“No Alarms and No Surprises”
ABC 2008-2009 Fall Schedule
Of all of the major networks, one could say that ABC is playing it safest when it comes to this year’s upfronts. The only drama pilot to make it onto their fall schedule is one that was technically completed for last season’s pilot group, and they are the network who held back the most new shows from last fall to be relaunched with gusto when September rolls around.
The result is a schedule that is eerily similar to the one that we saw this past year, which saw decent success although certainly not to the levels that they experienced in years previous. After a year of success facing off against CSI, Grey’s Anatomy has seen post-strike ratings tumble, and shows like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty are fading if not quite to levels that are dangerous to their health and stability on the network.
So, let’s take a look at the schedule, and see which shows are going to make a splash this time around, plus finally getting confirmation of the worst kept secret of the year’s upfronts.
The New Fall Shows
Life on Mars – Thursdays at 10pm
A much-buzzed about pilot from David E. Kelley, this transplant of the BBC original series that debuted and continued with much acclaim across the pond has a lot going for it, and now we can add the post-Grey’s Anatomy timeslot to the list. Readers might recognize star Jason O’Mara from his recent stint on Grey’s as Meredith’s first tumour victim (The bear attack guy), and he is generally just a very strong actress. Also joining the cast includes Stephanie Jacobsen, who I really enjoyed as Kendra Shaw in Battlestar Galactica: Razor, and the absolutely perfectly cast (Based on the image) Colm Meaney from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The show follows a time-traveling detective, and while I haven’t seen the British original its pedigree will be enough to keep me interested. The show is perhaps the most big-budget and high-concept to follow Grey’s, so it should be interesting to see how its showrunners (Who have been in this spot before, albeit with the far inferior in concept October Road) handle the most onerous timeslot on television a second time around.
Opportunity Knocks – Tuesdays at 8pm
Ashton Kutcher returns to making reality shows, which is good for his bottom line since Beauty & the Geek is getting the axe at The CW. This one features a giant prize truck traveling around the country, bringing the game show to the people. Seems a dangerous gamble considering recent gas prices, but it should at least pull enough ratings in the pre-Dancing with the Stars slot that it will perform better than a recap show of what viewers of that show saw the night before.
“New” Midseason Shows
Scrubs, The Goode Family, Untitled Beauty Pageant Reality Series
No, Scrubs isn’t a new show, but it’s new to ABC and the network is holding its debut until midseason (Which means there is potential for Sarah Chalke to be on two televisions sitcoms at once should she make a potential jump to HIMYM once Scrubs finishes filming). The show doesn’t have a timeslot, but there’s no space for any sitcoms in Fall outside of Samantha Who, so there will need to be some moving around. The other two shows are, first, a new animated program from Mike Judge (Whose King of the Hill is still running, magically) and second, another Ashton Kutcher reality production.
The Returning Shows We Care About
Pushing Daisies – 8pm on Wednesdays
Private Practice – 9pm on Wednesdays
Dirty Sexy Money – 10pm on Wednesdays
It was a successful pre-strike Wednesday lineup for ABC, but now these three shows are going to be faced with the challenge of recollection when they relaunch in the Fall. And, yes, it really is a relaunch – the three shows might as well be starting over, and while Private Practice has the Grey’s connection the other two shows need to reconnect with fans and viewers who probably don’t remember the beats on which each ended its shortened first seasons. Dirty Sexy Money has a new showrunner and a newly juggled cast, but Pushing Daisies is going to have to recapture its past magic without considerable change. It should be interesting to see how ABC’s decision not to relaunch these shows turns out, but I’m in for the two anchors if not the middle, which I found just far too preachy in the fall.
Boston Legal – 10pm on Mondays
Eli Stone – 10pm on Tuesdays
Boston Legal barely gets renewed for another season, although expect major changes; like The Practice purge that resulted in Legal being created, Kelley has had to make serious concessions to the network to keep the show on the air (And without his control over the Life on Mars project, to which he owns the rights, chances are that it would be gone). It has, however, inherited what is quickly becoming television’s death slot, which last season saw the deaths of Journeyman and October Road, and the year before a whole host of NBC shows. Eli Stone, meanwhile, is a nice pickup that will have to inspire me to catch up on the series – I fell behind, but realized there was much potential, so it’s nice to see ABC treating the show well with the post-Dancing results spot. Still, the show will have to grow its audience to avoid falling apart in the Fall.
Samantha Who – 9:30pm on Mondays
I like Samantha Who, a lot, and still have to watch last night’s episode – the show has a great deal of charm, and Christina Applegate is an Emmy shoo-in. I think that’s what is keeping the show around, a sitcom with a lot of pedigree and, more importantly, some stability. I’d expect to see it paired with Scrubs when that show hits the schedule at midseason, but for the Fall Samantha keeps its plum post-Dancing with the Stars timeslot.
Also Renewed, but Unchanged/Unsurprising
The entire Sunday lineup, the rest of Thursday, Fridays, Dancing with the Stars, Lost (Midseason)
…but Forgotten – Canceled Shows
October Road – No big surprise here, considering that the show’s ratings have been atrocious. The creators plan to provide some level of closure for viewers through internet means, but the show just never had any momentum, and it getting a second season was surprising enough.
Men in Trees – A victim of extremely poor scheduling, the drama needed to find either critical accolades or ratings to survive; unfortunately, it never found either of them, although it leaves behind a loyal following.
Miss/Guided – A last-minute axe from the schedule, this little seen comedy debuted with no fanfare on Thursdays during the strike period, so much under the radar that I didn’t really even pay any attention to it. I’ve heard decent things, so I was kind of hoping it would have a chance to grow in the new year.
Carpoolers and Cavemen – Good riddance.
Women’s Murder Club – A show that opened with a lot of buzz, but failed to build an audience or any sort of critical appreciation.
Cashmere Mafia – Like Lipstick Jungle, this women-led series misses the cut.
According to Jim – Finally, the comedy…wait, it got renewed? Ooh give me a-
Shows that Deserved to Be Canceled
According to Jim – The show is like beating a dead horse, so their decision to renew the comedy must exist as a commitment to Jim Belushi to put his kids through college or some other nonsense. The show has never been that funny, and yet here it is entering its umpteenth season in favour of something like Miss/Guided that actually has comic potential. This show better be the cheapest sitcom on T.V. or something, or else ABC has a lot of explaining to do.
The Bachelor – it’s returning at midseason, but the show has more or less fallen off the wagon in ratings and interest in recent years. It has been awful at even carrying its Samantha Who lead-in, and the show just isn’t competitive in a timeslot where it could be. All in all, the show has always been a creative black hole, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised ABC ignores all logic and sticks with their search to find love.
It’s a safe lineup for ABC, one that features only one new drama. This is good news for its returning freshmen series, because they’ll get a lot more ad time and a lot more buzz leading into next year. However, ABC is planning to do some pilot pickups for midseason (ala Eli Stone this year), so there is a certain axe waiting to fall on some of the sophomore shows should they prove unable to hold their weight in this new environment. And that doesn’t even take into account that Lost is going to be in need of a shiny new timeslot when it returns at an undetermined point in 2009.