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Upfronts 2012: ABC Cuts My Life Into Pieces

By Seth Freilich | Trade News | May 15, 2012 | Comments ()


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Going into the upfronts, we knew that ABC had signed up a whopping 10 new shows. And sure, it had a few holes to fill (bye-bye, "Desperate Housewives"), but that's a lot of new shows, especially when you look at all the shows that were picked up and how ABC has slowly been building a new comedy lineup (albeit without "Cougar Town" now). The most intriguing new ABC show, however, isn't even in the pipeline yet -- a Hulk show is in early development for next season, being developed by Guillermo del Toro. But that's way in the future. Let's deal with the here and now.

Renewed. Lots of renewals, none of which were particularly surprising, except maybe for "Scandal," but ABC surely wants to do all it can to keep in Shonda Rhimes' good graces (as for "Don't trust the Bitch in Apt. 23," it wasn't much of surprise once "Cougar Town" was no longer on the bubble as a result of its move over to TBS): "America's Funniest Home Videos," "The Bachelor," "Body of Proof," "Castle," "Dancing with the Stars," "Don't Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23," "Grey's Anatomy," "Happy Endings," "Last Man Standing," "The Middle," "Modern Family," "Once Upon a Time," "Private Practice," "Revenge," "Scandal," "Shark Tank," "Suburgatory" and "Wife Swap."

Cancelled. "Charlie's Angels," "Cougar Town," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "GCB," "Man Up!," "Missing," "Pan Am," "The River" and "Work It." No surprise for most of these as the ratings were pretty crap. "Cougar Town," as you know, has been picked up by TBS, so Penny Can lives on. Too bad about "Pan Am," though, a show with some decent actressing that couldn't figure itself out. And "Missing" was surprisingly decent, but there was no way before it even hit the air that it was getting a second season. Such is life.

Mondays. "Dancing with the Stars" gets a fall run from 8-10 (possibly with an all-star season, though ABC's entertainment president Paul Lee wouldn't say one way or the other about the fall line-up), followed by "Castle." In January, a two hour chunk of "The Bachelor" will take over for "Dancing with the Stars." In Never will I be watching "Dancing with the Stars" or "The Bachelor." And while I don't watch "Castle," I'm happy for Nathan Fillion's continued success. Atta boy, tight pants.

Tuesdays. In the fall, 8-9 gives us the result show for "Dancing with the Stars." Then it's a solid comedy hour with "Happy Endings" (!), moved from its old Wednesday home, and "Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23" (which, by the way, only aired about half of its original 13 episode order this year, so the rest will air in the fall with the new season). And at 10, it's "Private Practice," which has somehow made it to its sixth season. This is mind-boggling to me. Both because it still co-stars Tim Daly and Taye Diggs, notorious showkillers, and because it blows. But what the hell do I know.

In January, when "Dancing with the Stars" ends, ABC will launch two new comedies in that 8 p.m. time slot, hoping to create a nice two-hour comedy block. Starting things off will be "How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)," which is probably the longest title of any new show picked up this season, so it's got that going for it. It's also got Sarah Chalke and Elizabeth Perkins, so it's got that going for it. The comedy is about Polly (Chalke), a single mom who is transitioning from her recent divorce by moving back home with her parents (Perkins and Brad Garrett). Comedy and conflict ensues because "Polly and her parents look at life through two different lenses. Polly's too uptight. Her parents are too laid back. Polly's conservative when it comes to dating (no action, whatsoever), while her parents are still sexually adventurous." ... Sigh. This does not get my hopes up.

I want to like this show because I adore Chalke. But I'm not feeling it from that clip.

"How to Live with Your Parents dot dot dot" will then lead into the new comedy "The Family Tools," which used to be called "Red Van Man." It's a comedy about a guy (Kyle Bornheimer, "Perfect Couples") who has never been able to succeed in life, and now he's trying to step up and take over the handyman business run by his father (the fabulous J.K. Simmons). The show, which marks Leah Remini's return to sitcomdom as the dude's aunt, is based on a UK series called "White Fan Man." Any fans of the original around to tell us how that show is and to express outrage that it's getting Americanized?

