ABC's Fall schedule, night by night: 13 shots at greatness!

ABC announced it will launch 13 new shows, and the network needs all the new blood and experimentation it can afford. The network is stuck in two primary styles — the nighttime soap (Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy) and the family sitcom (Modern Family, The Middle), with Dancing With the Stars its always-potentially-wobbly sure-thing. (That is to say, yes, people will tune in, but their weekly commitment depends on each season’s casting.)

New entertainment president Paul Lee comes from ABC Family, where the primacy of engaging narratives has proven a niche success. Lee seems to possess a bracing realism about what ABC should do immediately to roust itself from third place — get some familiar names back on the network (whether it’s a person, like Tim Allen, or a brand, like Charlie’s Angels), and offer fresh variations on the soaps and the sitcoms. Oh, and like everyone else in network TV, try to take a bite out of AMC’s Mad Men (coming to a runway near you: Pan Am).

Seven of the new shows ABC has ordered will premiere in the fall.

Monday: Sticking with what works; ABC’s only secure night: Dancing With the Stars and Castle. 

Tuesday: Last Man Standing offers Tim Allen in a concept that sounds about as close to Home Improvement as possible: Allen as a manly man in a wimpy world. This time around, his wife is played by the ever-charming Nancy Travis, and… oh, who cares about other co-stars and plot-lines: This show will be a big hit or a big bomb based entirely on  the quality of the jokes, Allen’s delivery, and the chemistry between Allen and Travis.

Somewhere out there in TV-making-land, someone is bound to make a new hit out of the couples-hanging-out sitcom beyond How I Met Your Mother, and after recent attempts such as Traffic Light, Mad Love, Happy Endings, and the killed-too-soon Perfect Couples, Man Up is the latest to try and crack what could be a very profitable code. Anything that carries the credit of Better Off Ted‘s Victor Fresco as executive producer has my attention.

Wednesday: The always-good Jeremy Sisto gives his all in the sitcom Suburgatory, a change of pace for this usually-stern dramatic actor. He plays a single dad moving from Manhattan to the suburbs with his teen daughter (Jane Levy), and struggle to adapt. The clip I saw, featuring Cheryl Hines among its co-stars, was one of the few new-show glimpses that made me laugh.

Revenge is a soap set in the Hamptons, where Emily Van Camp’s swan-like neck and charming sense of privilege should fit right in among the rich and the polite back-stabbing. From the writer-producer who brought you the misbegotten Swingtown, Mike Kelley, Revenge will have to make its melodrama distinctive for it to stand out at 10 p.m.

Thursday: Charlie’s Angels will lead off the night. (Sample dialogue: “You don’t look like cops.” “We’re not — we’re angels.”) As an 8 p.m. mass-audience seeker, it may actually do well, initially, against the first-class but always low-rated Community and Parks and Recreation. But the folks behind Angels would do well to look closely at the current Hawaii Five-O: It’s not enough to take a famous title and cast it with good-looking people; you have to create distinctive characters. Does Angels have a personality that will pop as quickly and precisely as Scott Caan’s has? Given that the guys behind this include Smallville‘s Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, I’ll certainly give it the benefit of the doubt.

Friday: Clearly, a night that needs fall repairs, with mostly-junk like Extreme Makeover, Shark Tank, and 20/20.

Saturday: Nothin’ new.

Sunday: Once Upon A Time is an alternate-world fairy-tale series that switches from our times to fantasy world, with House‘s Jennifer Morrison as a bounty hunter who may be the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. You have to give the show some immediate credit for its casting alone: Robert Carlyle plays Rumplestiltskin; Raphael Sbarge is Jiminy Cricket.  From two Lost producers, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.

Christina Ricci will be a draw for some viewers in Pan Am; seeing how her dark-hued broodiness contrasts with this sunny-colored look at 1960s stewardess life should be intriguing (shades of Boeing Boeing). With producers including director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing) and Joack Orman (ER), you can’t dismiss it on the basis of its concept — could prove to be more than cloudy fluffiness.

Among the most promising mid-season shows is the sitcom Apartment 23 (I’ll watch anything with Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter, even a sitcom with James Van Der Beek).

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (84 total) Add your comment
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  • Daw Johnson

    “Killed too-soon Perfect Couples”

    WHAT???????????

    • Danny

      I would say killed too-soon, just because of what they replaced it with.

      • Debbie

        ABC doesn’t know their heads from their behinds! They don’t know when to cancel and when to not cancel, they have lost touch with viewers and viewing habits in our current age of technology. I for one will never watch anything on ABC as long as AMC & OLTL are canceled. BOYCOTT ABC!!!

    • Micah

      Absolutely killed too soon. We loved that show.

    • J

      Completely agree. Perfect Couples was horrible and I’m now doubting Ken’s credentials as a TV critic. Glad ABC is sticking with Happy Endings, though.

      • Krys

        yes Happy Endings is hilarious.

    • Louise

      Ugh. It was a terrible show made more terrible by the smug and hyper unfunny Olivia Munn.

    • Gale

      Actually, isn’t Perfect Couples on NBC? I think they mean Better Than You since we’re talking about ABC. (And probably the reason why neither show lasted, they didn’t stand out.)

      • Captain

        No. The writer was talking about how each season many “friends-living-in-the-city” sitcoms premier and listed all the sitcoms with this theme that premiered on ALL of the networks this season.

    • PeterH

      So I still haven’t seen an EW article on ABC’s confirmed cancellations that were announced yesterday:
      “The cancellation heap includes Matthew Perry’s Mr. Sunshine, plus Better With You, No Ordinary Family, Off the Map, Detroit 1-8-7 and the longer-running Brothers & Sisters and V.”

