With nine new series on tap and a lot to do if it wants to catch up to Fox and CBS, ABC looks primed to go guns blazing into the fall. But that's not what's going to happen.
True to his cable background, Alphabet alpha programmer Paul Lee is bullish on year-round scheduling and his approach was vindicated last season by holding "Once Upon A Time" after September. So we won't see too many of the new series right away nor will the best of that load be frontloaded in the fall season's opening weeks either (see schedule listing below).
Still, there's some holes to fill, particularly Sunday, where the departure of "Desperate Housewives" and failure of "GCB" has opened a yawning chasm following "Time" at 8 p.m. Here's where Lee has to make a risky move, shifting Wednesday rookie sensation "Revenge" to 10 p.m. Sunday. That night is too important to ABC to double-stack new shows, especially coming off a season where the night was particularly inhospitable to "Pan Am" and "GCB." And truth be told, "Revenge" is by no means a huge hit on Wednesday and may even benefit from a Sunday shift. Slide "Revenge" to 10 p.m. and bring in the new show that shares some of the supernatural trappings "Once" has, "666 Park Avenue," which could also have some soapy elements that could lead well into "Revenge."
Another night that will be good for a new drama bow doesn't even need a hole to fill: Monday. A declining "Dancing" will bring enough viewers to sample 10 p.m., which would be wasted on "Castle," a series that has been around long enough to stand on its own feet. "Castle" needs to clear out for "Nashville," a buzzed-about new drama set in the music industry, giving it some thematic connective tissue with "Dancing."
"Nashville" will also be a good hour to promote another new ABC series with some country-music DNA: "Malibu Country," a comedy starring Reba McEntire, that would be nicely situated the night after "Nashville" between "Last Man Standing," with which it shares some flyover-state appeal, and "Dancing" results show.
Return "Body of Proof" to Tuesday at 10 p.m. It isn't exactly a barnburner of a choice on a night where every time slot could use a stiff challenge, but ABC isn't ready to make a move until it can see what kind of shape "Dancing" is in. If a solid cast pumps new life into the franchise, this is a time slot where a new series would be well positioned to give "Proof" a breather midseason, and hopefully do well enough to replace it.
Wednesday worked so well for the network that it should resist to tamper with the magic–even "Suburgatory" should stay put and put on some more mileage before it can be relied on to help launch more comedy. But look for ABC to make one tweak to the comedy block, pulling "Happy Endings" from its cozy 9:30 p.m. berth to give a new comedy the launch pad of a lifetime after "Modern Family." Just about any of its new comedies could fit well in the post-"Modern" time slot, but my vote goes to "How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of Your Life." Give the "Revenge" slot to "Scandal."
Thursday has long been a sore spot for ABC, which is going to need to get some new blood going sooner than later given "Grey's Anatomy" isn't going to be around that much longer. But ABC is going to be too gun shy to try at 8 p.m. after "Charlie's Angels" became their latest failure in the time slot last fall. Better to firm up the foundation of the night by moving "Castle," which by now is battle-tested enough to do the kind of utility duty Fox expects of "Bones." Let's save the risk-taking for 10 p.m., where both NBC and CBS will likely have new entries that could stand for newer competition than "Private Practice," which doesn't need to air its final 13 episodes in the fall. "Zero Hour" is a good call, returning star Anthony Edwards to the time slot where he excelled on "ER" many years ago.
There's perennial clamoring for ABC to launch a Friday comedy block that allows the network to mine the heritage of ye olde TGIF block. While there's some logic to counterprogramming a time slot that lacks comedy, ABC isn't that gutsy. The smarter move is to keep "Shark Tank," which the network felt confident enough in to give its first 22- episode order. If there's a time slot to tinker with on the night, it would 9 p.m. but wait for midseason. In the meantime bring back "Primetime: What Would You Do?"
That leaves plenty of programming to seed opportunistically through the rest of the season, from new dramas with compelling premises like "Red Widow" and "The Last Resort," to returning comedies like "Endings" and "Don't Trust The B in Apt. 23."
8-10 p.m. "Dancing With the Stars"
10 p.m. "Nashville" (new)
8 p.m. "Last Man Standing"
8:30 p.m. "Malibu Country" (new)
9 p.m. "Dancing With the Stars" results
10 p.m. "Body of Proof"
8 p.m. "The Middle"
8:30 p.m. "Suburgatory"
9 p.m. "Modern Family"
9:30 p.m. "How To Live With Your Parents" (new)
10 p.m. "Scandal"
8 p.m. "Castle"
9 p.m. "Grey's Anatomy"
10 p.m. "Zero Hour" (new)
8 p.m. "Shark Tank"
9 p.m. "Primetime: What Would You Do?"
10 p.m. "20/20"
7 p.m. "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8 p.m. "Once Upon A Time"
9 p.m. "666 Park Avenue" (new)
10 p.m. "Revenge"