Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2013 Upfront Answers, ABC

Last week, I asked "Upfront Questions" to preview each network's fall 2013 schedule. With the schedule now official, here are the "Upfront Answers"!

ABC's upfront previews: True Power Rankings | Upfront Questions

Other Upfront Answers: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW


Fall 2013 Schedule
8/7c Dancing With the Stars
10 pm Castle

My Question: How dire is the Dancing with the Stars problem, really?

ABC did acknowledge the Dancing with the Stars problem in a real way, trimming down the real estate by cancelling the Tuesday results show. But it remains on Monday, in the fall, and against The Voice. The problem here isn't so much that the DWTS ratings are unacceptable in this slot per se (it's hard to gauge what the "acceptable" level is with a show like this), but that it felt like there was real potential to do better in a different competitive situation: either on another night or in a winter run that could get it away from The Voice calendar-wise.


Fall 2013 Schedule
10 pm LUCKY 7

My Question: Is ABC finally in the right position to go really aggressive on Tuesday?

Um, yes. Three hours of new shows is pretty aggressive. So the idea is good. And the one thing that ABC did really right on this sked was S.H.I.E.L.D in the Tuesday 8/7c slot. Putting something else new after it is also a good idea, if it really has the potential that many seem to think it does. But... a comedy block? Against The Voice and New Girl? And comedies that felt like they could be better fits with Modern Family than the ones they put there?! Sorry, but I'm not a fan. Lucky 7 could be a good choice in what should be a procedural-laden Tuesday 10/9c hour.


Fall 2013 Schedule
8 pm The Middle
9 pm Modern Family
10 pm Nashville

My Question: Which of the potential second-tier returning sitcoms get the cushy Wednesday slot(s)?

None! I figured this was possible, but I would've pegged it more in favor of shows like The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife. Instead, ABC makes it clear they have not learned the "incompatibility with Modern Family" lesson whatsoever, throwing yet another show that's trying to skew younger than Modern into the network's best slot. We've been hearing that ABC desperately wanted to be in the Rebel Wilson business despite the apparent problems with Super Fun Night, and this move only doubles down on that notion. Greenlighting a person rather than a show has had a pretty sketchy recent history; see The Mindy Project.


Fall 2013 Schedule
9 pm Grey's Anatomy
10 pm Scandal

My Question: Is the time now for ABC to mess with its blooming power hours?

No! I thought we were a year away from anything happening here, and I'm glad ABC agrees. While I might have preferred Once: Wonderland in the previously rumored hiatus bridge role, this is actually a fairly reasonable place for this show. If nothing else, I'm just relieved it wasn't S.H.I.E.L.D. At least a successful Once spin-off might share a little audience with Grey's.


Fall 2013 Schedule
8 pm Last Man Standing
8:30 pm The Neighbors
9 pm Shark Tank
10 pm 20/20

My Question: Will the full-fledged return of TGIF be realized?

No! The cancellations of How to Live and Malibu Country meant that ABC was being a lot more liberal with the comedy axe than expected, and coupled with multi-cam newbie King John not making it, it became increasingly clear ABC was not setting itself up for this. Instead, they'll simply plug one of their last renewals alongside Last Man Standing in a block that I guess at least has the family-friendliness compatibility... but it's yet another mix of multi-cam and single-cam, making three straight networks to try this.


Fall 2013 Schedule
7 America's Funniest Home Videos
8 pm Once Upon a Time
9 pm Revenge

My Question: How does ABC deal with the increasingly daunting event season and cable presence?

They certainly didn't address it in terms of getting these shows off the night. Once and Revenge will still have to deal with the Sunday cable heavy-hitters. But they are doing something; the shows will air 12 episodes, then an event season hiatus, then 12 episodes. The immediate Twitter reaction has been, "Because that worked so well for Revolution!" That's a valid point, but Sunday is a very different beast. There's actually a really compelling reason competition-wise to get these shows off the schedule for a big chunk of the year. So this is certainly better than doing nothing at all.


