Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2014 Upfront Answers, ABC

Last week, I asked "Upfront Questions" to preview each network's fall 2014 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 2014 Schedule
8:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars
10:00 p.m. “Castle

My Question: Has the Monday 10/9c hour once again become ripe for a newbie?

Nope. Something significant happened since last week's previews that really changed the outlook for this hour: NBC decided to stick with The Blacklist on Monday in the early fall. Given that, and given CBS almost can't possibly be any weaker than they were this year, the hour suddenly looked much less ripe. Could ABC have actually changed the plan here in the last 48 hours, or was Castle always the choice? We'll never know for sure, but it seems possible (since the Tuesday 10/9c drama Forever would've felt like a pretty good fit with DWTS). If Castle was always their play here, they're surely feeling even better about that after NBC's sked reveal.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00 p.m. “Selfie”
8:30 p.m. “Manhattan Love Story”
9:00 p.m. “Agents of SHIELD” (ed. note: Agent Carter fills in at midseason)
10:00 p.m. “Forever”

My Question: Does ABC have more compatible pieces around Agents of SHIELD?

Well, Agents does lead into a new drama with some genre leanings, but it still sounds more like a women 25-54-oriented show than a men 18-34 one. The younger-skewing comedies probably wouldn't have been as good a fit with SHIELD as The Goldbergs, and even the "fit" between those two was questionable. Getting the comedies out of the Tuesday 9/8c comedy fray seems smarter than putting them after SHIELD. Bottom line: they did put new pieces around Agents of SHIELD, but it's hard to really label this a SHIELD-centric night. The same flow problems as last year may return.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00 p.m. “The Middle
8:30 p.m. “The Goldbergs
9:00 p.m. “Modern Family
9:30 p.m. “Black-ish”
10:00 p.m. “Nashville

My Question: Will Modern Family actually get a new family comedy lead-out in the fall?

Yep! Coupled with The Goldbergs' wise move to Wednesday (it wouldn't have fit with the Tuesday choices), this looks like a much better Wednesday arrangement than most of what ABC's been giving us in recent years. Good luck to them.

Another interesting development since last week's previews: Nashville was able to negotiate a 22-episode renewal, even though (if you believe Deadline) the network clearly wanted just 13 (and probably midseason). The real question here was whether Nashville's presence on the fall sked would take a fall slot away from a new drama, a comedy hour, or Resurrection. Given ABC still has four comedy hours and Resurrection, the answer is pretty clearly "new drama." But I think that's the right thing to do. It's unlikely new drama #3 after a comedy block would have a much better outlook than Resurrection.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy
9:00 p.m. “Scandal
10:00 p.m. “How to Get Away with Murder

My Question: Does How To Get Away With Murder have enough potential to warrant messing with the power hours?

Oh, yes. As I've laid out over the last couple weeks, messing with such a strong duo had to be a gut-wrenching dilemma, and there was no perfectly elegant solution. But this seemed like the best one, because it gives Murder the most lead-in juice and Scandal the highest-viewed hour. It felt like a pairing of destiny. As for what happens with Grey's? Let's hope for the best, but the worry will remain about three hours from one producer being too much on one night.


Fall 2014 Schedule
8:00 p.m. “Last Man Standing
8:30 p.m. “Cristela
9:00 p.m. “Shark Tank
10:00 p.m. “20/20

My Question: Is there a better way to make use of Shark Tank?

Nope, and it didn't seem like there would be. Last Man gets a multi-cam lead-out, and it'll be expected to do better than The Neighbors.


Fall 2014 Schedule
7:00 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos
8:00 p.m. “Once Upon a Time” (ed. note: Galavant fills in at midseason)
9:00 p.m. “Resurrection” (ed. note: American Crime fills in at midseason)
10:00 p.m. “Revenge

My Question: Can ABC do any better than what they've already got?

Nope, but the 22-episode order for Nashville may have made this a more interesting decision than it looked a week ago. Again, I think it's better to see what they've got early on with Resurrection.


