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Last year, ABC snapped former Oscar host Kimmel’s 11-year record of airing his big post-Academy Awards show after the ceremony when the Disney-owned broadcast network scheduled a sneak preview of its Alec Baldwin-hosted talk show after the telecast. (Spoiler alert: That experiment ended poorly.)
This year, ABC has handed the coveted post-Oscars slot to a scripted drama for the first time in more than a decade. The lucky winner: Whiskey Cavalier, the hourlong action-dramedy from executive producer Bill Lawrence (Cougar Town, Scrubs). The series, from Warner Bros. TV, stars Scandal grad Scott Foley and The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan as two agents who lead an inter-agency team of flawed, funny and heroic spies while navigating friendship, romance and office politics.
If a romance-action-spy dramedy doesn’t exactly sound like a natural fit with the Academy Awards, you’re not wrong. However, there is a good reason ABC gave the coveted slot to the scripted drama: new entertainment president Karey Burke’s top mission is to bring women back to the network.
ABC is best known as a home for soapy dramas that target women — think Grey’s Anatomy and freshman breakout A Million Little Things. But the network lost its place as the most-watched broadcast network for women to NBC — thanks largely to the staying power of the latter’s tear-jerker This Is Us.
Getting Whiskey Cavalier — which takes its title from Foley’s spy name — off the ground is a big part of helping ABC bring women back to the network.
“ABC has a long history of being No. 1 with women. We lost that mantel this season, and I am determined to get it back,” Burke told reporters Feb. 5 in her first public comments about taking over the network from Channing Dungey in November. “Luckily, programming for women has long been a passion of mine. It’s always been my personal goal to create the best opportunities for women in front of and behind the camera, and I know what’s possible when women come together and share their vision. That’s a big part of what’s going to lead us back to the top.”
While awards shows, like the Academy Awards, have seen viewership tumble — like everything else in the DVR era — they, like sports, pull in a larger live audience and give networks a massive platform to promote new offerings. That said, it’s fair to expect a lot of promotion for not only Whiskey (take a shot of whiskey every time you see an on-screen pop-up for the show) and other ABC midseason offerings including female-focused The Fix (loosely inspired by exec producer Marcia Clark and due March 18), American Idol (returning March 3) and maybe even Grand Hotel (starring Demian Bichir and from exec producer Eva Longoria, due June 17).
Here’s the trailer for Whiskey Cavalier. Its official series debut airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC.
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