Not really feeling that one other, but it looks like the kind of show that's just going to float along, likable but unfunny, or which will figure out a way to be really funny. I'm guessing it'll be the former but will likely give it a shot primarily because of how much I love Simmons.

... Why couldn't ABC put Chalke and J.K. in a sitcom together, so I only have to do this with one new comedy instead of two? Stupid ABC.

Wednesdays. ABC continues its Wednesday comedy block with "The Middle," "Suburgatory," "Modern Family" and the new "The Neighbors." At 10, it's not "Revenge," which has been moved over to Sundays in an attempt to fill the "Desperate Housewives" hole. Rather, we get a new drama, "Nashville." Which stars Connie Britton, y'all!

Ok, but "The Neighbors" first. This is the comedy that asks "how well do you know your neighbors?" Because the Weavers (Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito) have moved to a gated New Jersey community and it turns out that the residents of Hidden Hills are ... wait for it ... aliens. They're all named after athletes (Reggies Jackson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, etc.) and, get this: they "receive nourishment through their eyes by reading books, rather than eating ... [and] the men bear children and everyone cries green goo from their ears." Green goo from their ears people. ...Christ. The best thing this show has going for it is that it was written by Dan Fogelman, who wrote Cars, Tangled (a surprisingly excellent kid's movie) and Crazy, Stupid, Love (a not-great movie, but wholly watchable).

Holy hell, how did we wind up on a 1997 WB Network Saturday morning "comedy?" Fuck this show.

As for "Nashville," as I said, it's got Connie Britton. And Powers Booth! But, it also has Hayden Panettiere. And is about a waning country star who goes on tour with a nipping-at-her-heels up and comer. I'm intrigued that it comes from Calli Khouri, who wrote Thelma & Louis but, still, country music.

Damn it. I hate country music and this just doesn't really feel like a show that's in my wheelhouse. But Connie Britton has me. This show will be on a tight, tight leash, but I'll give it a shot.

Thursdays. Thursdays lead off with the new drama "Last Resort," followed by "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal." Did you know that "Grey's" is still killing it in the ratings? I don't know anyone who still watches the show, but I guess folks do.

Anyway, this new show "Last Resort" is probably the one new show I'm most excited about over all others. It comes from Shawn Ryan ("The Shield," "The Unit," "The Chicago Code") and stars Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Dichen Lachman and Autumn Reeser, plus will feature Robert Patrick in a recurring guest role. I'm already all over this. More so because it's something different -- the show is about the crew of a ballistic submarine who, after the sub is attacked and sunk by its own government, take refuge on an exotic island. Ok, so maybe it's not that different. But I have ultimate faith in Shawn Ryan, and for those of you who watched the great "Men of a Certain Age," you know that Braugher can still act circles around almost everyone else.

Andre, I'll totally burn with you!

I do believe I saw Bruce Davison there, which is never a bad thing. Yes, the show looks like it could turn into a convoluted, hot mess, but I have a lot of faith in Shawn Ryan and, so, I'm all in on this one.

Fridays. In the early part of the fall, Fridays will be "Shark Tank," "Primetime: What Would You Do?" and "20/20." In November, "Primetime" will be done, so "Shark Tank" will move into the 9 p.m. slot, and ABC will try to make the 8 p.m. hour a comedy hour. But let's use the term "comedy" loosely here. At 8, it's the return of fucking Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing," which will be followed by the new comedy "Malibu Country," which stars Reba McEntire, who discovers that her husband, "a country music legend, has a cheatin' heart." And I'm out.

Oh Lily Tomlin, how could you?

Saturdays. In the fall it's college football. After that, ABC doesn't say, but I assume it'll be reruns and crappy TV movies because that's what you do with Saturday night network TV.

