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ABC on Thursday solidified its 2020-21 season schedule with renewals for the bulk of its scripted and unscripted lineup while also cutting three comedies and a rookie drama.
Returning for additional seasons are the comedies American Housewife (season five), Black-ish (season seven), Mixed-ish (season two), The Conners (season three) and The Goldbergs (season eight), plus the dramas A Million Little Things (season three), The Rookie (season three) and freshman Stumptown. The sophomore comedies Bless This Mess, Single Parents and The Goldbergs spinoff Schooled, as well as the first-year drama Emergence, have all been canceled.
Remaining on the bubble are the rookies The Baker and the Beauty and For Life, both of which recently launched, and United We Fall, which is awaiting a premiere date.
Additionally, the network confirmed its series order for David E. Kelley’s The Big Sky, the PI drama starring Kylie Bunbury and Katheryn Winnick which had a series penalty attached. Joining the 20th TV and A+E Studios project on the Karey Burke-led network’s slate is Kari Lizer’s multicamera comedy Call Your Mother (formerly My Village), which stars Kyra Sedgwick as an empty-nester mom. The remainder of ABC’s drama and comedy pilots remain in contention. It’s unclear if ABC could pick up additional pilots to series for the 2020-21 season considering the current landscape. It’s fair to expect many of this year’s pilots to be rolled to next season as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the status quo for broadcast networks. As things currently sit for ABC, the network’s scripted volume is at about half of what it had on its schedule for the 2019-20 season. Big Sky and Call Your Mother were unable to shoot pilots before the industry-wide production shutdown and both technically were picked up straight to series based on the strength of additional script orders the network handed out in the past couple months.
On the unscripted side, The Bachelor (season 25), Dancing With the Stars (season 29), Shark Tank (season 12), the updated Who Wants to be a Millionaire (season two) and the newsmagazine 20/20 (season 43) will all return. ABC’s update on Kids Say the Darndest Things has been canceled.
It’s worth noting that CBS finished the 2019-20 broadcast season as the most-watched network, while Fox took home the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo crown. ABC technically had about 10,000 more viewers than Fox in the demo when factoring in only entertainment programming (and removing sports).
Thursday’s pickups join a scripted slate that includes previously announced renewals for The Good Doctor, Grey’s Anatomy and spinoff Station 19. ABC this season said farewell to Modern Family, Fresh Off the Boat and How to Get Away With Murder and next week will begin the final season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Previously announced unscripted pickups include American Idol, The Bachelorette, America’s Funniest Home Videos and the forthcoming reboot Supermarket Sweep.
The renewal decisions will allow returning series to at least open writers rooms and begin crafting their forthcoming seasons so that when production is cleared to resume amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, they can hit the ground running. New safety guidelines for productions are expected to add time and increased costs to each program.
In announcing the renewals, ABC did not address its scheduling plans. The Disney-owned broadcaster will make a virtual push to advertisers next week. While CBS, Fox and The CW have used the past two weeks to court advertisers and at least reveal fourth-quarter programming strategies to accommodate stalled productions, ABC and NBC, sources say, may wait to make those decisions until as late as June as the global situation around the pandemic continues to evolve and more information about when and how production can resume becomes available. (California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday stunned the industry when he said guidelines for resuming film and TV production would be released Monday and could start as early as next week.)
ABC’s decision to return the bulk of its slate comes as little surprise as bubble programs were expected to have the edge over new series given that networks have already spent millions marketing them and have sets and crews already in place. With no formal return to work date in place, it’s unclear how many new series the broadcast networks will need considering two of the five have already made the decision to hold returning scripted series for early 2021.
Instead, Fox and The CW are plotting fourth-quarter schedules that featured acquired content. Such “gently used” programming as Spectrum’s L.A.’s Finest and DC Universe’s Swamp Thing, as well as foreign acquisitions, have become schedule fillers for broadcasters with both series landing slots on Fox and The CW’s fall schedules, respectively. CBS, meanwhile, is expecting production to resume sometime this summer as it plots a business-as-usual schedule that could feature staggered starts for scripted series based on when each respective series can get back to work. ABC, meanwhile, could lean on programming from its Disney-owned streamers Hulu and Disney+ to help fill a programming void in the fall, if it opts to also hold back its originals.
With Modern Family and Fresh Off the Boat coming to their conclusions, the demise of the sophomore comedies Bless This Mess, Schooled and Single Parents could indicate that ABC may be leaning toward reverting back to one night of comedy instead of two.
In terms of ownership, ABC owns nearly all of its scripted schedule, save for Roseanne offshoot The Conners (produced by Carsey-Werner) and The Goldbergs (from Sony TV). Kelley’s The Big Sky, it’s worth noting, is a co-production between A+E and Disney-owned 20th TV. ABC also owned all four shows it canceled, though Schooled — which struggled with a showrunner change at the start of the season — was a co-production with indie studio Sony Pictures TV.
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