At ABC, a changing world for dramas ... and some day, maybe, a black "Bachelor"


LOS ANGELES -- The
world hasn't had its first black “Bachelor” yet, but it will have
more prospects.

“We need to
improve the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning,” said
Channing Dungey, who is in her first year as the ABC president.

As the first black
person to be in charge of a major network's programming, she has a
key role in this. ABC's “Bachelor” and ”Bachelorette” shows
have fallen into a familiar pattern: A white man or woman (with one
Latino so far) surveys a field that includes one or two black
prospects ... who seem to be sent home in the second or third week.

The new “Bachelor”
is almost always someone who just missed on “Bachelorette,” and
vice-versa, Dungey said. So the next key is getting a better mixture
of contestants to start.

That comes on a
network otherwise known for its diversity in comedies (“Black-ish,”
“Fresh Off the Boat”) and for its top black producers of dramas:

-- John Ridley is
preparing for his third season of the Emmy-nominated “American
Crime,” which keeps finding new ways to view race and class.

-- Shonda Rhimes has
four dramas on ABC next season and often fills all three hours on
Thursdays, the most productive night for TV advertising.

Only two of Rhimes'
shows -- “Grey's Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder”
-- will be ready this fall. “Scandal” is pausing for Kerry
Washington's pregnancy; “The Catch” is pausing after switching
show-runners in the middle of its first season.

Filling the missing
Thursday spot in the fall will be “Notorious,” which isn't from
Rhimes ... but shares her feeling for breathless, soap-style shocks
and twists.

All of those shows
are far from what Dungey, 47, grew up on in Sacramento. “I watched
a lot of television,” she said. She listed a batch of favorites –
from “Rockford” to “Magnum” -- most of which solved a mystery
at the end of each hour.

Ironically, one of
her first actions as ABC president was to cancel “Castle,” the
network's only close-ended mystery. Its Monday spot will go to
“Conviction,” with Hayley Atwell as the daughter of an
ex-president, now nudged (after some wayward years) into re-examining
past convictions.

The network does
need more close-ended hours, Dungey granted. “We have often
(regretted) the cancellation of 'Body of Proof.'” In the three
years since ABC dropped that Dana Delany mystery, it has filled its
Tuesday slot with a string of expensive, open-ended failures.

Another approach
involves stories that feel like a mini-series. “Secrets and Lies”
(returning this fall) and “American Crime” (returning at
mid-season) each tell a 10-week story, then come back the next season
with new characters.

Now Dungey has just
approved “Ten Days in the Valley,” which has an overworked TV
producer (Kyta Sedgwick) suddenly in the midst of her own
missing-daughter ordeal. After its 10-episode run (possibly next
spring or summer), it could return with new stories for the same
character.