Unlike NBC and Fox, which are taking a modest approach to the fall season, the immediate word to describe ABC’s upcoming primetime schedule is aggressive.
"I think we have a really good story here that I’m excited to share," said Channing Dungey, ABC’s recently appointed entertainment president, in her first conference call with the press. "The main thing was looking at what we do well, which is our signature brand of family comedies, and we decided to expand. We have added some new powerful and compelling dramas. And strengthening 10 p.m. was really a top priority for me, and I think that is reflected in the schedule."
The alphabet net will introduce five new series (dramas "Conviction," "Designated Survivor" and "Notorious," and comedies "American Housewife" and "Speechless"). After a one-season absence, sophomore drama "Secrets and Lies" will return to its former Sunday 9 p.m. hour. And five established series ("The Middle," "Fresh Off the Boat," "The Real O’Neals," "Marvel’s Agents of Shield" and "The Goldbergs") are moving to new time slots. Only the schedules for Friday and Saturday, which features College Football in fourth quarter, will remain unchanged.
Already home to more comedies than any competitor, ABC will up its sitcom tally from eight to 10 half-hour shows, wisely moving underrated "The Middle" to Tuesday 8 p.m., where it can potentially provide the necessarily lead-in support to ignite the expanded 8-10 p.m. block. While shifting "Marvel’s Agents of Shield" to Tuesday 10 p.m. is unlikely to spike its traditional Nielsen ratings, the definition of success has certainly expanded in recent years, and there is every reason to believe that the series will continue to popular in social media (and in the world of Comic-Con).
Tuesday looks like an automatic improvement for ABC, as does Monday, with new drama "Conviction" replacing the tired "Castle" at 10 p.m. And the inherent advantage of relocating "The Middle" to Tuesday is that it leaves "The Goldbergs" ready to step into the Wednesday 8 p.m. half-hour. With new comedy "Speechless" sandwiched in between "The Goldbergs" and "Modern Family," and the new Kiefer Sutherland drama "Designated Survivor" at 10 p.m. (in place of canceled "Nashville"), ABC is also likely to do well on Wednesday.
While Thursday without "Scandal" (which is on hiatus until midseason to accommodate Kerry Washington’s pregnancy) could potentially slow down the week’s momentum, veteran 8 p.m. anchor "Grey’s Anatomy" could be just the support necessary to give new drama "Notorious" a built-in boost at 9 p.m.
Sunday is ABC’s biggest challenge. The biggest surprise so far is the return of crime solver "Secrets and Lies" at 9 p.m. The bigger issue, however, is the waning popularity of "Once Upon a Time" in the Sunday 8 p.m. hour, which the network will have to certainly address at some point in the future. But "Secrets and Lies" looks like an automatic improvement from this season’s failed "Blood & Oil" and "The Family." And it will only help returning "Quantico" at 10 p.m.
While no schedule is perfect, ABC should be commended for what looks like a combination of some bold moves and exciting new programming options. Note to Channing Dungy: we are excited too!
What follows is the ABC primetime schedule this fall (with the new shows in bold), followed by the new series descriptions:
8:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars" (two hours)
10:00 p.m. "Conviction"
8:00 p.m. "The Middle" (new day)
8:30 p.m. "American Housewife"
9:00 p.m. "Fresh Off the Boat" (new time)
9:30 p.m. " The Real O’Neals" (new time)
10:00 p.m. ""Marvel’s Agents of Shield" (new time)
8:00 p.m. "The Goldbergs" (new time)
8:30 p.m. "Speechless"
9:00 p.m. "Modern Family"
9:30 p.m. "Black-ish"
10:00 p.m. "Designated Survivor"
8:00 p.m. "Grey’s Anatomy"
9:00 p.m. "Notorious"
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. College Football / NBA
7:00 p.m. "America’s Funniest Home Videos"
8:00 p.m. "Once Upon a Time"
9:00 p.m. "Secrets and Lies" (return) / "Time After Time" (midseason)
10:00 p.m. "Quantico"
New Program Descriptions
Studio: The Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios
Team: Mark Gordon, Liz Friedman ("Elementary," "Marvel’s Jessica Jones"), Liz Friedlander ("The Following")
Logline: Lawyer and former First Daughter Hayes Morrison is about to accept a job offered from her sexy nemesis, NY District Attorney Wayne Wallis, to avoid jail time for cocaine possession and avoid hurting her mother’s Senate campaign. Working with his team at the new Conviction Integrity Unit will let her use her brilliant mind to turn over cases where there is credible suspicion of wrongful conviction, and give her a chance to turn things around with her high-powered political family.
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Eddie Cahill, Shawn Ashmore, Merrin Dungey, Emily Kinney, Manny Montana and Daniel DiTomasso
Studio: The Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios
Team: Mark Gordon, David Guggenheim, Simon Kinberg, Nick Pepper, Suzan Bymel and Kiefer Sutherland
Logline: Kiefer Sutherland ("24") returns to primetime in a conspiracy thriller as Tom Kirkman, a lower cabinet member who unexpectedly becomes president after a devastating attack on Washington. He will struggle to prevent the country and his own family from falling into chaos, as he is thrust into one of the most difficult presidencies in history.
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, Emily Rhodes, LaMonica Garrett and Tanner Buchanan
Studio: Sony Pictures Television and ABC Studios
Team: Josh Berman ("The Blacklist"), Allie Hagan ("Suri’s Burn Book"), Michael Engler, Kenny Meiselas, Brian Gersh, Jeff Kwatinetz and Josh Barry
Logline: Inspired by the true-life stories of famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and cable news producer Wendy Walker, who serve as executive producers, "Notorious" is a provocative look at the unique, sexy, and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media.
Cast: Piper Perabo, Daniel Sunjata, Sepideh Moafi, Kate Jennings Grant, Ryan Guzman, Kevin Zegers, J. August Richards and Aimee Teegarden.
Studio: Kapital Entertainment and ABC Studios
Team: Aaron Kaplan, Rick Weiner, Kenny Schwartz, Ruben Fleisher
Logline: Katie Otto is a confident, unapologetic, plump wife and mother of three who raises her flawed family in the wealthy town of Westport, Connecticut, filled with "perfect" mommies and their "perfect" offspring. She lets us in on her deepest, most unfiltered thoughts through voiceover as the she lives her life as the second fattest housewife in Westport.
Cast: Katy Mixon ("Mike & Molly"), Diedrich Bader, Johnny Sequoyah, Daniel DiMaggio, Julia Butters, Carly Hughes and Ali Wong.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Television and ABC Studios
Team: Scott Silveri, Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar
Logline: Maya DiMeo is a mom on a mission who will do anything for her husband Jimmy, her kids Ray, Dylan, and JJ, her eldest son with special needs. As Maya fights injustices both real and imagined, the family works to make a new home for themselves, and searches for just the right person to give JJ his "voice."
Cast: Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, Mason Cook, Micah Fowler, Kyla Kennedy and Cedric Yarbrough