's Anatomy. When factoring in three days of delayed viewing, the Davis starrer set a record, becoming the biggest DVR viewership in history at the time.
The procedural starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic will be back for its eighth season. Fillion inked a new deal to return, and Katic — sources tell THR — is expected to close a new pact as well. Produced in-house by ABC Studios, Castle has been a sturdy performer for ABC on Mondays at 10 p.m. and still pulls 12.7 million viewers on a weekly basis. Rumors about the future of the series have swirled of late, with sources telling THR that the veteran drama from Andrew Marlowe could return for an abbreviated final season. While it's unclear if season eight will be Castle's last one thing is certain: showrunner David Amann, who took over for Marlowe in season seven, has exited.
Once Upon a Time
From Lost alums Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, Once Upon a Time will be back for its fifth season as the fairy tale drama continues to be a solid performer for ABC on Sundays. The fantasy drama from ABC Studios and starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison is a prime example of the Disney-owned network's corporate synergy. In its fourth season, the drama — like most else — softened a bit, though it remains a DVR standout with 3.3 million among adults 18-49 and 9 million total viewers — down year-over-year.
Despite opening to rave reviews, the freshman anthology drama from 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner John Ridley couldn't hold on to its Scandal lead-in when the Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman drama subbed in after Murder ended its run. The drama about race relations in the wake of a small-town murder opened to decent sampling with a 2.0 in the demo and 8.4 million total viewers. That haul has fallen off considerably in the weeks since, with its most recent offering collecting a 1.0 in the demo and 3.7 million total viewers. The network is likely banking that a new story might perk up interest. And, for his part, Ridley is attached to exec produce a mystery Marvel drama for ABC via his overall deal with the studio.
Nashville is singing a happy tune, earning a renewal for season four and putting the country music drama that much closer to the episode count needed for syndication. The Lionsgate TV/ABC Studios co-production, which stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, averages a 2.2 rating with adults under 50. Also working in the nighttime soap's favor is the ancillary revenue earned from music downloads and tours — the cast is currently in the middle of their second multicity tour.
Secrets and Lies
The Ryan Phillippe-Juliette Lewis murder mystery has proven a reliable performer on Sundays — arguably what has become one of TV's most crowded nights. Secrets and Lies is pulling a 2.1 rating among adults under 50, marking a notable increase from the disappointing return of Resurrection. The biggest question mark going into season two is who will return and star in the ABC Studios anthology series.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter
Fresh Off the Boat
In spite of the many Twitter ramblings of Eddie Huang, whose memoir of the same name serves as the jumping off point for the series, the single-camera comedy is performing well for ABC. The series from 20th Century Fox Television and showrunner Nahnatchka Khan delivered solid ratings in what has long been considered a tough time slot for the network, averaging 2.2 million viewers 18-49 on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. In addition to its warm reception from critics, Boat is one of the season's most diverse offerings — leading an important industry-wide trend.
Adam F. Goldberg's semi-autobiographical 1980-something comedy will return for a third season. In its sophomore frame, the Sony Pictures Television multi-generational comedy starring Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jeff Garlin has surged among total viewers (up 33 percent) and adults 18-49 (up 23 percent) after it was moved from Tuesdays to ABC's family comedy block on Wednesdays. The series, which airs between The Middle and Modern Family, has also helped open the door for other retro family comedies including ABC's '90s entry Fresh Off the Boat.
The fairy-tale musical comedy from Dan Fogelman (The Neighbors) and produced by ABC Studios was one of the network's riskiest bets of the season. Galavant averaged a 1.9 rating during it's limited winter run. Despite impressive auspices behind the scenes, Oscar winner Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) and Glenn Slater (Tangled), the show's original music also failed to make noise the way Nashville and Empire's tunes have. It was steady performer, though, and critics seemed to warm to the show during the season.
Although the Patricia Heaton-led sitcom has been a consistent anchor for ABC's Wednesday comedy block throughout the years — it averages a 2.4 demo rating — The Middle's return was not a sure thing. A renewal for season seven required the show's studio, Warner Bros. Television, to sign the entire cast to new deals. Before that could happen, star Charlie McDermott, who plays eldest child Axl, joined the CBS comedy pilot Super Clyde, for which he is in first position.
Modern Family is still a critical and commercial darling for the network, but it has seen better days. TV's No. 2 scripted comedy behind The Big Bang Theory, the ratings for the Emmy winner have fallen from an average rating of 5.6 when adding seven days of DVR playback to a 4.5. On the bright side, the single-camera comedy from 20th Century Fox Television and co-creators Chris Lloyd and Steve Levitan finally found a successful lead-out this season in Black-ish.
The Anthony Anderson-Tracee Ellis Ross comedy is the top freshman scripted comedy of the season, averaging a 3.0 rating in the demo. Produced in-house by ABC Studios, Black-ish's success follows years of failed attempts by the network to find the proper companion for crowned jewel Modern Family. The multi-generational family comedy also was a major part of ABC's diversity push and opening the door for a new wave of black actors this pilot season.
America's Funniest Home Videos
Renewal has never been much of a question for America's Funniest Home Videos. The 26-year-old clip show averages a dependable 6.2 million viewers and a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49. Those numbers, while nothing outwardly exciting, are enviable considering the modest production costs and the fact that it tops many Sunday broadcast series among live viewers. One wild card, however, is the host. Longtime face of the series Tom Bergeron departs at the end of the current season to limit his ABC gigs to just Dancing With the Stars, leaving a vacancy for some fresh (and likely cheaper) blood.
Now going into its 20th cycle, The Bachelor continues to be a fixture of watercooler conversation, a consistent ratings performer and a feeder of fellow reality series The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise and, sometimes, even Dancing With the Stars (recent Bachelor star Chris Soules is one of the longest-running contestants of the current seasons). But the original is still the biggest performer for ABC, boosting its January and February showing with a recent average 9.7 million viewers and a 3.0 rating among adults 18-49 on Monday nights. That makes it stronger than most any series even half of its age.
Dancing With the Stars
As fellow glossy reality flagships hemorrhage viewers, year to year, Dancing With the Stars' decline has been more modest. It's aging gracefully — and though it continues to run the chance of overexposure with those back-to-back runs in the fall and spring, 14.8 million viewers is no joke. The admittedly older-skewing two-hour competition, from BBC Worldwide, also averages a formidable 2.4 rating with adults 18-49. ABC opted to eighty-six the Tuesday results show two years ago. Fall will mark its 21st season.
Shark Tank and Beyond the Tank
Fridays belong to Shark Tank. As the broadcast networks make varied bids on the low-stakes night with new scripted offerings and emphasis on genre programming, ABC's Shark Tank remains the biggest thing going for the Big Four. The latest season of the Sony Pictures Television series stalled several years of growth, but its average 2.3 rating among adults 18-49 and 8.4 million viewers recently parlayed into a successful spinoff: Beyond the Tank. ABC doled out a sophomore renewal for the series after just one episode.
Keep up with all the renewals, cancellations and new series orders with THR's handy Scorecard.