Alphabet follows hot year with big tweaks
After its stunning Lazarus act this season, ABC will look to build on its success with a 2005-06 lineup that introduces just five new series in the fall while still making significant changes on most nights of the week.
Biggest shift is the decision to move rookie hit “Lost” to 9 p.m. Wednesday from its current 8 p.m. slot in the hope that the later hour (when more viewers are available) will help the show grow in its second season. ABC plans to shift Jennifer Garner starrer “Alias” to 8 p.m. Thursday in the hope of finally making inroads on what’s long been a difficult night.
Unchanged: ABC’s successful Sunday sked, which will return intact. The Alphabet is up a whopping 77% on Sundays in adults 18-49 vs. last season and didn’t want to mess with what’s working so well.
ABC scored bigtime last fall by focusing its promotional energies on just a couple of projects, yielding handsome dividends with strong bows for “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.” By bringing on three frosh dramas and two new comedies in the fall — compared with eight skeins last year — ABC is likely planning to hype most of its new shows as big-ticket events.
Of the 11 series ordered for next season (Daily Variety, May 16), the five landing slots in the fall include dramas “Commander in Chief,” “Invasion” and “Night Stalker,” as well as laffers “Freddy” and “Hot Properties,” according to industry insiders familiar with the Alphabet’s new lineup.
ABC will kick off the week on Mondays by pairing the final season of “Monday Night Football” with returning reality skein “Wife Swap” (8 p.m. on the East Coast; 10 on the West).
Once the NFL season wraps, ABC is expected to shift to a femme-focused Monday, led off at 8 with “The Bachelor.” It’ll be followed at 9 by buzzworthy frosh comedy “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” and the second season of “Jake in Progress.” New J.J. Abrams hour “What About Brian” rounds out the night at 10.
On Tuesdays in the fall, Alphabet shifts the pairing of “According to Jim” and “Rodney” down to 8 p.m. (from the skeins’ current 9-10 slot). Net then hopes to create an upscale block of adult dramas with Rod Lurie’s “Commander in Chief,” starring Geena Davis as the first female president, at 9 p.m., and David E. Kelley’s “Boston Legal” Tuesdays at 10.
With “Lost” anchoring ABC’s Wednesday lineup at 9 p.m., net hopes to flow audience into the sci-fi themed thriller “Invasion” at 10. Night begins with an hourlong block of laffers from ABC fave Bruce Helford: “George Lopez” at 8 and Freddie Prinze Jr.’s “Freddie” and 8:30. Both skeins feature Latino leads, marking one of — if not the — first times a Big Four broadcaster has paired two such laffers together.
“Alias” will bow in its new 8 p.m. Thursday slot in September or early October, despite speculation the show might be pushed back to midseason due to star Jennifer Garner’s reported (but as-yet-unannounced) pregnancy.
It’s expected ABC will have enough episodes of the series in the can to get through the fall with original episodes of “Alias”; it’s possible the skein could then take a two-month break in the winter to make room for one of the network’s many backup dramas.
Alphabet brass probably figure the show’s loyal fan base will follow it anywhere, allowing the net to improve its weak Thursday perf even if “Alias” scores a modest number.
At 9 p.m. Thursday, ABC takes on “CSI” and “The Apprentice” with “Night Stalker,” a spooky hour from “X-Files” alum Frank Spotnitz. Newmag “Primetime Live” stays put at 10.
As for Friday, ABC appears to be retiring its “TGIF” franchise for a second time, moving away from a four-comedy lineup by kicking off the night with the return of reality skein “Supernanny.”
Femme-centric night continues with “Hope and Faith,” which remains put at 9 p.m. for a third season, leading into the new Warner Bros. TV laffer “Hot Properties.” As usual, “20/20” follows at 10.
Like its counterparts, Alphabet net will continue to lie low on Saturday nights, scheduling a mix of movies, many under the “Wonderful World of Disney” banner, and drama repeats.
Sunday’s lineup of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” will all be back.
Remaining ABC frosh orders (“Evidence,” “In Justice,” “Sons and Daughters,” “Crumbs”) along with vet comedy “Less than Perfect,” will apparently be sprinkled throughout the season. Alphabet brass declined comment late Tuesday in advance of a Wednesday morning McPherson news conference, and there’s always the chance of a last-minute tweak.
Gone from ABC is the retired “NYPD Blue,” as well as sitcoms “8 Simple Rules” and “My Wife and Kids” (Daily Variety, May 16). Also out are midseason dramas “Blind Justice” and “Eyes,” as well as fall failures “The Benefactor” and “Life As We Know It.”
Overall, ABC will graduate an amazing seven frosh skeins to sophomore status.
Not on the fall schedule are “Extreme Makeover” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition — How’d They Do That?” but both shows could be revived at a later date. Plans are already in the works to produce several “Extreme Makeover” specials.
WB not talking
As for the WB, netlet was supremely tight-lipped over its schedule, although most pundits expect the Frog to keep its Monday (“7th Heaven,” “Everwood”) and Tuesday (“Gilmore Girls,” “One Tree Hill”) lineups intact.
On Wednesdays, the new spooky road trip drama “Supernatural” would appear to be a good fit with “Smallville.”
Beyond that, the WB’s scheduling moves were anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, in other network news, Fox has hammered out a new license fee deal for 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine’s “24.” Pact guarantees two more seasons of the drama hit.
Fox has also officially greenlit year two of its reality skein “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy.” Show, from Rocket Science Laboratories, performed strong for the net out of the box last summer. “Trading Spouses,” which averaged 7.3 million viewers this season, joins the previously announced “Nanny 911” in returning for a sophomore session.