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ABC runs spread offense for 2011-12

Fall TV Preview 2011-12: ABC

With a dozen series to launch during the 2011-12 season, ABC entertainment president Paul Lee is mindful of the perils of fall premieres: The only frosh ABC series of 2010-11 that survived was “Body of Proof,” a show Lee moved off the fall schedule and into midseason.

” ‘Body of Proof’ didn’t have a lot of buzz, but we knew it was great and we wanted to protect it because we could give it a real launch after the Oscars,” Lee says.

Says “Proof” star Dana Delany: “Paul saved us. We would’ve been lost in the fall glut.”

That strategy has led to him holding back the cheeky soap “GCB” (formerly “Good Christian Belles” and, before that, “Good Christian Bitches”) to midseason, even though it boasts a lot of buzz.

“Shows like ‘GCB,’ (thriller) ‘The River’ and (sitcom) ‘Apartment 23’ are all superb in their own way, but they need their space,” Lee says. “We can find a moment and throw the network at it, whether it’s using the Oscars or Christmas to launch them.”

Lee understands the danger inherent in a glut of series debuting in late September.

“We clearly think a staggered fall is important,” he says. “We’ll launch our dramas first, then comedies a couple of weeks later, then ‘Once Upon a Time’ around Halloween, when we can use our launched shows to help it.

“We haven’t said, ‘Let’s put all our best shows up front.’ We’ve scheduled them all the way through the year to give us a good chance to get these shows going and get some momentum behind them.”

Though Lee believes his scheduling strategy is sound, he admits, “You never know. It sounds good now. But I’ve done this long enough to know that you’re going to stumble and fall.”

SPOTLIGHT

“Once Upon a Time”

Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (“Lost”) created this fantasy about fairy-tale characters stranded in mysterious Storybrooke, ruled by a wicked queen (Lana Parrilla). The characters don’t realize their true identities; they live as 9-to-5 drudges. Even ethereal Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin of “Big Love”) is merely a timid teacher.

Cynical skip-tracer Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, “House”) — secretly, Snow White’s daughter — is summoned to Storybrooke by a boy claiming to be her son (Jared Gilmore). She’s skeptical, yet senses something sinister in the town.

Juxtaposing flashbacks to the fairy-tale world with life in Storybrooke, such a series could only come from “Lost” alumni, who insist reversing the spell is not a high priority.

Even Morrison’s no-nonsense character comes around.

“She’s thinking, ‘How can I get this taken care of so I can get on with my life?’ ” Morrison says. “And there’s a turning point where she realizes that she cannot separate herself from her son, which is what keeps her there.”

NEW FOR 2011-12

“Charlie’s Angels”

Miami-based reboot of the ’70s camp classic about three kick-ass women (now played by Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh) who right wrongs as assigned by the disembodied voice of Charlie. Ramon Rodriguez co-stars as helpmate Bosley.

“Last Man Standing”

“Home Improvement” mainstay Tim Allen returns to TV as a man’s man in a household cluttered with women-folk, for whom testosterone-fueled insights don’t always serve as palliatives. How will he survive the estrogen overload? Nancy Travis and Hector Elizondo co-star.

“Man Up”

Three immature men (Mather Zickel, Danny Fogler and series creator Christopher Moynihan) try to make sense of a world that has seemingly emasculated them. Teri Polo, Henry Simmons and Amanda Detmer co-star; critically admired Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”) serves as executive producer.

“Pan Am”

“Mad Men” on a plane, with spies. Christina Ricci (“The Addams Family”) headlines this ’60s-era ensemble melodrama about an international flight crew — pilots and flight attendants alike — who traverse the globe with love and espionage in tow.

“Revenge”

Emily Van Camp (“Everwood”) plays a young woman returning to the Hamptons, keen on meting out justice to everyone who helped destroy her father. It’s a long list, with Madeleine Stowe’s Victoria Grayson at the top, but she’s saving the worst for last.

“Suburgatory”

Quirky sitcom about Tessa (Jane Levy), a precociously witty teen wrested by her protective single father (Jeremy Sisto) from Manhattan to the ostensibly safer environs of suburbia. Which, naturally, Tessa initially loathes. Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) co-stars.

“Work It”

Where to start with this one? Two men (Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco), victim of the down economy, dress in drag to land gigs as pharmaceutical reps. Though they’re obviously guys, their female colleagues are oblivious to their subterfuge.

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