I sort of have the same immediate reaction to ABC's sked as I did to NBC's: they had the right general ideas. ABC recognized the Dancing with the Stars problem, they recognized the event season problem, and they recognized the opportunity to be very aggressive with a S.H.I.E.L.D-fueled Tuesday. They didn't unnecessarily mess with success on Thursday and Friday.

The difference is in the execution. NBC's execution of their ideas wasn't exactly what I would've done, but for the most part it seemed reasonable enough. ABC's execution seems considerably less reasonable in some spots. I don't like DWTS dueling directly with The Voice again; their plan almost seems more like they're just "punishing" the show rather than trying to do something about it. I don't get putting two very Wednesday-esque comedies on Tuesday after S.H.I.E.L.D; it just feels like all the comedy scheduling resulted from them being overly star-struck by Rebel Wilson. And I don't like the stand-pat on collapsing Sunday, with yet another new show getting thrown into the Sunday 10:00 slot. At least last year, this night had some Revenge breakout potential. Now we know that Betrayal isn't getting much of a lead-in.


Spot said...

The fundamental problem w/ hiatusing broadcast shows is that they don't have repeat cycles to maintain awareness. This is the biggest advantage cable has over broadcast in my estimation - the fact that they can just program repeat blocks of their primetime programming in any daypart they want, substantially increasing the ability of core viewers to find the episodes and refresh themselves, as well as giving casual and non-viewers a chance to discover the program. As long as broadcast is chained to the philosophy of "give the affiliates control of daytime", they'll never be able to pull of cable-style hiatuses with any consistent degree of success.

(ok, now that I've gotten that out of my system...)

I would still rather have SHIELD at 9 due to the preferences of myself and my roommates, but 8 makes sense if you want the entire night to get off to a good start. But the comedy block and Lucky 7 have FILLER written all over them. (a lottery drama? seriously?) If SHIELD takes off, I have a feeling that in another year or two, we'll be seeing a spinoff of some sort or another on the night, or at least a shared-universe show.

Suburgatory to mid-season is sad but understandable, given its surprising ratings struggles in season two.

I don't even remotely care about Alphabet's other scheduling decisions, because The Middle is the only other show I watch and I don't see any reason to talk about the good or bad of keeping it in that same slot.

Spot said...

I honestly think most of what they got wrong here was putting the comedies in the wrong order. The other glaring error? Picking up a show that was rejected by a rival network in their worst sitcom development year ever.

However, most of the moves I love. They've shrunk DWTS to open up an all-new Super Tuesday, they've kept the dramas out of event season, and they've given the right slots to the right new dramas (though definitely, definitely not the comedies). And they've done this with zero timeslot moves for returning shows. That saves a ton of promotional dollars that can go into pushing Super Tuesday.

This is so nearly a brilliant schedule, but the comedy strategy ruins it. I still think I prefer it to NBC's though, it's certainly better for the veteran scripted shows (of course, it helps that ABC actually have veteran scripted shows that can get a 2.0 in the spring, which nothing on NBC can manage including the two with a Voice lead-in right now...

Spot said...

Is the lack of repeat cycle ability less of a problem with video on-demand services, though?

I suspect we'll see a clip show or two before each run of 12, and the midseason return has the advantage of the Oscars for promotion. Not quite the Super Bowl, but a potential double-digit demo is a big deal these days.

Lucky 7... I'd have held it to midseason, but not because I don't think it's got potential. Rather, it's because of the format of the British original - one episode per character, each season has a new group of winners. To have a promising show that can be scheduled in a seven-week block at short notice is... quite useful, and I'd have put it on deck to replace the first failed drama. Tuesday 10 is a good fit for it if you must start it in September though, a serial against (presumably) two procedurals.

Spot said...

Core viewers are obviously aware of VOD. But if you ask most of the people who watched the most recent run of Duck Dynasty, they'll probably say they first watched during one of the early evening repeat cycles.

Spot said...

You're spot on about repeats. If broadcast airs repeats, there's too much of a hiatus between original episodes. If they don't air it, they fail to recover part of big bucks they pay studios for the shows. Can't have it both way. Cable has huge advantage with around the clock scheduling and possibility to have encores out of primetime.

