You can’t spell “Wednesday” without the letters “n-e-w,” and ABC is following its fall 2007 lead by rolling out all new shows that night.
“It’s risky — it’s sort of a bold move, but we like the shows,” says ABC exec VP of scheduling Jeff Bader. “They fit together, so we’re hoping the audience agrees.”
In 2007, ABC unveiled “Pushing Daisies,” “Private Practice” and “Dirty Sexy Money” on Wednesdays. Two years later, only “Private Practice” remains alive, having been moved to Thursdays.
This time around, Wednesdays on ABC will start with a block of four half-hour comedies — “Hank,” “The Middle,” “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town.” ABC has struggled with the format of late, canceling “Samantha Who?” after its promising start fizzled.
“We wanted to launch a comedy block,” Bader says. “We think it makes it a destination, a package you can market together so you don’t have to dilute your marketing message by spreading it over several nights.”
The other new Alphabet show on Wednesday is “Eastwick,” which, along with Monday night’s returning “Castle” and Tuesday’s new Jerry Bruckheimer-produced procedural “The Forgotten” represent a chance for ABC to make a 10 p.m. stand against NBC’s nightly Jay Leno hour.
“We looked at it as an opportunity that there was a drama audience being thrown up from one of the major networks,” Bader says. “That viewership will be looking for new dramas, and we like what we have to offer. ‘Castle’ is a show we loved last year. Obviously we want the show to be bigger. Well, now it has one drama against it instead of two. We hope that increases sampling.”
Net’s biggest push will be for the expensive, mysterious-phenomenon drama “FlashForward,” which kicks off Thursday nights, followed by returning stalwarts “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” which ABC would like more young adults and men to see.
“One of our goals is to bring more men into our network,” Bader says. “And the best possible thing we can do for our Thursday night overall is not only bring them in at 8 p.m., but bring them through the night.”
Sparked by a global incident in which everyone on Earth blacks out for a little more than two minutes and catches a glimpse of their future, the characters on “FlashForward” must ask themselves, “What do I do with this information?”
“It’s an intimate epic,” Bader says. “It has a lot of elements we liked in ‘Lost,’ in that a big event is the catalyst.”
Although it centers on members of a Los Angeles-based FBI team that devotes itself to investigating the origins and cause of the worldwide phenomenon, the emotional issue of how people deal with foreknowledge of their destiny is what will drive the series. Think “Lost” without so much metaphysical conspiracy bafflement.
“At its core, it’s a really strong character drama,” Bader says. “It’s not really sci-fi. It just feels like a very big show.”
NEW FOR 2009-10
ABC finally has a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced procedural of its own, centering on a group of amateur sleuths (led by Christian Slater) who help identify victims and, of course, figure out who offed them. With NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU” out of the picture on Tuesdays at 10 p.m., ABC hopes viewers will cotton to its new crime-solving entry.
As recognizable a figure as sitcoms have ever had, Kelsey Grammer returns to spin his trademark pomposity as a disgraced big-city entrepreneur forced to live more modestly in his Virginia hometown. Kicking off ABC’s laffer block on Wednesday nights, this is the network’s only multicam comedy, but also the one with potential for the widest appeal.
“Everybody Loves Raymond” alumna Patricia Heaton is another of ABC’s familiar-face bets for its comedy night. She plays the beleaguered working mother and wife in an eccentric but loving Midwestern family. Paired with “Hank,” ABC is looking for a one-two combo of traditionally based, star-powered family comedy laughs.
The notion of a family comedy gets a little more complicated in ABC’s 9 p.m. hour with this single-camera mockumentary ensemble show, a wry, witty look at three parents-with-children households. Riding a wave of critical buzz based on its pilot, it could become the anchor for the network’s bid to become a comedy powerhouse once more.
Courteney Cox completes ABC’s Wednesday comedies as a fortysomething divorcee farcically making her way through the minefield of dating in a youth-obsessed world. The broadest and crassest entry in the ABC’s lineup, “Cougar” aims to appeal not only to those of similar age and gender as Cox, but also men who like a little sex with their titters.
Based on John Updike’s novel “The Witches of Eastwick” and subsequent film, this series adaptation about three seaside-village women and their newfound powers might have fit Thursdays with female-centric “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.” But ABC likes its 10 p.m. prospects on Wednesdays as an alternative to Jay Leno.