ABC this fall: Fun, families but (for now) no fantasy

This is the big week, when networks announce their fall schedules. If you scroll down, you'll find a combined look at Fox and NBC. Here's the ABC story I sent to papers; CBS is next.

By Mike Hughes

The changing world
of ABC may have lots of laughs, plenty of non-fiction shows ... and a
sudden fantasy void.

Gone are “Once
Upon a Time,” “Inhumans” and “The Crossing.” Another
fantasy show, “Agents of SHIELD,” won't be back until the summer
of 2019.

The one-year
experiment with fantasy Fridays has ended. Instead, “Fresh Off the
Boat” and “Speechless” will move to that night. “We did
really well with comedies there for many years,” said Channing
Dungey, ABC's programming chief.

That ended last
year, with the cancellation of Tim Allen's “Last Man Standing.”
Now “Standing” will have the same slot (8 p.m. Fridays) on a
different network (Fox), colliding with the ABC transplants.

The move lets ABC
have more comedies (10) and gives strong spots to its two new ones.
One will follow “Roseanne,” a surprise ratings powerhouse in its
return; the other follows “Modern Family.”

After that first
Friday hour, however, the weekend will go to non-fiction – the
“Child Support” game show and “20/20” on Fridays, football on
Saturdays and a makeshift Sunday line-up (during pro-football season)
with a kids' version of “Dancing With the Stars” and an Alec
Baldwin talk show.

Details of the
Baldwin show are still in transition. Dungey said practice versions
have been done with and without a studio audience; first episodes
will be taped in June, she said, including one going through the life
and career of Robert De Niro.

And dramas?
“Designated Survivor” is gone -- “creatively, we had a lot of
churn” with several show-runners, Dungey said – as are “Quantico”
and others. Superproducer Shonda Rhimes is taking all her new shows
to Netflix, but ABC is clinging to the ones it still has. Thursdays
will be all-Shonda -- “Grey's Anatomy,” “Station 19,” “How
To Get Away With Murder” -- with the fourth Rhimes show, “For the
People,” taking over when “Murder” rests.

One drama, “A
Million Little Things,” may have the feeling of ABC's
“thirtysomething” or “Brothers & Sisters,” Dungey said.
And the other could end the network's 10 p.m. Tuesday troubles.

Dungey has said the
network erred by canceling a series that had stand-alone crime
stories (Dana Delany's “Body of Proof”) and replacing it with
five years of failed shows with serialized stories. Now the spot has
Nathan Fillion, 47, as a guy making a mid-life change and becoming a
Los Angeles cop, alongside people half his age. “The stories will
be self-contained and close-ended,” she said.

The fall line-up:

-- Mondays: “Dancing
With the Stars,” 8 p.m., “The Good Doctor,” 10.

-- Tuesdays:
Roseanne, 8; “The Kids Are Alright,” 8:30; “Black-ish,” 9;
“Splitting Up Together,” 9:30; “The Rookie,” 10.

-- Wednesdays: “The
Goldbergs,” 8 p.m.; “American Housewife,” 8:30; “Modern
Family,” 9; “Single Parents,” 9:30; “A Million Little
Things,” 10.

--Thursdays: “Grey's
Anatomy,” 8; “Station 19,” 9; “How to Get Away With Murder,”

-- Fridays: “Fresh
Off the Boat,” 8; Speechless,” 8:30; “Child Support,” 9;
“20/20,” 10.

-- Saturdays:
College football.

-- Sundays:
“America's Funniest Home Videos,” 7 p.m.; “Dancing With the
Stars: Juniors,” 8; “Shark Tank,” 9; “The Alec Baldwin Show,”


Yes, Steve Harvey really is everywhere, all the time

Somehow, the concept of "overexposure" doesn't affect Steve Harvey. No matter how often we see him, we're still happy when he pops up on anothr show. Currently, that's "Showtime at the Apollo" in prime time, others in the daytime. Here's the story I sent to papers:


By Mike Hughes

Running a few
minutes late, Steve Harvey offered an apology and an understatement.

“I've got a bunch
of jobs,” he said. “They overlap sometimes.”

