Upfronts: ABC scoops up six new dramas as it seeks to shore up 10 p.m. slot
That’s the question hanging over the network at this year’s upfronts. As the island castaway mystery heads into its final hours, ABC is working to shore up its dramatic offerings for next season, hoping to score with another series that has the same kind of zeitgeist potential.
On Tuesday, the network rolled out a slate of 10 new shows, including six dramas.
“We really had three goals: more comedy, attack 10 o’clock and event television,” ABC Entertainment Group President Steve McPherson said in an interview. “And I think the schedule in the fall speaks to that.”
ABC plans to launch two of its biggest bets on Tuesdays, a night that has been anchored by “Lost.” Kicking off the lineup will be another series featuring a plane crash and people possessing mysterious abilities: “No Ordinary Family,” starring Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”) as a man whose family gains superpowers after their airplane crashes in the Amazon. That will be followed by the “Dancing With the Stars’” results show and then a new 10 p.m. offering: “Detroit 1-8-7,” a documentary-style series about homicide detectives in that city.
McPherson said he’s confident the network has new hits on its hands. “I always say, this time of year, you’re looking for the tools moving forward,” he said. “And ‘Detroit 1-8-7’ is an incredible unique look at a group of homicide detectives in Detroit. We feel it’s such a great city in transition. It’s a true American city because of the heroes that are fighting for it.”
Other new dramas include “Body of Proof,” starring Dana Delany as a neurosurgeon who is forced to become a medical examiner after a car accident; “My Generation,” which follows a group of Austin, Texas, classmates a decade after they graduated from high school; and “Off the Map,” a Shonda Rhimes-produced series about a group of idealistic young doctors practicing in a clinic in the South American jungle.
ABC needs one of those to take off. This season’s new-drama slate had mixed results: “V” is coming back for a second go-round midseason, but the sci-fi drama “FlashForward” that some thought would inherit the mantle of “Lost” is not returning.
The network’s ratings are down 11% so far this year at 10 p.m. in the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic, but McPherson maintained the network is in good shape at that hour most of the week, particularly on Sundays with “Brothers & Sisters” and on Mondays with its new hit “Castle.”
After finding gold in “Modern Family,” ABC is looking to expand its comedy bulwark on Wednesdays with the addition of “Better Together,” about the differing relationship styles of two sisters and their parents, starring JoAnna Garcia and Jennifer Finnigan.
The network also picked up “Happy Endings,” about how a couple’s split affects their circle of friends. McPherson called it “a great, great friends ensemble that really breaks out.” And speaking of “Friends,” ABC is bringing Matthew Perry back onto the air in “Mr. Sunshine,” a comedy in which he plays a self-absorbed sports arena manager who must contend with an eccentric boss played by Allison Janney.
ABC’s final new show will not be new to viewers: “Secret Millionaire,” which will air Fridays at 8 p.m., is a reality show about wealthy people who volunteer undercover. It first aired on Fox.
Despite the tight economic times, McPherson said ABC was able to spend the same on development that it has in past years.
“With all the difficult times, we had incredible support from our management,” he said. “The R&D -- which is really what development is -- is really the lifeblood of this business, and I am incredibly fortunate to have the support of the company to go after that with everything we have.”
-- Matea Gold (Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mateagold)
Photo: The cast of "Detroit 1-8-7," from left, D.J. Cotrona, Jon Michael Hill, Aisha Hinds, Michael Imperioli, James McDaniel, Shaun Majumder, Natalie Martinez. Credit: Craig Sjodin / ABC