Suburgatory is back by Thanksgiving at latest. ABC premieres 4 new comedies not because they believe in this underwhelming pilot crop. But to see which one is the weakest link, which one to yank in favor of Suburgatory. ABC did well to give itself chance to initially gauge 4 new comedies (and not 3). I expect same CBS to do same = 4 new comedies, Mike&Molly on the bench ... but entering the game early, there's practically no chance to have no flops among so many new comedies.

Spot said...

Best Move: A top-to-bottom remodel of Tuesday night with new shows.

Worst Move: I "have" to think of one? Well Dancing with the Stars is the obvious one, but at least they weren't the first one to ignore their 2-hour reality competition problem (X-Factor).

Other thoughts: My main one is "Ugh." The only other big positive I see with this schedule is reducing the reliance of DWTS, which is (partly) why their Tuesdays were a recent problem. Otherwise, ABC basically dug its head in the sand by deciding to throw new shows into the scheduling holes created by canceled shows (minus The Neighbors to Fridays) instead of trying to see if moving pieces like Revenge could give a new show a better chance while stemming the losses of the veterans. This basically means that ABC built this schedule solely for Tuesdays and that's what is getting all of the promotional effort. So good luck Once: Wonderland and Betrayal...

The cries of Revolution aren't applicable to Once & Revenge taking a midseason break, but the shadow of Lost's third season (with its 6-episode pod followed by the rest of the season 4 months later) is going to loom for these shows. In general I don't mind the concept of at least being clear when a show has new episodes and when it doesn't, but reserved for veteran shows.

Spot said...

I believe that frequent reruns is one of the reasons that NCIS, Big Bang and HIMYM have been doing so well at their advanced ages.

Spot said...

They have the advantage of cushy syndication deals on widely distributed cable nets. They're exceptions that prove the point.

Spot said...

They're trying to fix things that went wrong past seasons, but not very hard. I don't see much ambition here, and that is turning me off... I can't help but thinking "they could've done better".

They couldn't do much, given how weak DWTS has become, and they should've moved Castle ages ago, when Dancing was still strong to launch something else. It'll do OK numbers for them, but NBC and CBS will do way better.

Somewhat weird schedulling. I do like SHIELD being at 8 pm to start the night with a bang, but I'm not too sure if these comedies and Lucky 7 could do much later on. Luckily for them, FOX won't have much here too, as New Girl faded pretty fast and The Mindy Project is something that even NBC could've canceled. Anyway, guessing this will flop.

Don't quite like the comedies mix they're proposing, and don't think Nashville deserved to be here again. This is probably their best shot at launching a new 10 pm drama, and they did nothing.

Wonderland will probably flop, but the rest of the night will do it. Good that Scandal stays there for one more season, and I'm hoping it will outrate Grey's more frequently.

It will work fine.

Awful day. Surprised they did nothing about Revenge. I'd have moved it to 10 to give Betrayal a better chance. Now it will just probably die like all the shows they tried there after canning B&S.

Spot said...

Which comedy is the rejected one, David? Is it already scheduled? lol

Spot said...

Bleh. I definitely would have gone with a drama after SHIELD (like Resurrection), since drama competition is so light in that hour. But I'm at least glad that they didn't put it on Thursdays.

I agree with Chris L. that ABC is all about Tuesdays this year, and the other days are basically going to be left to fend for themselves. So, yeah, good luck with that, everyone.

Spot said...

Super Fun Night was rejected by CBS last year.

As in "rejected in the CBS development crop *led* by Partners."

Spot said...

Oh, one timeslot move (Neighbors). No new timeslots Sun-Thurs though.

Spot said...

And they also gave it the best spot possible! lol

I thought Trophy Wife would end up there. Seems to be way more compatible. Super Fun Nights seems to be another quirky comedy a la Apt. 23 and I don't think it will work for long.

Spot said...

I hate this schedule. Hate, hate, hate it.

Monday: White flag night. Didn't have to be this way. Castle has been doing much better since the Paris storyline, which appears to have stopped its ratings slide. It should have been used on Tuesday to backstop the newbies.