You think? At 61,
Harvey makes Ryan Seacrest look like a slacker. He has:

-- Five primetime
shows at various times of the year. The current one is Fox's
“Showtime at the Apollo,” at 9 p.m. Thursdays, Others –
especially strong in the summer – include “Celebrity Family
Feud,” “Funderdome” and “Little Big Shots,” plus its
spin-off, “Forever Young.”

-- Three daily shows
year-round -- “Family Feud,” a morning radio show and the “Steve”
talk show.

-- And occasional
specials, from award shows to Miss Universe.

It's no way for a
guy to start his 60s. “My friends go play golf twice a week,”
Harvey said. “They do all this other stuff. They're actually at
home barbecuing in the middle of the week.”

And he's on a plane,
between Los Angeles and New York. He used to base the talk show in
Chicago, but that was a bit much.

“I do not miss
6-below-zero,” Harvey said. “I'll tell you what drove me out of
Chicago was the year before last, they invented a new cold and it's
called the vortex.”

Harvey does this by
avoiding preparation. “That's how I do all my shows,” he said. “I
don't meet the families on 'Family Feud.' I don't come to rehearsals
(or) meet the kids at 'Little Big Shots.' The thing that attracts
people to me is my authenticity.”

At times –
including when he read the wrong winner for Miss Universe – the
underpreparation can be a problem. More often, Harvey's instinctive
reactions are part of the charm.

The rest is work
ethic. This is a guy who was a coal-miner's son in West Virginia and
then a blue-collar kid in Cleveland. He held various day jobs and
sometimes slept in his car, while struggling in comedy.

Harvey had some
success at that, hosting and then owning a comedy club in Dallas. But
the big break came when he tried the Apollo Theater in the early

“It was probably
one of the scariest nights I've ever had,” he said. “It's such a
tough place to play.”

Over its 117 years,
this Harlem theater has been known for audiences that will boo an act
off the stage. “I went out, got a standing ovation, and my
television career was born,” Harvey said.

He was brought back
as guest host of the syndicated “Showtime at the Apollo” and
then, from 1993 to 2000, as host. When Fox brought the show back –
first as specials, then as a series – he was hosting.

Is there anything he
isn't doing? For now, Harvey plans no more books, no comedy tour and,
he says, definitely no movies.

“If you blow my
face up 25-feet high, it doesn't look good,” he said. “You've got
to keep me out of theaters .... My face, 25 feet tall, it's scary.”

The fall line-ups: Fox and NBC bring quick surprises

This week, I'll have some quick stories as networks announce their fall line-ups. Here's the one I sent to papers this morning, combining Fox and NBC:

By Mike Hughes

This is a tough time
for Satan and a good time (as always) for doctors and anyone in

It's a mixed time
for science-fiction, a great one for Tim Allen and Andy Samberg, an
awful one for Clayne Crawford.

It's when the new
fall schedules are announced. NBC and Fox are already here (with the
others following in the next few days), with plenty of surprises. For

-- Fox has ended its
fascination with the devil. Both “Lucifer” and “The Exorcist”
are canceled; Gordon Ramsay, however, remains.

-- Two shows have
switched networks. Tim Allen's “Last Man Standing” jumps to Fox,
a year after ABC dumped it; Andy Samberg's “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,”
dumped by Fox, goes to NBC, where Samberg used to thrive on “Saturday
Night Live.”

-- All three of
producer Dick Wolf's Chicago shows will take over Wednesdays. It will
be “Med” at 8 p.m., “Fire” at 9 and “P.D.” at 10. That
nudges the 20th year of “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit” to Thursdays; another NBC mainstay, “The
Blacklist,” will wait until January.

-- Medical shows are
prospering again. Mondays (already the turf of ABC's “The Good
Doctor” at 10 p.m.), will have Fox's “The Resident” at 8 p.m.
and “9-1-1” -- an EMT-fire-police mash-up – at 9. NBC is giving
its best spot – after “This Is Us” on Tuesdays – to “New

-- Science-fiction
fans get mixed news, as always. NBC hasn't decided about “Timeless,”
but will have two sci-fi shows this fall; “Manifest” gets a
strong slot (10 p.m. Mondays), “Midnight, Texas” gets a weak one
(9 p.m. Fridays). Fox has “The Gifted” this fall, but delays “The
Orville” and the final season of “Gotham” until mid-season. It
also has no encouraging words about “X-Files” ever returning.

