Tuned In: ABC tweaking itself for success


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It has been several years since the jokes about CBS being the oldest-skewing network were accurate, and now gags about NBC as the last-place network also are out of date.

When the 2013-14 TV season ends later this month, NBC is expected to be No. 1 in the advertiser-coveted age 18-49 demographic with CBS No. 1 in total viewers. Among the Big Four networks, it’s ABC that’s in the worst shape, ranking No. 4 in the key demo and third in total viewers season-to-date.

For fall the network isn’t throwing a Hail Mary with its prime-time schedule; instead it’s tweaking to try to better position itself for success. Several series will remain on the same nights they currently air but shift to different time slots.

On Thursday, “Grey’s Anatomy” moves to too-early 8 p.m. with “Scandal” at 9 p.m. In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee brushed aside questions about too-risque content in “Grey’s” airing at 8 p.m. (“We have no doubts ‘Grey’s’ will play great at 8 o’clock so that’s really not an issue”) before returning to the subject in a closing statement, saying, “We think ‘Grey’s’ will be fine. We’ll ensure that whatever airs is appropriate.”

“The Goldbergs” moves into ABC’s Wednesday night comedy block, and ABC tries to counter-program reality and drama on competing networks by putting two new comedies on from 8-9 p.m. Tuesday.

More than any other network, ABC has commissioned shows with multicultural casts and African-American leading characters.

“We wanted to reflect the changing face of America,” Mr. Lee said. Or perhaps the success of “Scandal,” with an African-American lead, was the motivation because the face of America began changing quite some time ago. “’Scandal’ has become a hit, and depending on how you look at it it’s the No. 1 or 2 drama. We do think America has changed. We saw it in the last election cycle and we see that in everything happening. For us to have the Latina voice of ‘Cristela’ or the fascinating voice of [‘American Crime’ writer] John Ridley and for him to do a serious piece about race and American crime or to have a lot of fun in a show like ‘Black-ish’ is perfectly appropriate for a network like this. In fact, I think it’s the right thing to do now.”

ABC canceled first-year series “Lucky 7,” “Back in the Game,” “Betrayal,” “The Assets,” “Killer Women,” “Mind Games,” “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” “Trophy Wife,” “Super Fun Night,” “Mixology” and established series “Suburgatory” and “The Neighbors.”

Here's ABC's fall schedule, with new series in bold:

Sunday

7 p.m.: “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

8 p.m.: “Once Upon a Time.”

9 p.m.: “Resurrection.”

10 p.m.: “Revenge.”

Monday

8 p.m.: “Dancing With the Stars.”

10 p.m.: “Castle”

Tuesday

8 p.m.: “Selfie”: A modern-day “My Fair Lady” about a social media star (Karen Gillan, “Doctor Who”) who enlists her nerdy marketing guru (John Cho) to help mend her damaged reputation.

8:30 p.m.: “Manhattan Love Story”: A romantic comedy where viewers hear what the characters are really thinking while out on a date.

9 p.m.: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

10 p.m.: “Forever”: Ioan Gruffudd (“Horatio Hornblower”) stars as a medical examiner with a secret: He’s 200 years old and has died many times and always comes back at age 35, a secret he keeps from everyone but his 76-year-old best friend (Judd Hirsch, “NUMB3RS”).

Wednesday

8 p.m.: “The Middle.”

8:30 p.m.: “The Goldbergs.”

9 p.m.: “Modern Family.”

9:30 p.m.: “Black-ish”: Anthony Anderson (“Guys With Kids”) stars in this comedy as the dad in a middle-class black family who worries about assimilation. Laurence Fishburne (“Hannibal”) has a recurring role as Mr. Anderson’s father.

10 p.m.: “Nashville”

Thursday

8 p.m.: “Grey’s Anatomy.”

9 p.m.: “Scandal.”

10 p.m.: “How to Get Away with Murder”: The executive producers of “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy” are behind this drama about a law school professor (Viola Davis) and her students who get embroiled in legal cases, including a murder.

Friday

8 p.m.: “Last Man Standing.”

8:30 p.m.: “Cristela”: Cultures clash as Cristela (Cristela Alonzo) pursues a law firm internship while her Mexican-American family questions whether she’s too ambitious.

9 p.m.: “Shark Tank.”

10 p.m.: “20/20.”

Saturday

8 p.m.: “Saturday Night Football.”

Midseason on ABC

Get ready for a lot of series coming and going and sharing time slots as ABC looks to program more original series and fewer repeats again this season. At least two series already have been slotted to fill the gaps between half-seasons of returning shows with both new programs likely to premiere in early 2015.

“Marvel’s Agent Carter” will serve as gap programming for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; back-to-back episodes of musical comedy “Galavant” will take over as “Once Upon a Time” takes a break.

Reality shows “The Taste,” “The Great Christmas Light Fight” and “The Bachelor” also will return at midseason.

Midseason dramas on ABC will be:

“American Crime”: A horrific crime in Modesto, Calif., leads to explorations of class and race among all those it touches, from victims to suspects. Timothy Hutton (“Leverage”), Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”), Benito Martinez (“The Shield”) and Penelope Ann Miller star.

“Marvel’s Agent Carter”: Actress Hayley Atwell reprises her role as the girlfriend of Steve “Captain America” Rogers from the film “Captain America: The First Avenger,” building her career as a secret agent in 1946 while Rogers is frozen in ice.

“Secrets & Lies”: Ryan Phillipe stars as a jogger who finds a neighbor’s young son murdered in the woods and he’s soon a suspect in the investigation led by a driven Charlotte, N.C., detective (Juliette Lewis).

“The Whispers: Aliens invade by using human children in this sci-fi drama starring Lily Rabe (“American Horror Story”), Barry Sloane (“Revenge”) and Milo Ventimiglia (“Heroes”).

Midseason comedies on ABC will be:

“Fresh Off the Boat”: Cultures clash as the Huang family moves from Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown to suburban Orlando, Fla., and 12-year-old Eddie (Hudson Yang) must learn to adapt.

“Galavant”: A musical comedy fairy tale from the creator of “The Neighbors” and composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”) that follows heroic Galavant (Josha Sasse) as he searches for a happily ever-after ending for his derailed love life. Mr. Lee calls it “Spamalot” meets “The Princess Bride.”


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.

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