Sundays. At 7 p.m., ABC has the twenty-third (!) season of "America's Funniest Home Videos." Then it's "Once Upon a Time" leading in to the newly time-slotted "Revenge" which, in turn, leads into the last new fall ABC drama, "666 Park Avenue."

Any of you watching "Once Upon a Time?" I assume so, because it gets surprisingly good ratings, especially when its DVR ratings over 7 days are counted in. I watch the show because it's really the perfect type of passable background entertainment and I gotta say I'm pretty intrigued with how they ended the season. (*spoiler alert*) I'm glad they didn't try to drag this curse business out for seasons-on-end and I'm, frankly, much more interested in what happens now that folks know who they are and that magic's hitting the "real world" in full force. But really, I just want to see Robert Carlyle continuing to ham it up, because that makes me giggle. And maybe now that ABC is investing in a second season, they'll up the effects and CGI budget. Because that dragon? Oy vey.

Anyway, after "Revenge" (which has been meandering of late, and needs to figure itself out a bit) is the new "666 Park Avenue" which sounds exactly like the kind of show ABC puts on the air without really knowing what it's doing or where the show's going or how to market it, and the show quickly goes off the rails and becomes a punchline (see, e.g., "Flash Forward" and "The Nine"). It's about a big building in NYC (which is not addressed at 666 Parke Avenue, as you'll see in the trailer ... so clever), owned by Gavin Doran (Terry O'Quinn) and his wife Olivia (Vanessa Williams). Turns out the building is swirling in evil, unbeknownst to most of the residents who think it's just good fortune that all their dreams seem to come true. When a young couple from the Middle move in to the building to take over management (Rachel Taylor, Dave Annable), mysteries start coming unraveled. The show, based on a book series by Gabriella Pierce (anyone familiar with the books who can speak to their quality?) comes from folks behind "Gossip Girl, "The Vampire Diaries," "Pretty Little Liars," "Fringe" and "Life on Mars," which is a hell of an interesting mix.

Dave Annable was passable on "Brothers and Sisters" but I still remember his turn on the short-lived "Reunion," and it was literally one of the worst acting performances I've seen on network television in the last decade. So I've got little faith in him. And despite O'Quinn looking like a bad ass, this show feels like "Fantasy Island" by way of The Firm and Devil's Advocate. No thanks.

Midseason Filler. ABC is holding one drama ("Body of Proof," which only got a 13-episode order) for midseason, along with "Wife Swap" and the new "Celebrity Wife Swap" (...Jesus). It's also got three new dramas in its midseason pocket. The first of those new dramas is "Red Widow," about a mother (Radha Mitchell) who has to both protect her family from, and dig into the truth about, her murdered-husband's criminal life. She "takes on the gangsters and the FBI" because, you know, that's what any good mother of three does. I'm not really interested in the show aside from the fact that it stars Lee Tergesen, who I'll always love from his days on "Oz," not to mention that his name always makes me think "Turd Ferguson."

As for the video from the show itself:

Looks better than I expected, but also looks like a soft, run-of-the-mill thriller. If it ever makes it to air, I likely won't be watching.

Then there's "Zero Hour," which marks Anthony Edwards' return to network television (assuming the show gets aired, of course) as the publisher of a paranormal enthusiast magazine "gets pulled into one of the most compelling mysteries in human history" after his wife (Jacinda Barrett) gets kidnapped. It basically sounds like National Treasure meets The DaVinci Code meets bleh.

Even though it has Roc, there's this:

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So yeah, this show can pound balls.

And, finally, there's "Mistresses," which ABC ordered back in February, tentatively saying it would air next summer. It's "a salacious new drama about a group of friends caught in storms of excitement and self-discovery, secrecy and betrayal, and bound by the complex relationships they've created." It's another based-on-a-UK show, and stars some very attractive women in the form of Alyssa Milano, Yunjin Kim ("Lost"), Rochelle Aytes (all sorts of stuff) and Jas Macallan (who I only know from brief appearances on "Justified" and "Shameless" last year).

Ugh. That's a crappy way to go out. Let's leave with this, instead. God bless you Richard Cheese:



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