    • Casey

      THANK YOU!!! Ken Tucker’s love for this sh*t show will always puzzle me. I’m glad they tied that god awful mess to the tree and shot it down like Tupac. Oh well, I hear Kyle Bornheimer will be in another canceled show real soon.

  • Mike

    Ken, you give ABC credit for the Once Upon a Time casting, but don’t even mention the best casting of them all: Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White.

  • Nick T

    The Fox sched of new shows has more promise. Even the NBC one.

    • Amy

      Agreed.

      • Lisa

        The First season of Defying Gravity was shown UK telly on the BBC which means that there were no cocmermial breaks and presented in HD. It is a first rate Sci-fi programme. There is only one time zone in the UK so it would be shown at the same time nation wide. The first two or three episodes were shown at around 9pm on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening which was great but it was then moved to after 11pm on saturday night, some weeks it was on, some it wasn’t which makes it impossible for a new show to pick up a fan base. The same thing happened several years ago with another amazing Sci-fi show, Space:above and beyond which ended abruptly (I still have not found a region 2 DVD box set to buy!). Studio execs can sometimes see the light with shows like Babylon 5 and then show how obtuse they are with shows like Firefly and Star Trek Enterprise(a breath of fresh air after DS9 and Voyager). Bring defying gravity back for another season, You know it makes sense.

    • jake

      lokking forward to Fox- Alcatraz and Terra Nova

    • Maddi

      I think the Fox lineup has more chance of having a bunch of good shows, while the NBC lineup has one or two great shows.

  • Jo

    Did I read this too fast? Where the fudge is Cougar Town? This show is hilarious and seriously underrated.

    • margie

      These are new shows, dimwit.

      • Jackie Venice

        Dimwit? Damn Margie, take your Prozac. Jo was simply asking an innocent question. You twit.

    • Sara

      Apparently it’s a mid-season show.

  • Leslie

    Why oh why did Brothers and sisters get cancelled??? get rid of desperate housewives or the batchelor or batchlorette!!

    • Kennith

      Do you not know how to READ???? These are NEW series! B&S was NOT cancelled. Some people should not own a computer if they can’t read.

      • ER

        Yes, these are new series… but B&S was indeed cancelled. It’s been widely reported. The season finale now works retroactively as a series finale as well, so it’s a good thing they mostly tied up all the loose ends.

      • Donna Rose

        Yes, Brothers & Sisters was cancelled.

      • Krys

        Actually brothers and sisters WAS cancelled…

      • Bobby’s Robot

        Practice what you preach, Kennith

      • Alan

        The last time I was in Bendigo, I ended up at the Sheep & Wool show. Somehow, the wedding dress exbihition seems a little classier. It certainly looks as though you had a very pleasant time there.

  • Eric

    Boycotting ABC for canceling Detroit 187.

    • KellyP

      Me too. Detroit was the best

    • Dc

      Agreed!! Detroit 187 needs to be picked up by a network that understands good characters and writing. I will never invest even one minute again with ABC. Just when you get invested in a show, they cancel it! And then replace it with Charlies’s Angels? So done with ABC.

  • Jeremy

    Charlie’s Angels 2.0 instead of Wipeout? Bad call ABC!

  • Lucy

    As of January 2012 I will be boycotting ABC for cancelling Daytime’s OLTL.

    • Mark Jeffries

      And you’re in the target demo, grandma? DAYTIME SOAPS ARE DEAD! DEAL WITH IT!

  • Misspriss_1

    I for one, will not be tuning in to watch any new shows on ABC. I watch Castle, and the Wednesday night sitcoms. But ABC cancelled my soap, OLTL. And then, they cancelled too many other shows that I liked. I won’t be investing my time in any other ABC shows, only to have them cancel more. I am done with ABC. Spit…..

  • mark

    I think ABC has big potential next season, Pan Am might be a runaway hit and charlies angels will draw a big crowd, if it is half good they may stick around, plus they have the best comedy on TV with Modern Family and

  • bmo

    Pan Am and Last Man Standing are the only shows that look impressive. Everything else, not so much. As of now, NBC has the better group of new shows, then ABC and FOX. We’ll see how CBS does. I imagine the CW tween shows will be pulling up the rear.

  • Valere

    lame.

  • Julie

    My husband and I looked forward to traffic light every week, it was hilarious and it seemed the actors really worked well together. Super bummed they cut it loose!

  • Justin

    Once Upon a Time has potential, but I’m a little disappointed it goes back and forth between fairy tale world and our world. They’ll have to definitely connect that at some point, or it’ll get stale quick. The River looks and sounds great, but will definitely need to distinguish itself from Lost. Pan Am looks like ABC’s answer to Mad Men, and sort of similar to NBC’s The Playboy Club. Apt 23 is the only comedy that looks promising. The rest (especially Last Man Standing) look awful. And Charlie’s Angels looks like a second rate Nikita.

  • Amelia

    Did CASTLE really kill off Kate Blanchett, or did I misinterpret the ending of last night’s program?

    • springsgranny

      Sure looked like she bit the bullet! Don’t think she will be back…Shame, they had good chemistry and the banter between them was great,

    • Dazzle Me

      Um, Kate Blanchett? I was going to be snarky, but this is way too easy.

      • davey

        I don’t watch Castle – but immediately I questioned whether a show has a character named “Kate Blanchett”.

    • Andromeda

      Busters Mama Posted on I think you and your husband are both Angels!! You are prvioding such a great service for dog lovers. Please contact me when you get established. I would love to put your Link on my website when you are ready.How about something like this:Rescue Dog TrainingWe take the bite out of your dog and not your walletI think it is kind of cute! Good Luck to you, and I look forward to hearing from you real soon!!!

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