Alphabet net looks for next 'Modern Family'-like sensation
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Following Stephen McPherson’s abrupt resignation from his position as president of ABC Entertainment in July, “there wasn’t any disruption” in proceeding with the network’s plans for fall, says Jeff Bader, exec veep of planning, scheduling and distribution for the network.
ABC’s past season was a mixed bag — it managed to create a credible night of comedy on Wednesdays, anchored by “Modern Family,” which wrestled the comedy series Emmy away from “30 Rock.” But long-running hits “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” started to show their age, and the network lost its pop-culture phenomenon, “Lost.”
For 2010-11, ABC has high hopes for improving its ratings on a number of nights.
“Now that we’ve established a beachhead on Wednesday with our comedies, we hope to solidify the night and take it to the next level,” Bader says.
ABC has added newcomer “Better With You” to the sitcom block and ends the evening with the legal drama “The Whole Truth,” which will be competing opposite two other new legal dramas, CBS’s “The Defenders” and NBC’s “Law & Order: Los Angeles.”
“It’ll be interesting to see what happens there,” Bader says. “Even today, for new shows, half of your audience comes from your lead-in. I think coming out of our comedy lineup, which skews heavily female, it will do well.”
Bader also has high hopes for Tuesday, which begins and concludes with new series, the action dramedy “No Ordinary Family” and the gritty cop drama “Detroit 1-8-7,” that serve as counterprogramming to the other networks’ offerings.
“We think we’ll have more male appeal than the competition,” Bader says, while adding, “When we’re putting together our schedules these days, there’s only so much attention we give to the other networks. The game has changed so much with DVRs when it comes to counter-scheduling.”
ABC also hopes to improve its 10 p.m. ratings and will pay closer attention to online reaction to its series.
“You can tell if a buzz is developing about a show by seeing people choosing to watch shows on their own time,” Bader says. “You can gauge passion for a show even if it’s not showing up in broadcast ratings.”
“No Ordinary Family”
In “No Ordinary Family,” Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz star as Jim and Stephanie Powell, parents of a typically dysfunctional family who attempt to reconnect during a trip to Brazil and, after surviving a plane crash in a phosphorescent rain-forest river, discover they each have unique superpowers.
So, is it a family show or an action show?
“We’re finding that balance as we go,” Chiklis admits. “The feeling is, it’s a family show at its core. The superhero element is definitely huge part of the show. Who gets to go to work and jump off bridges? That’s really a fun vehicle for telling these stories.”
Chiklis is particularly stoked that creators Greg Berlanti (“Everwood,” “Brothers and Sisters”) and Jon Harmon Feldman (“Dirty Sexy Money”) have given Jim’s 16-year-old daughter (Kay Panabaker) the ability to read minds — including her parents’.
“That’s just got comedy written all over it,” Chiklis says. “That makes for both funny and dramatic stuff when you hear people’s thoughts. The superpower aspect helps magnify our ability to tell stories about the upside and downside of family issues in a unique way.”
NEW FOR ’10
“Better With You”
“Modern Family 2.0?” In this sitcom from Shana Goldberg-Meehan (“Friends,” “Joey”) about an extended family, Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp play long-married, bored parents of daughters portrayed by JoAnna Garcia and Jennifer Finnigan. When Garcia’s character announces her impetuous decision to marry, paroxysms of doubt crop up in Finnigan’s character’s relationship, which has been heretofore steady yet free of wedding rings. Jake Lacy and Josh Cooke co-star.
“Body of Proof”
Dana Delany stars as a former brilliant neurosurgeon whose loss of her acute motor skills (but not of her terrific gams and her self-satisfied snarkiness) forces her to become a coroner who can practically solve murders by herself. John Carroll Lynch (“Fargo”) and Sonja Sohn (“The Wire”) co-star. Chris Murphy and Matthew Gross are executive producers.
This gritty police procedural was initially envisioned as a “COPS”-inspired mockumentary featuring Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”) as a bad-ass homicide detective, until the city of Detroit banned camera crews from covering cops’ daily routines. Showrunners Jason Richman and David Zabel retooled the series, but it still features plenty of jittery, doc-style camerawork.
Warren Littlefield is among the producers of this faux doc about nine graduates from an Austin, Texas, high school and how their lives have drastically changed in the past 10 years. With the 2000 presidential election, 9/11 and Enron as plot points, it’s the rare show that almost dares to be vaguely political.
“The Whole Truth”
This Jerry Bruckheimer production stars Rob Morrow as cocky defense attorney Jimmy Brogan and Maura Tierney as crusading prosecutor Kathryn Peale. They dated in the past, but now find themselves squaring off against one another in criminal trials; each episode will reveal who was actually fighting on the right side.