ABC’s of success

'Grey's Anatomy' adds to momentum as web has high hopes for rookie shows

After rising from the ashes last season on the back of a pair of rookie megahits, ABC continues to impress as it kicks off the new year.

It hasn’t been the best season for Alphabet rookie shows — much of its good stuff has yet to air — but the emergence of “Grey’s Anatomy” as a blockbuster in its own right has kept the momentum going.

ABC will be the only broadcaster with across-the-board, year-to-year ratings gains at midseason, ranking a close second in non-sports averages to CBS in the key adults 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen.

“Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” are both up year-to-year — helping compensate for the net’s declining fortunes in situation comedy.

The Alphabet could also use a few more middle-of-the-pack hits to fill out its sked: While it has three of the season’s top four shows in 18-49, it claims only six of the top 20.

Here’s a closer look at ABC as it approaches midseason:

WHAT WORKED: For starters, there’s Sunday, where ABC’s 8-11 p.m. lineup is stronger in 18-49 than any night on any net.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” remains potent, and the 9-11 p.m. combo of “Housewives” and “Grey’s” is a powerhouse, with the shows ranking first and third, respectively, in 18-49.

“Lost,” at No. 4 in the demo, is on the ratings rise as well, as the net smartly moved it to 9 o’clock this season. The show that precedes it, new comedy “Freddie,” has been a solid performer, too.

Two other new dramas, White House tale “Commander in Chief” and the spooky “Invasion,” have fared OK, but their performance in the next couple of months will determine their future.

A returnee performing well is Monday leadoff hitter “Wife Swap,” which improved the timeslot in 18-49 by 88% vs. a year ago. Its strength in women 18-34 emboldened ABC to keep it at 8 as it targets that audience with a new post-football lineup.

Another plus for ABC is its perf in upscale demos like adults 18-49 earning $100,000-plus, where it’s delivered more viewers than any other net.

WHAT HASN’T WORKED: New comedy “Hot Properties” didn’t cut it on Friday, but it got little support from fading lead-in “Hope & Faith.” Tuesday vet “According to Jim” is running on fumes, too, and the net must chart a new comedy course.

On the newsmag front, “20/20” performs pretty well despite a lack of lead-in, but Thursday’s “Primetime” is generating no heat in its tough timeslot, and it may be time to try something else there.

In addition to Thursday, ABC needs to shore up its 10 o’clock perf on other weeknights, where programming serves as the lead-in to local news. Net is strong on Sunday, but still lags CBS and NBC overall.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Out of the block this month are Thursday comedy “Crumbs” and Friday drama “In Justice.” Expectations are low for both, but they could improve some of the net’s weak timeslots.

ABC has higher hopes this month — and rightfully so — for Heather Graham romantic comedy “Emily’s Reasons Why Not.” Net needs one of its new comedies to work so it can mount some kind of laffer block next season.

“Emily’s” is the best-looking midseason comedy on any net, but it will oppose CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” TV’s No. 1 comedy among adults 25-54 and women 18-49. Look for “Emily” to zero in on the women 18-34 aud.

Move of “Grey’s Anatomy” seems likely, either next fall or perhaps as early as March — enabling ABC to try a new show after “Housewives.” Net could shift “Grey’s,” TV’s No. 1 10 o’clock program in 18-49, to Monday or Tuesday.

ABC has two other good-looking newbies, the offbeat drama “What About Brian” and comedy “Sons and Daughters,” but their commercial prospects may be a long shot. Procedural-with-a-twist “The Evidence” is intriguing, but there’s no obvious spot for it.

Net also has two promising reality ideas in the works — “Miracle Worker” and “American Inventor” — which could get a shot on Monday.

And here’s a nod to ABC’s overall development squad. It’s hard to judge on loglines alone, but the net’s upcoming reality fare and dramas and comedies for next season look to have excellent potential.

BOTTOM LINE: If it could bolster some of its problem areas and improve in comedy, a rising ABC could give CBS a run for its money.

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