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ABC Family preps calls on pilots

Two comedies among the cabler's shows looking good for pickup

Amid a steady-as-she-goes status report at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, ABC Family plans to announce green or red lights on four pilots in development shortly.

Michael Riley, president of the cabler, touted the channel’s eighth consecutive year of growth and explained away its one blemish of 2011, the don’t-call-it-a-cancelation (though that’s what it was) of “The Nine Lives of Chloe King,” as a reflection of a deep bench. In fact, a potential telepic based on the departed series remains in development.

“We love all of our shows, and ‘Chloe King’ is such a great example,” Riley said at the press session in Pasadena. “For us it was about making some decisions, and we had to choose between what we thought was resonating stronger with our audiences.”

Two comedies, “Village People” and “Baby Daddy,” are said to be looking good for series orders soon and have put out feelers for recruiting staff writers. Also in contention are the lighter, ballet-set drama “Bunheads” and another hourlong, “Intercept.”

“Millennials (the target audience of ABC Family) aren’t genre specific,” Riley said, “and we’re not genre specific.”

ABC Family put five shows into production last year and opened up a third night of original programming. “Switched at Birth,” the top premiere of 2011, was in turn used last week to launch “Jane By Design,” exec produced by Gavin Palone and April Blair and starring Andie MacDowell, Erica Dasher and Nicholas Roux.

Returning series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” starring potential Oscar supporting actress nominee Shailene Woodley of “The Descendants,” will have its season premiere March 26, along with ” Make It or Break It.”

The coming year will also offer ventures by ABC Family into musical telepics, with Elixir (starring Chelsea Kane and Jane Seymour) followed in December by “Mistletones.”

“Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie about dueling caroling teams?” Riley said of the latter. “Music is something that is interesting to us.”

Riley addressed the perennial issue of Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club” being contractually required to appear (though not under the ABC Family branding) on a channel that has received GLAAD’s highest rating. The channel’s roots date back to a founding by Robertson for his ministry.

“It’s obviously a show that is on our air,” Riley said. “It’s not a show we put on there, and we think our audience understands this. I think most viewers understand that they come to our network to watch the shows they want to watch.”

In other news, ABC Family has named Jori Petersen communications veep. She has moved over from ABC Daytime and the soon-to-be-departed SoapNet, where she has overeseen media relations since 2008.

And the cabler said it is also exploring venturing into reality series, though it had nothing to announce Monday.

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