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October 8, 2015

The Upfronts: ABC

by Joel Keller, posted May 15th 2007 10:00AM
ABC logoABC released its 2007-08 prime-time schedule this morning during a press conference conducted by Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, which I attended by phone. The changes in brief:

Returning: Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, October Road, Notes from the Underbelly, Men In Trees, Brothers & Sisters, Wife Swap, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Desperate Housewives, The Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, Lost, Supernanny, America's Funniest Home Videos, Boston Legal, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 20/20, Primetime (specials and special series)

Out: The Nine, Six Degrees, The Great American Dream Vote, Show Me The Money, Day Break, In Case of Emergency, The Knights of Prosperity, What About Brian, George Lopez, According to Jim (maybe... finally!)

New: Big Shots, Carpoolers, Cashmere Mafia, Eli Stone, Dirty Sexy Money, Cavemen, Miss/Guided, Private Practice, Pushing Daisies, Sam I Am, Women's Murder Club, Oprah's Big Give

Moving: Men In Trees moves from Thursdays at 10 to Fridays at 8. Notes from the Underbelly and October Road (along with Cashmere Mafia) will premiere when Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor end their seasons. Lost will begin airing in February and show no repeats, in a Wednesday time slot that's still to be determined.

Detailed descriptions of the new shows (and some notes on the schedule) after the jump.

The most interesting development of the schedule is that Private Practice, the Kate Walsh-led spin-off of Grey's Anatomy, will air at 9 PM on Wednesday nights, instead of being in the post-Grey's slot like many predicted. McPherson felt that since the show was a bit more of a known quantity than most pilots, it would be better for the network if it helped establish them on another night. As it is, Wednesdays are full of new dramas, at least until Lost rejoins the schedule. The post-Grey's slot will go to a decidedly male-oriented drama, Big Shots.

The new shows are drama-heavy (only 4 new comedies), but are lighter in tone than last year's serial-a-rama. At least ABC is taking a chance with comedy; NBC only introduced one new comedy at their upfront yesterday.

(Update: Apparently, McPherson told reporters who came up to him after the press conference and said that the fate of According to Jim is yet to be determined. That's what you lose when you listen to the conference by phone, I guess.)

Information about the new shows:

Big Shots (Thursdays at 10) - A story about four male friends who are kings of their lives... until the women get involved. "We've been wanting to do a male ensemble for a while, and John Feldman came to us with this idea and nailed exactly what we were looking for," said McPherson. Starring Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, Michael Vartan, and Joshua Malina.

Cashmere Mafia (will replace either The Bachelor or Dancing) - Seems like the female version of Big Shots: four female friends try to balance their busy corporate careers with their social lives. They've created their own little "girls club" to help each other out in their efforts to crash through the glass ceiling. Starring Lucy Liu, Frances O'Connor, Bonnie Sommerville, and Miranda Otto. Darren Star (Sex and the City) and Kevin Wade are among the executive producers.

Dirty Sexy Money (Wednesdays at 10) - An idealistic lawyer gets drawn in by the temptations and dangers of wealth when he takes over as the personal lawyer to an old-monied wealthy family. "It was such an exciting idea and so juicy," said McPherson. "Craig Wright (from Brothers & Sisters) brings unbelievable bite and sarcasm into this world." Stars Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, and William Baldwin.

Eli Stone (midseason) - From Greg Berlanti (the guy ABC brought in to save Brothers & Sisters) and Mark Guggenheim (also of B&S). A procedural about a lawyer who starts seeing visions because of an inoperable brain tumor. He tries to deal with the visions and find deeper meaning in his life while trying to stay in the real world. According to McPherson, it'll be comedic and not sappy. Starring Johnny Lee Miller, Victor Garber, Natasha Henstridge.

Private Practice (Wednesdays at 9) - We all know about this one. Kate Walsh as Addison Montgomery. Taye Diggs. Tim Daly. Amy Brenneman. Lots of sex. Shonda Rhimes and her Grey's team (Betsy Beers, Marti Noxon, et al) are involved. "We feel there's some work to do," said McPherson, later telling the gathered journalists that they need time to explore the stories between these people who know each other really well. He promises it won't be an imitation of Grey's.

Pushing Daisies (Wednesdays at 8) - "Bryan Fuller (of Heroes) came to us and asked, 'What if I did a show about a guy who brings things back to life with one touch?'" said McPherson. That's essentially what the show's about. Oh, and it's a procedural, with many "closed-ended" stories, using McPherson's buzz word of choice (more on this later). Barry Sonnenfeld is an executive producer and directs the pilot. Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, Lee Pace star.