-- Fox is bringing
back “Lethal Weapon,” but with a major change: Crawford is out as
star (alongside Damon Wayans); Seann William Scott of “American
Pie” takes over.

Speaking to
reporters Monday morning, Fox executives insisted that one was out of
their hands. The production company was dropping Crawford for
unstated reasons.

They also dismissed
the frequent rumors that ABC dropped “Last Man Standing” because
of Allen's conservative political beliefs. A more likely reason for
the change, they said, was the ownership: Fox – not ABC or its
Disney owners – produces the show and benefits from selling its

Another knock has
been that “Standing” draws an older audience – a problem for
any Friday show. Fox will accept that; it plunks the show back in its
Friday slot ... and follows it with “The Cool Kids,” with David
Alan Grier, Martin Mull, Vicki Lawrence and Leslie Jordan in a
retirement community.

The fall line-ups
are distorted by the move of Thursday-night football. Previously
shared by CBS and NBC, the games now go to Fox. Here are the first
two line-ups announced:

-- Mondays: Fox --
“The Resident,” 8 p.m.; “9-1-1,” 9. NBC -- “The Voice,”
8; “Manifest,” 10.

-- Tuesdays: Fox --
“The Gifted,” 8; “Lethal Weapon,” 9. NBC -- “The Voice,”
8; “This Is Us,” 9; “New Amsterdam,” 10.

-- Wednesdays: Fox
-- “Empire,” 8; “Star,” 9. NBC -- “Chicago Med,” 8;
“Chicago Fire, 9; “Chicago P.D.,” 10.

-- Thursdays: Fox –
football. NBC -- “Superstore,” 8; “The Good Place,” 8:30;
“Will & Grace,” 9; “I Feel Bad,” 9:30; “Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit,” 10.

-- Fridays: Fox --
“Last Man Standing,” 8; “The Cool Kids,” 8:30; “Hell's
Kitchen,” 9. NBC – Blindspot, 8; “Midnight, Texas,” 9;
Dateline,” 10.

-- Saturdays: Fox –
college football; NBC -- “Dateline” crime, 8; “Saturday Night
Live” reruns, 10.

-- Sundays: Fox --
“Simpsons,” 8 p.m.; “Bob's Burgers,” 8:30, “Family Guy,”
9; “Rel,” 9:30. NBC – Football.

Ready for more "Little Women"? Here are the basics


The previous blog is a story I wrote about "Little Women," which runs on the next two Sundays (May 13 and 20) on PBS. Here's an extended box with some of the details:

-- When: 8-9 p.m.
Sunday, PBS; then 8-10 p.m. the following Sunday, May 20.

-- Follow-up: From
10-11:30 May 20, PBS reruns an “American Masters” portrait of
author Louisa May Alcott.

-- The story: With
her husband (Dylan Baker) working as a Civil War chaplain, Marmee
March (Emily Watson) is raising their four daughters with little
money and much love. Others are better off, including her husband's
aunt (Angela Lansbury) and a neighbor (Michael Gambon) whose orphaned
grandson has just arrived from college.

-- The book: It was
published in 1868 – the 150th anniversary is this year –
with a second half (sometimes considered a sequel) the next year. Two
more sequels followed. Alcott, who was 35 when it came out, based the
characters on her and her three sisters, but adjusted the time and

-- The movies: The
major ones came out in 1933, 1949 and 1994. There were two silent
films and several TV films, including one in the U.S. (Susan Dey
played Jo) in 1978 and three in England.

-- And more. An
opera debuted in 1998. On Broadway, a play opened in 1912 and was
revived four times during Christmas seasons. A musical ran briefly in
2005, with Sutton Foster as Jo.

-- Those four
sisters. Here they are, from oldest to youngest, with the actresses
who have played them:

... Meg described as
the beautiful one. She works (reluctantly) as a governess, does
domestic chores at home and, at 16, has her society debut. Played by
Janet Leigh in 1949, Trini Alvarado in '94, Willa Fitzgerald now.

... Jo, the heart of
the story. At 15, she loves reading books, writing stories, creating
plays to act out with her sisters. Unlike the others, she shows
little interest in guys and marriage. Her hair, a sister is quick to
point out, is her one bit of beauty. Played by Katharine Hepburn in
1933, June Allyson in '49, Winona Ryder in '94, now Maya Hawke.

