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Upfronts: ABC's schedule

May 13, 2008 | 11:49 am

NEW YORK -- As expected, ABC President of Entertainment Steve McPherson announced a fall schedule Tuesday that will look a lot like it did last September.

With only two shows to launch in the fall, “Life On Mars” and “Opportunity Knocks,” the network will spend more of its promotional budget on relaunching its returning shows and wait until midseason to pick up more new shows. ABC has 17 pilots in contention for midseason slots, the time of the year the network’s strong fall performance weakens, in part, because of Fox’s “American Idol.”

“For us, midseason sets up as a time when we have a lot of opportunity, and those pilots will be ready and can go through the full process without cutting corners,” McPherson said during a press conference at ABC headquarters. “We don’t really feel comfortable picking stuff up until it’s been fully developed and piloted and tested.”

“Opportunity Knocks” is a game show produced by Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Films and will air on at 8 p.m. Tuesdays before “Dancing With the Stars.”

“This show is basically an amazing game show where we go to different neighborhoods around America and knock on people’s doors and bring the game show directly to their front lawn,” McPherson said. “It kind of combines ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ with ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.’ ”

“Life on Mars” is a remake of the popular BBC series about a detective who finds himself in 1972 after he’s run over by a car. Jason O’Mara will play the lead character, Sam Tyler, who, for instance, knows things about DNA even though his '70s-era colleagues don’t.

It will air on at 10 p.m. Thursdays. David E. Kelley created and produced the pilot, but he gave up his rights to the format as part of his negotiation to keep “Boston Legal” on the air a little longer. Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg (“October Road”) will take over the production of “Life on Mars,” which will have a different mythology at its core than the original version.

The final 13 episodes of “Boston Legal” will air at 10 p.m. Mondays with its two-hour finale slated for December. The show will have a writing staff, but Kelley will pen most of the episodes.

McPherson also confirmed that ABC has picked up “Scrubs,” which NBC canceled after what was supposed to be its seventh and final season. The single-camera comedy, produced by ABC Studios, would have ended its run this month, but NBC chose not to produce the final six episodes.

Now, it will air in midseason at 9 p.m. Tuesdays. The run could extend to future seasons if it performs well, McPherson said. “It helps us as we’re expanding our comedy franchise,” McPherson said.

“We had a lot of success with ‘Samantha Who?’ But you have to build on success, and it gives us another opportunity to have another piece to play with.” The network also picked up the animated comedy “The Goode Family” and an Ashton Kutcher-Tyra Banks untitled reality co-production, a “beauty pageant you’ve never seen before,” McPherson said.

-- Maria Elena Fernandez