Women's Murder Club (Fridays at 9) - McPherson called this show the network's "most traditional procedural this year, with an ABC tone." Four women -- a detective, a DA, a medical examiner, and a reporter -- band together to solve crimes. Stars Angie Harmon and Laura Harris.

Carpoolers (Tuesday at 8:30) - Four people in a carpool. Hilarity ensues. I think I've seen this in a Blondie comic somewhere... To be fair, the talent behind this show is pretty good, from writer/EP Bruce McCulloch (SNL, Kids in the Hall) to the stars, which include our old buddy Fred Goss (Sons & Daughters), Faith Ford, and Jerry O'Connell.

Cavemen (Tuesdays at 8) - McPherson called Cavemen "the most talked about" pilot, and he's not kidding. However, not all of the talk is good. But McPherson is confident this show can work. "If we're just going to do a sketch, I don't think this would work at all. Through this odd lens, (we explore) the idea of racial relationships and minorities. The idea is to offend everyone but offend no one." Bill Martin and Mike Schiff (Grounded for Life, Third Rock From the Sun) were brought in to bring their experience and perspective to this show, which is based on the Geico caveman ads.

Miss/Guided (midseason) - Created by Ashton Kutcher. Judy Greer (Love Monkey) plays a formerly awkward teenager who returns to her high school as a guidance counselor, thinking her gawky years were behind her. But she finds out that, as McPherson said, "every day is high school, no matter where you are."

Sam I Am (Mondays at 9:30) - McPherson said that they tried hard to get a vehicle for Christina Applegate this season because she's a "brilliant talent that pops off the screen. She just nails this part," of a woman who wakes up from a coma with amnesia, and finds that the person she was before her accident wasn't a very good one. "She creates a real voice for the character, which I think is missing from a lot of comedies." Also stars Jennifer Esposito, Melissa McCarthy, Jean Smart, Tim Russ, and Barry Watson.

Oprah's Big Give (midseason) - The big O's first prime time series, it involves a bunch of people who compete to get a whole bunch of money in order to make a difference in people's lives. Hilarity ensues.

Some tidbits from the press conference:

  • Like I mentioned before, McPherson used the word "closed-ended" a lot, seemingly taking pains to mention that almost none of the new shows were serial in nature, as opposed to the serial-fest his schedule was last year. When asked about that, he replied, "I think we have some of both. I think there's a big difference between a comedic serialization... you can come in and enjoy the show and laugh a little bit." But with dramatic serials, he thought that maybe shows like The Nine, which he praised to the hilt, was "maybe just too much of a comittment for people to make."
  • He's not worried about a possible writer's strike. "We're going business as usual as much as we can."
  • He's also not worried about the similarity of Cashmere Mafia to NBC's Lipstick Jungle. "There's room for two good shows."
  • McPherson isn't quite sure when Lost will be slotted in, but thinks it's more of an 8 or 9 PM show, due to the fact that the TiVo numbers doubled when the show moved from 9 to 10 PM this year.
  • He made a great joke when a reporter asked him about the shift in tone to lighter fare this year: "You look at the news every day; it's sad. I mean, Paris Hilton is going to jail..."
  • He thought The Nine and Day Break were "incredibly well produced," but "people just didn't show up to these shows. We listened to that. Look at the three breakout hits from last year - Heroes, Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters - they're all escapism. Certainly The Nine was not escapism. It was very hard and dense, compelling but demanding. There may be kind of a tonal shift in the viewer in what they have a thirst for."
  • The network will try to roll out shows all during the fall, and not cram everything into a "premiere week," like all the networks did last year. But McPherson also won't hold shows to January like he did last year. He admitted holding Knights of Prosperity to January, where it couldn't get a foothold before getting killed by American Idol, was a bad idea. Male-oriented shows like Knights and In Case of Emergency will premiere earlier and try to establish an audience before AI starts. In the case of Knights, he said it was hard to drop the show, but cited Mick Jagger's distancing himself from the show as one of the factors behind his decision to cancel it.
  • He took a bit of a swipe at NBC when he was asked about spending so much money on developing pilots: "We don't spend $600 million on football. We're in the TV business. That's the heart of what we do." Uh, Steve... Monday Night Football has only been off your network for a year...
  • The Geico cavemen ads will be taken off the air at some point to allow the Cavemen show to be promoted. "The show has to stand on its own; it'll be our marketing challenge," said McPherson. "At this point it's just a rights agreement. At some point the ads will come back. We may collaborate with them, but right now there's nothing planned."
  • Finally, he said he was "bummed" that he couldn't bring Scrubs over to ABC. He had a hand in creating the show with Bill Lawrence, and he told the reporters that the two of them had a beer the other day and talked about the prospect of the show landing on ABC. But he's happy for everyone involved that NBC picked it up for a final season.
The schedule at a glance:

8:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars"
9:30 p.m. "Sam I Am" (new comedy series)
10:00 p.m. "The Bachelor"

8:00 p.m. "Cavemen" (new comedy series)
8:30 p.m. "Carpoolers" (new comedy series)
9:00 p.m. "Dancing with the Stars the Results Show"
10:00 p.m. "Boston Legal"

8:00 p.m. "Pushing Daisies" (new drama series)
9:00 p.m. "Private Practice" (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. "Dirty Sexy Money" (new drama series)

8:00 p.m. "Ugly Betty"
9:00 p.m. "Grey's Anatomy"
10:00 p.m. "Big Shots" (new drama series)

8:00 p.m. "MEN IN TREES"
9:00 p.m. "Women's Murder Club" (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. "20/20"

8:00 p.m. "Saturday Night College Football"

7:00 p.m. "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8:00 p.m. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
9:00 p.m. "Desperate Housewives"
10:00 p.m. "Brothers & Sisters"

"Cashmere Mafia," "Notes from the Underbelly" and "October Road" will premiere after "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Bachelor" conclude their fall seasons.

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Mike K

I just realized there was no mention of "Big Day" which I will assume was canceled.


May 22 2007 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, this is the most pitiful schedule yet for ABC. I can tell you right up front, LOST and Ugly Betty are the only two ABC shows I watch now and it looks like they will remain the only ones for next season as well. Add to that, one of these two isn't even scheduled to start until 2008! Time to hang it up, ABC, your fall schedule is DOA!

You guys really SUCK!!!


May 15 2007 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can not believe they are not bringing back WHAT ABOUT BRIAN!!!!!!!!!!! That show needs to be brought back. Why keep all these same old shows. I know an overwhelming amount of viewers who watched faithfully. Someone needs to do something about this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 15 2007 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laurie Lintala

I cannot believe that What About Brian is not returning in the fall. What is wrong with you guys. It was such a fantastic show, you didn't even give it a chance. Way to Go ABC! They cancel Brian and bring in a show about Cavemen. Oh that sounds real promising. Idiots!

May 15 2007 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ahhhh. Another year another chance to say 'Holy crap, America's Funniest Home Videos is still on the air?'

May 15 2007 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i can't believe they didn't pick up Mitch Hurwitz's "the thick of it", i have no idea how the pilot turned out but come on, its Mitch Hurwitz, the genius behind arrested development ... maybe NBC can pick this up and play it on thursday nights ... eh who am i kidding, thats not gonna happen ... maybe mitch can go to cable where his genius will be appreciated and not canceled.

but don't worry there is a caveman show. ridiculous.

May 15 2007 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i can't believe they didn't pick up Mitch Hurwitz's "the thick of it", i have no idea how the pilot turned out but come on, its Mitch Hurwitz, the genius behind arrested development ... maybe NBC can pick this up and play it on thursday nights ... eh who am i kidding, thats not gonna happen ... maybe mitch can go to cable where his genius will be appreciated and not canceled.

but don't worry there is a caveman show. ridiculous.

May 15 2007 at 3:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel Keller

I take back my previous comment; McPherson told reporters after the press conference was over that the fate of "According to Jim" is still undecided. I changed my post. *Sigh*. I guess that's what happens when you listen in on the phone; you can't run up to the executive after it's over and ask him questions.

May 15 2007 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel Keller

Rod, I was listening in on that press conference, and McPherson gave no indication that they were in negotiations; not sure where the Hollywood Reporter reporter heard that. I'm keeping it in the "out" list for now... even if it's just wishful thinking on my part.

May 15 2007 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey TVfan,

Do you ever wonder why the sitcom is dying? It's because those husband screws, up learns lesson shows are tired, outdated, and just copies of themselves. And sorry but Tv is going up in quality, so shows like Rosanne won't cut it anymore.

May 15 2007 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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