Network plots to get back into 8 p.m. game

ABC could use a hero. Execs hope they’ve found two such series in shining armor: the Michael Chiklis superhero entry “No Ordinary Family” and the docu-style relationship drama “My Generation.”

The two shows lead the Alphabet’s latest efforts to field a new appointment-worthy hourlong series — a key need for ABC as “Lost” sails into the horizon and both “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” continue to erode.

“Family” and “Generation” are clearly the favored shows at the Alphabet, as they received the most attention at the network’s upfront presentation.

To signify how important those shows are to the net’s sked, ABC brought out “Lost” star Matthew Fox to introduce clips from both. In doing so, ABC likely hoped to score some karma by publicly passing the torch.

“Family” and “Generation” have their work cut out for them, however. Both have been scheduled at 8 p.m., on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively — an hour that has grown tougher to schedule with scripted fare over the years, particularly in the spring, when Daylight Saving Time kicks in.

And although they may receive some halo effect from the shows behind them (“Dancing With the Stars” results show and “Grey’s Anatomy”), they’ll still be required to open a night.

Despite the tough assignment, ABC Entertainment Group prexy Steve McPherson said he’s bullish on the potential of both series.

“That speaks to the kind of diversity that we’re going to have on our schedule,” McPherson said. “Big ideas, taking chances. (‘No Ordinary Family’ is) a marvelous family show, a true family show, action adventure with a lot of comedic elements. And then ‘My Generation’ really breaks the mold in terms of the genres that we’re dealing with.”

ABC is launching five dramas and one comedy in the fall — and has 10 new shows overall. With so much new content, the network decided not to mess with its returning series.

As a result, just one show is shifting slots: returning laffer “The Middle,” which moves down to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. That timeslot stability will allow the net to focus its marketing muscle on the new fare.

“We can only do so much in the fall,” said Jeff Bader’s ABC scheduling chief. “You don’t have to do everything at once. It’s smarter to leave time periods that are not broken in place and try to fix the broken ones first.”

On the comedy front, ABC mulled all sorts of possibilities — a second night, or even pairing “Friends” alum Matthew Fox, who toplines laffer “Mr. Sunshine,” with Courteney Cox’s “Cougar Town” in their old 8 p.m. slot on Thursdays. But that was deemed “too cutesy” by staffers.

Instead, the Alphabet will immediately launch just one new comedy — the family relationship comedy “Better Together,” which will air after “The Middle” on Wednesdays.

“Better Together” earned the biggest laughs of all the new shows during ABC’s presentation at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.

“Mr. Sunshine” and the relationship comedy “Happy Endings” didn’t make the initial schedule cut, but McPherson emphasized that he still hopes to get those shows on the air by November.

“We’ll wait to see how the dust settles here in New York with scheduling and see where everybody is going before we attack those two,” McPherson said. “But make no mistake, those shows are huge priorities… and my intent actually is to launch those two shows this fall.”

ABC’s biggest gambit likely comes on Tuesday night, where the net’s three programs wouldn’t appear to have much flow. “No Ordinary Family” targets a family and fantasy aud; “Dancing With the Stars,” an older, female crowd and reality fans; and cop show “Detroit 1-8-7″ presumably more of a male aud.

But Bader noted that police procedurals need a core aud of 35-plus femmes to really work, which makes the show a fit with “Dancing.” And given the family appeal of “Dancing,” the net thought it also worked well with “No Ordinary Family.”

Besides, ABC execs likely couldn’t resist the thought of putting “Detroit 1-8-7″ in the Tuesday 10 p.m. slot once held by ABC police franchise “NYPD Blue.”

Also on Tuesdays, once “Dancing’s” results show wraps up in late November, “V” will take its place there. “V,” which was given a 13-episode pickup, needs a long lead time to produce, like “Lost.”

On Fridays, ABC is attempting to once again offer a mix of reality, scripted and news, bringing in feel-good “Secret Millionaire” (imported from Fox) to Fridays at 8 p.m., followed by new Dana Delany drama “Body of Proof,” which will lead into 10 p.m. staple “20/20.”

Alphabet briefly considered putting “What Would You Do?” at 9 p.m. in the regular season, but that news program needs time to develop episodes.

If talks go smoothly and a deal can be reached, ABC may wind up picking up CBS’ just-canceled “Ghost Whisperer” for the Friday 8 p.m. slot, leading into “Body of Proof.”

Then there’s Shonda Rhimes’ “Off the Map.” ABC plans to air the show in midseason on Sundays at 10 p.m., while “Brothers and Sisters” takes a breather. The long lead time will give Rhimes a chance to keep her hand on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.”

Shows on the bench also include reality skein “Supernanny.” Net may still pick up additional episodes of “Wife Swap” and “Shark Tank,” among other reality contenders.

ABC’s roster of canceled misfires this season includes “FlashForward,” “Romantically Challenged,” “Happy Town,” “Better Off Ted,” “The Forgotten,” “The Deep End,” “Eastwick” and “Hank.” “Ugly Betty,” “Scrubs” and “Lost” all ended their runs as well.

Here’s ABC’s fall 2010 schedule (new shows in CAPS):

MONDAY
8 – “Dancing with the Stars”
10 – “Castle”

TUESDAY
8 – “NO ORDINARY FAMILY”
9 – “Dancing with the Stars Results”
10 – DETROIT 1-8-7″

WEDNESDAY
8 – “The Middle”
8:30 – “BETTER TOGETHER”
9 – “Modern Family”
9:30 – “Cougar Town”
10 – “THE WHOLE TRUTH”

THURSDAY
8 – “MY GENERATION”
9 – “Grey’s Anatomy”
10 – “Private Practice”

FRIDAY
8 – “Secret Millionaire”
9 – “BODY OF PROOF”
10 – “20/20″

SATURDAY
8 – Saturday Night college football

SUNDAY
7- “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8 – “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
9 – “Desperate Housewives”
10 – “Brothers and Sisters”

MIDSEASON
“OFF THE MAP”
“HAPPY ENDINGS” (potentially for fall)
“MR. SUNSHINE” (potentially for fall)
“V” returning)
“Wife Swap” (returning)

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