ABC fall line-up: Lots of sitcoms, lots of Shonda, no "Castle" or "Nashville"


This is the crowded time when networks unveil their fall line-ups. The previous blogs looked at NBC and Fox; now ABC is definitely going in a different direction. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Maybe situation
comedies aren't dead after all.

After two networks
set fall line-ups with fewer sitcoms, ABC went the other way. “We
think we have a distinctive brand of family comedies,” said
Channing Dungey, the network's new programming chief.

NBC will have only
two sitcoms this fall, Fox will have four (plus cartoons); ABC will
have 10.

It continues its
four-comedy Wednesdays, but moves “The Middle” to Tuesdays, which
has four more. The two Friday ones stay put; that leaves room to
renew “Real O'Neals”and add:

-- “American
Housewife,” the new title for what was “The Second Fattest
Housewife in Westport.”

-- “Speechless,”
with Minnie Driver raising three children, one of them with special
needs.

The comedy emphasis
means “Marvel's Agents of SHIELD” keeps moving later. Originally
at 8 p.m., it went to 9 and now to 10. That may let it “get a
little edgier, maybe a little darker,” Dungey said.

The other Marvel
show, “Agent Carter,” was cancelled, but its star instantly has a
new home. In “Conviction,” Hayley Atwell plays an ex-president's
daughter, avoiding a sentence by working for an office that
re-examines convictions. Dungey calls it “the procedural we've been
looking for.”

That's been a
problem at ABC, which has been strong on serialized dramas –
especially the Thursday ones from producer Shonda Rhimes – but weak
on shows that end a story each episode. Its lone success with that
was “Castle” ... which has now been cancelled.

Also cancelled are
“Nashville,” “The Family” and several quick failures. Also,
“Scandal” will start late, due to Kerry Washington's pregnancy.
With that many drama holes, ABC has “Conviction,” plus:

-- “Designated
Survivor” at 10 p.m. Wednesdays. Keifer Sutherland plays a lowly
cabinet member who suddenly becomes president, after a devastating
attack.

-- “Secrets and
Lies” at 9 p.m. Sundays. That's a crime mini-series that's been
waiting a while. ABC showed critics an impressive pilot film in
January.

-- “Notorious,”
at 9 p.m. Thursdays. It's based loosely on the real-life
relationship between a charismatic lawyer and a TV producer.

That last one offers
a surprise – a non-Rhimes show, piercing her Thursday domain. Not
to worry, Dungey said: “Shonda has five shows.” Eventually,
“Scandal” and “The Catch” will return to Thursdays;
“Star-Crossed,” a Rhimes period piece filmed in Spain, may be on
another night.

Like other networks,
ABC is holding back some of its more distinctive shows for
mid-season. That includes two mini-series – the third “American
Crime” story and “When We Rise,” the eight-part gay-rights
drama from Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winner for writing “Milk.”

It also includes
“Time After Time,” based on the movie that had H.G. Welles
chasing Jack the Ripper through time. It will fit neatly with “Once
Upon a Time” on Sundays, Dungey said. The fall line-up:

-- Mondays: “Dancing
with the Stars," 8 p.m.; “Conviction,” 10,

-- Tuesdays: “The
Middle," 8 p.m.; “American Housewife," 8:30; "Fresh
Off the Boat," 9; “The Real O'Neals," 9:30; “Agents of
SHIELD," 10.

-- Wednesdays: “The
Goldbergs," 8 p.m.; "Speechless," 8:30; "Modern
Family," 9; "Black-ish," 9:30; “Designated
Survivor," 10.

-- Thursdays:
"Grey’s Anatomy," 8 p.m.; "Notorious," 9; "How
to Get Away with Murder," 10.

-- Fridays: “Last
Man Standing," 8 p.m.; "Dr. Ken," 8:30; ; "Shark
Tank," 9; "20/20," 10.

-- Saturdays:
College football,

-- Sundays:
“America’s Funniest Home Videos," 7 p.m.; "Once Upon a
Time," 8; "Secrets and Lies," 9; "Quantico,"
10.