Even with all the success ABC has had on Sunday and Thursday (thanks to the bold move of
Grey's Anatomy to that night), there are plenty of other time periods throughout the week where the network simply wasn't competitive this past season.
But while the struggling NBC cautiously put together a schedule that seemed designed to retain its diminished share of advertiser dollars, ABC is being much more aggressive. In the new lineup presented to advertisers Wednesday at Alice Tully Hall, entertainment president Stephen McPherson threw a lot of stuff against the scheduling board in the hope that something will stick.
Determined to get back into the comedy game, ABC gave Sam I Am with Christina Applegate the benefit of a Dancing with the Stars lead-in on Monday. Not a bad bet, since ABC's appeal is strongest among women 35-plus - and Applegate is now one of them, believe it or not. Two new comedies with a male skew will lead off Tuesday, in an attempt to get some ratings traction by the time American Idol shows up on Fox in January. Cavemen is about as pre-sold a concept as you can get, and the network would have been foolish not to try it - even though it was not a strong pilot. (The big winner here may be the Geico gecko, who will have to be the lead spokescharacter for the insurance seller once the Cavemen go into the sitcom business.) Carpoolers looks like a serviceable companion at 8:30 pm if Cavemen is a hit.
Wednesday is ABC's riskiest night, when it will try three new dramas. The network is counting on Grey's Anatomy fans to flock to Private Practice as if it was already an established hit - though McPherson admitted the show needs work. Private Practice will be the tent pole at 9 pm, preceded by Pushing Daisies, which has a distinctive visual style and will likely get help from TV critics who eat up this kind of quirky show. At 10 pm, the network is going with Dirty Sexy Money, which looks like a bit of a throwback to borderline-camp soaps about unhappy, wealthy families. It's a serial, but a lot less complex then the continuing dramas of recent seasons that required their own editions of CliffsNotes.
Big Shots is getting the plum Thursday-10 pm spot behind Grey's Anatomy. It was the network's highest-testing pilot and stars Dylan McDermott, who has a track record on ABC ( The Practice). But an ensemble drama about four dysfunctional CEOs? Shows about guys who confide their insecurities and feelings to each other just haven't worked. McPherson told us the reason they fail is that "there's never been a good one." Or maybe it's because guys just rarely act this way in real life - and when they do, it's a little discomfiting. Maybe having a transsexual in the mix will help - ABC had four pilots with trannies in them, but this was the only one that made the schedule.
ABC has been desperate to get a procedural crime drama to work, which is why Women's Murder Club is getting a shot on Friday. Who'd have thought Angie Harmon would be the new Angela Lansbury? - Stephen Battaglio
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