ABC opted for stability in the fall, launching just five new series with no major shakeups to its nightly strategies. The network, which had momentum this past season with improved ratings, is clearly hoping to maintain its uptick, simply swapping dramas for dramas and comedies for comedies.
ABC is poised to win the May sweep in adults 18-49 and will finish as the only Big Four broadcast network up in the demo vs. last season. For the season, ABC will finish a competitive third in 18-49 and is No. 1 with all sports excluded from averages.
Monday nights will stay put in the fall with “Dancing With the Stars,” followed by “Castle,” which just set both Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion, “our two beloved heroines and heroes,” said ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee, for its eighth season, following lengthy contract negotiations. After “DWTS” hands out the mirror ball, “The Bachelor” will come in, resulting in 51 straight weeks of original programming for the long-running unscripted hits.
“The Muppets” revamp from “The Big Bang Theory” creator Billy Prady kicks off Tuesdays in the earliest slot of the night, perfectly fit for the family-friendly laffer.
The new comedy is followed by freshman success “Fresh Off the Boat” at 8:30 p.m., which will move back to its original 8 p.m. slot, after “Muppets” wraps, and will be replaced at the half-hour midseason with new family sitcom “The Real O’Neals,” starring Martha Plimpton.
“We screened this at ABC. The building went crazy,” said Lee said of classic reinvention. “This is not your grandmother’s ‘Muppets.'”
— Bill Prady (@billprady) May 12, 2015
Tuesday nights will end with a new property in FBI thriller “Quantico,” which is on the fall slate at 10 p.m. Lee said the drama tested well with both men and women, making it the perfect out, after “SHIELD,” and raved about the show’s lead, Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra. “She’s sort of the quintessential ABC heroine,” he said. “It’s a great popcorn thrill-ride of a show.”
“Quantico” will be replaced with another new drama, “Wicked City,” after it completes its first run, which Lee believes should be a hit among millennials. (“Gossip Girl” alum Ed Westwick leads the L.A.-set period piece.) “It’s a mix of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and murder.”
The Wednesday comedy block remains intact, a very deliberate move, per Lee, who believes ABC has the strongest Wednesday night lineup across broadcast with new hit “Black-ish,” “The Golbergs,” “The Middle” and “the jewel in the crown,” “Modern Family.” “Nashville” will end the night in drama, airing at 10 p.m. (the same as last season), and will be replaced with the second season of “sleeper hit” “Secrets and Lies,” sometime during the winter/spring season.
Shonda Rhimes’ Thursday night “TGIT” block is staying put with “Grey’s Anatomy” leading at 8 p.m., following by Kerry Washington starrer “Scandal” and breakout hit “How to Get Away With Murder,” starring Viola Davis. The Thursday threesome brought stellar ratings and a social-media frenzy to ABC this past year.
As for “Grey’s” future without star Patrick Dempsey, whose character was killed off this season, Lee said there’s no end in sight for Rhimes’ high-rated medical drama. “I know she has great plans for next season and many years beyond,” Lee declared.
Shondaland’s new drama “The Catch,” starring Mireille Enos as a successful fraud investigator, is set for midseason, and though Lee did not confirm “HTGAWM” will span 15-episodes this fall, season two will probably model its freshman run.
“This is a terrific show. She had done it again,” Lee said of “The Catch,” giving a nod to Rhimes, adding that he believes Enos is the top casting “get” of pilot season across the networks.
Fridays sees just one change — swapping the canceled “Cristela” for new laffer “Dr. Ken,” from “Community” and “Hangver” alum Ken Jeong, at 8:30 p.m. “Last Man Standing,” which wins the half-hour among broadcast, plus unscripted hit “Shark Tank” and “20/20” all remain, with Lee noting the huge spike from Bruce Jenner‘s recent special episode with Diane Sawyer.
“Once Upon a Time” leads Sunday’s scripted run and will be replaced with fairy-tale musical “Galavant,” in its second season, sometime midseason.
“Those guys do such a good job at reinventing that every year, and this year our heroine turns into the baddie,” Lee said of “OUAT.”
“This is not your parents’ sort of Sunday school ible show,” Lee said of the Sunday night ender. “It’s a completely new take on the Bible,” he added, calling the Bible the original soap opera. “It has all the intrigue and the sex and the power struggles of the real Bible.”
After the two new series wrap their first runs, Joan Allen’s “The Family” from Shondaland’s Jenna Bans (“It’s a classic ABC show with twists and turns,” said Lee), and John Ridley’s returning “American Crime” will come in on Sundays, with the latter pressing reset for season two.
“It’s a completely different scenario and a completely different crime, even placed in a different part of America,” Lee said of “American Crime,” which Ridley always envisioned as an anthology. “Some of the iconic actors from season one of ‘American Crime’ are going to come back and play different roles in the second season. John has mapped out very specific characters.”
Here is ABC’s fall lineup (new series are capitalized):
8:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars”
10:00 p.m. “Castle”
8:00 p.m. “THE MUPPETS”
8:30 p.m. “Fresh Off the Boat”
9:00 p.m. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
10:00 p.m. “QUANTICO”
8:00 p.m. “The Middle”
8:30 p.m. “The Goldbergs”
9:00 p.m. “Modern Family”
9:30 p.m. “black-ish”
10:00 p.m. “Nashville”
8:00 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy”
9:00 p.m. “Scandal”
10:00 p.m. “How to Get Away with Murder”
8:00 p.m. “Last Man Standing”
8:30 p.m. “DR. KEN”
9:00 p.m. “Shark Tank”
10:00 p.m. “20/20”
8:00 p.m. “Saturday Night Football”
7:00 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8:00 p.m. “Once Upon a Time”
9:00 p.m. “OIL”
10:00 p.m. “OF KINGS AND PROPHETS”
More to come…