Another year, another comeback attempt.
This time, the faces at ABC are different, but the problems the same. For the past two seasons, the net has shown signs of life in the fall, only to lose that momentum come midseason (when Fox’s “American Idol” smacks everything in its path).
Incoming entertainment prexy Steve McPherson is realistic: ABC’s not going to find an instant fix.
“We certainly think that it’s a building-block process,” he says. “We’re not of the belief that it is one show that saves the network. If that walks in the door, fantastic, and we’ll hopefully use it effectively.
“But we’re looking to get on some solid performers, improved time periods, improved nights and start to get a momentum back,” he says.
Part of the problem remains ABC’s inability to find a signature scripted megahit in the vein of “CSI” or “Law & Order.”
The web’s signature comedies perform decently but none recall the power of classic staples such as “Roseanne” and “Home Improvement.” And the net’s drama woes have been well documented.
“It’s no secret to anyone that we haven’t had a drama that has really broken out in the last few years,” McPherson says. “We think we have some good shots with some of the new development. We just want to make sure that we give each of them the appropriate launching pad.”
Stuck in fourth place, ABC execs believe they have no place to go but up. And so far, the critics like the Alphabet web’s odds.
Buzz is high on new ABC entries “Wife Swap,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Life as We Know It.” “Boston Legal” trades on its “The Practice” familiarity, while “Rodney” and “Complete Savages” attempt to re-create the classic ABC formula of family comedy with a male center.
Given ABC’s position, McPherson believes the net has more leeway to stick with the shows it believes in, despite low ratings.
“When you’re in this position, you absolutely approach things differently than if you were on top and trying to hold on to that,” he says. “We really want to look at time periods, we want to look at nights, and we want to hopefully improve in those specific places and then slowly build out from there.
“I do think it allows you to be a little more patient, but you also have to be better. You absolutely have to be more competitive, more strategic than the people who are right now beating you.”