Tuesday: Just awful. S.H.I.E.L.D would have been fine wherever, but then two rookie comedies against The Voice? And they lead in to a rookie drama? Wow. I heard so many great things about The Goldbergs, and to see it get put on ABC's comedy second string so soon is disheartening.

Wednesday: Ugh. Back in the Game is fine, though it might have made more sense to put it on Friday with Last Man Standing. But I can not stand Super Fun Night taking the plumb spot behind Modern Family. CBS passed, and everyone knows the pilot stank, but ABC just can't help themselves. Shade was right. When push comes to shove, they always go with the female-focused show. And then Nashville to top it off. Garbage.

Thursday: Really, ABC? Another rookie into the death slot?

Friday: Fine, I guess. They didn't mess with Shark Tank, as I was afraid they would.

Sunday: I don't like Betrayal being thrown in the 10 PM slot. Not with Revenge flailing around the way it has been.

Spot said...

Yes, to me it felt like there were three pretty obvious returning/new pairings:

Modern Family/Trophy Wife
Last Man Standing/Back in the Game

Not sure what to do with Suburgatory/Neighbors in that case. (I'd do Friday at 9, but then Shark Tank has to go somewhere...)

Spot said...

If only I could read Sunday instead of Monday, Monday instead of Tuesday and Tuesday instead of Sunday in their schedule I would be a happy guy with ABC. I don't totally hate it, except for the colossal mistake that is leaving DWTS put and not sending it to fix the sunday mistake while fixing itself and taking OUAT and Revenge the hell away from Sundays Apart from tuesdays, it feels a lot like plugging holes. I hate the feeling. However, they did earn a lot of goodwill with me by canceling the results show, a move I have been seeking for ages now. I think that show is the reason why tuesdays were so problematic forever, since it created incompatibilities in the programming and on the actual schedule (due to its break). The comedies do seem badly mixed though, even if I can understand the idea of avoiding sending a comedy skewing the same as new girl against it. The truth is that there are probably few shows that can beat New Girl in the 18-34 demo which is what advertisers apparently really seek. I would also swap the comedies and shield since the later is probably strong enough to withstand the voice and the comedies are not and since the comedies would also avoid the new girl clash.

Spot said...

ABC has also earned a hell of a goodwill amount from me by going with 2 uninterrupted airings for Revenge and OUAT thus avoiding awards season. I still wish they had been taken away from Sundays but it's already something. Apparently Scandal and Grey's will follow. Not entirely sure if this was needed but I won't complain. I think it will maximize the ratings for both shows, not sure for ABC's ratings as a whole. I do however think this is only done in order to avoid being hurt by the olympics in february and if that was the case, I am all for it. But they will need a lot of reality filler this year, no doubt about it.

Spot said...

The biggest wildcard, which I actually never saw coming, is the OUAT spinoff being given the Thursdays at 8 slot. I need time to figure out how I feel about that. I haven't even watched the trailer yet, so we will see. I do think it has a better chance than Charlie Angel's, Last Resort, Zero Hour and Missing though, but that is not saying much. I also insist that a low-concept procedural would be the best choice for the slot, but we shall see. One thing can be said though: if it does work, with Scanda unstoppable and Grey's still a powerhouse, ABC's Thursdays would a force to be reckoned with!

Spot said...

Well, there was the strategy I was pushing for - Shark Tank to Tuesdays @ 8 to give a base for SHIELD @ 9. But The Voice forced ABC's hand on that one (another reason why I feel like the two 9pm comedies are filler).

Spot said...

I wasn't really anticipating this but the trailer was a LOT better than I expected. I agree with your assessment though... not a great chance, but probably better than some previous occupants.

Spot said...

Yeah, but based on trailer I find Back in the Game creatively very good and am pleasantly surprised. After watching all trailers (NBC and Fox included, CBS not) it's only new comedy that I'll check (disclaimer: besides few that I'll check solely based on star power of leads and/or authors). It kinda has a taste of Malcolm in the Middle meets Modern Family. And while it's unfair to compare BITG to such a masterpieces, and it hardly can be that good, I definitely can see why ABC brass decided to put it on Wednesday. Having sad that, quality rarely equals good ratings, so we'll see if it was good move business wise.

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