ABC's New Schedule: Shonda Rhimes Block (Sorta) Breaks Up, With 'Scandal' Benched

Scandal S05E03 Still - H 2015
John Fleenor/ABC

Scandal S05E03 Still - H 2015

ABC will likely still be thanking god it's Thursday, come fall, but Shonda Rhimes will not be the only TV deity the network is praising.

After two seasons, ABC has pulled back on its all-Shondaland-produced drama block on the night — with Scandal, a shorter 16-episode order this season thanks to star Kerry Washington's pregnancy, sitting out until midseason. In Scandal's coveted slot, between enduring flagship Grey's Anatomy and the third year of How to Get Away With Murder, is the Sony and ABC Studios co-production Notorious. Thematically familiar to the Scandal set, it follows the "sexy and dangerous interplay" between criminal law and the media.

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey and boss Ben Sherwood clearly aren't playing it entirely safe with their first collaboration on a schedule. In addition to playing with the Thursday block, the 2016-17 lineup sees another hour of comedy added to Tuesday night and a few moves for some longtime network players.

With Castle out of the way, the week will now start with drama Conviction following on Dancing With the Stars' heels. The real changes are Tuesday, where no half-hour remains the same from last year. The Middle, moving from Wednesday, now opens the night before freshman American Housewife and a shifted Fresh Off the Boat (9 p.m.) and The Real O'Neals (9:30 p.m.) launching a new hour of comedy for the network. At 10 p.m., the long-troubled hour will go to a shifting Agents of SHIELD. Though the Marvel effort is a soft linear performer, it will almost guarantee some consistency in the time slot — a cancellation target for the last several seasons.

Wednesday's moves are comparatively minor. The Goldbergs now opens the night, leading into freshman half-hour Speechless. Keeping with the family comedies, Modern Family and Black-ish remain unmoved. ABC has a real opportunity to breath some life into the 10 o'clock hour now that Nashville is dead and gone. The network's most-hyped fall addition, Kiefer Sutherland starrer Designated Survivor, moves into the time slot. ABC is clearly looking to make Wednesday more of an anchor, as aging Modern Family remains its highest-rated show.

Friday is unchanged, while Sunday night skirts any freshman drama addition with the delayed sophomore run of Secrets and Lies returning to the night. It will be sandwiched between Once Upon a Time and Quantico.

With much on the bench, the network certainly has some wiggle room and a crowded midseason ahead. In addition to Sandal, and fellow Rhimes production The Catch, there's also returning anthology American Crime, event series When We Rise, movie Dirty Dancing and several new series: Downward Dog, Imaginary Mary, Still Star-Crossed and Time After Time.

ABC's Complete 2016-17 Fall Schedule

8 p.m. — Dancing With the Stars
10 p.m.  — Conviction

8 p.m. — The Middle
8:30 p.m. — American Housewife
9 p.m. — Fresh Off the Boat
9:30 p.m. — The Real O'Neals 
10 p.m. — Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

8 p.m. — The Goldbergs
8:30 p.m. — Speechless
9 p.m. — Modern Family
9:30 p.m. — Black-ish  
10 p.m. — Designated Survivor
8 p.m. — Grey's Anatomy
9 p.m. — Notorious
10 p.m. — How to Get Away With Murder

8 p.m. — Last Man Standing
8:30 p.m. — Dr. Ken
9 p.m. — Shark Tank
10 p.m. — 20/20

7:30 p.m. — Saturday Night Football
7 p.m.  — America's Funniest Home Videos
8 p.m. — Once Upon a Time
9 p.m. — Secrets and Lies
10 p.m. — Quantico