... Beth, sweet and
shy. She's a gifted pianist but, at 13, too awkward to visit a family
and play the piano. Then illness strikes. Played by Margaret O'Brien
in '49, Claire Danes in '94, now Annes Elwy.

... Amy, with curly
blonde hair, artistic talent and a personality that comes with
forever being the youngest. At 12, in a fit of jealousy, she does
something that strains Jo's ability to forgive. Played by Elizabeth
Taylor in '49, Kirsten Dunst in '94, now Kathryn Newton.


"Little Women": The British -- with lots of our help -- try an American classic

elThere are many good things about PBS' "Little Women" remake, from plus production values to extraordinary work by Maya Hawke as Jo. And at the core are characters who still move us, 150 years after they were created. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

There are things we
expect from a film on PBS' “Masterpiece”: The script will be very
smart, the actors will be very skilled ... and the story will be very

But now comes
“Little Women.” It's a thoroughly American story – even if some
people forget that.

“When it went out
in Britain, some people were tweeting, 'Why do they have American
accents?'” screenwriter Heidi Thomas said. “They don't perceive
it as an American novel, but as a universal one.”

Set in Concord,
Mass., it focuses on four sisters whose dad is in the Civil War.
Globally, it has sharply impacted some people ... and gone unnoticed
by others

“I was brought up
in England and we didn't read 'Little Women,'” said Angela
Lansbury, who plays the great aunt. “It wasn't part of our required

Many English people
read it anyway – Thomas was 8 or 9 when she did -- and saw the
movies. The classic character of Jo was Katharine Hepburn in 1933,
June Allyson in '49, Winona Ryder in '94.

Now Maya Hawke has
the role. “I have been sort of in love with that character since
the 8th grade,” she said. This role “was one of the
most terrifying and thrilling opportunities that I've ever had.”

And almost the only
opportunity. For Hawke – the daughter of movie stars Ethan Hawke
and Uma Thurman – this is the first TV or movie role.

“We wanted to find
actors who were starting out in their careers,” Colin Callender,
the film's producer, said of those playing the sisters. “You
haven't seen them, with one exception, in anything else.”

That sort of depends
on what you've been watching. Willa Fitzgerald (who plays Meg) did
one season of “Royal Pains” and two of “Scream.” Kathryn
Newton (Amy) did the “Big Little Lies” mini-series and was the
older daughter in the final season of “Halt and Catch Fire.”
Hawke and Annes Elwy (as Beth) arrive virtually unseen.

Elwy is Welsh, but
the other young actresses fulfilled a sort of compromise between the
two producing forces, one British (BBC), the other American

“Every attempt
would be made to cast the young women with American actresses,”
said “Masterpiece” chief Rebecca Eaton. “And the older people
with, as Colin used to say, 'British acting royalty.'”

These are regal
actors – Emily Watson as the girls' mother ... Michael Gambon as
the rich neighbor ... and Lansbury, who has had three Oscar
nominations – the first one 73 years ago, when she was 19 – and
18 Emmy nominations, without winning any of them.

They filmed in
Ireland, where the young actresses could hear Lansbury “telling us
amazing stories from all parts of her career,” Fitzgerald said.

All shared the
spotlight – at first. The story, Thomas said, is “shaped a bit
like an arrowhead. It starts from quite a broad place, with all four
sisters in full play. And it gradually narrows down (to) Jo.”

Jo has “a fervor
for life and for communication,” Hawke said. She also has
obstacles, something the actress can relate to: “Women weren't
supposed to read and weren't supposed to write, weren't supposed to
work. I did not have that, but I did have a real challenge in
learning to read and then learning to write. I came very late to

The project is part
of a powerful female focus, Eaton said. PBS' president, programming
chief and “Masterpiece” chief are women; this film also has women
as writer and director.

What about Jonah
Hauer-King, who plays Laurie, the boy next door? “I grew up in a
household with a mum and two older sisters,” he said. “They
treated me with a lot of kindness and cruelty in equal measure. This
felt like coming home.”

There are other
co-stars, including a parrot who, Hawke said, “had some rather
unpredictable behavior when it came to hair-pulling and shoulder

And appropriately
for this project and these times, Eaton said, “it was a female

-- “Little Women,”
8-9 p.m. Sunday, PBS; then 8-10 p.m. May 20