Six nights of this schedule are pretty close to perfect. I wanted to see a new drama in the Monday 10/9c hour last week, but The Blacklist's continued presence there complicates the situation more than expected. Wednesday's comedy arrangement makes far more sense than usual for ABC. Thursday is a big vote of confidence in How to Get Away with Murder, which is good to see; let's hope it deserves it. And Friday/Sunday were in sweet spots that didn't warrant much change.

Then there's Tuesday, which looks like a potential really big mess. On some level, that was necessary, and at least the comedies were kept away from a logjam in the 9/8c hour. But if Agents of SHIELD has a weak season two and gets a horrible lead-in from those incompatible comedies, this will end up being a bigger deal than it seems on the surface.


Spot said...

Great schedule. Sundays are great, Mondays work fine, Wednesday probably the most combatible line up they've had, Grey's fixes the death hour and Scandal gets to lead into something, Shark Tank stays put which is good.

Schedule grade: A

Only concern is Scandal vs. Blacklist

Spot said...

Best Move: Resisting the urge to put something off-brand Wednesday at 9:30 and going the family comedy route for the whole night.

Worst Move: Putting a new sitcom (Cristela) on Friday night. It feels like punishment to 20th Century Fox after haggling over it, Fresh Off the Boat, and Last Man Standing’s fee for a pickup. Even this, though, I don’t have a real problem with.

Other Thoughts: Finally (!!), ABC didn’t try to overthink things and pretty much did what they needed to do. They are leveraging Scandal’s strength with something new while trying to shore up the 8:00 hour. SHIELD finally moved down an hour, and given how it had to self-start this season anyway I wouldn't be overly concerned with weak lead-ins. The Goldbergs gets its natural pairing with The Middle. I’d quibble with standing pat on Sundays and Mondays, but those are perfectly acceptable since Sunday’s a tough nut to crack generally and this development cycle didn’t produce a new Castle-in-waiting. Plus with The Blacklist still on Monday at 10:00 to start the season, the smarter move was to keep a veteran there. Tuesdays will continue to be questionable with a sitcom block to start the hour, but they are at least compatible and will be the only comedies in the hour. In fact, Paul Lee may have finally learned the lesson of not fighting against the tide: keep the hangout comedies (Tuesday), single-cam sitcoms (Wednesday) and broader multi-cams (Friday) separate. I do wish that they hadn't bothered with renewing Nashville if they had to have it for 22 episodes, but perhaps if there's a season 4 it's earmarked for Sundays.

Grade: A-

Spot said...

Suprisingly good schedule. They finally got their heads round and put a compatible show after Modern Family.

75% of shows ordered come from ABC Studios. I wonder how that compares to previous years.

Spot said...

Scheduling grade: D
ABC really didn't have much choices. There's so many holes, and moving strong shows to another night is of no use - it would create even bigger hole on the show's original night. However, wherever they had a choice, they opted for the wrong one. Only good thing is pushing disaster called Galavant to the winter.
I'm not giving it a F only because none of the mistakes looks like it could produce disaster. It's more a string of small mistakes.

Minuses (all small)
1. I was all for moving S.H.I.E.L.D. to 9 PM, but if, and only if, it would get strong lead-in. Or, at least OK one. Instead they're putting newbie comedies there. That's unnecessary risk, and given how Paul Lee picks usually end up... probably a bad thing. But S.H.I.E.L.D. should gain something from higher PUT hour, so no biggie.

2. Castle on Tuesday with Forever on Monday would be better. Newbie would get stable lead-in, it wouldn't depend on if Tuesday 8-10 PM is going to hold. On the other hand, Forever doesn't look like a keeper, not at all, so it's probably unimportant.

3. Wednesday 9:30-11 PM is a mess. First of all, if Black-ish turns out to be a hit, then good lead-in is wasted on low 1s Nashville. Second, Afro-American family comedy leading into show about country music is one of the worst pairings I ever saw. Black-ish is not the problem here, problem comes from renewing low rated Nashville for syndication reasons, while not having low priority timeslot for it (as they have it for Revenge).

4. Thursday - I don't like moving two veterans to provide best possible lead-in for a newbie. However, it it both fixes problematic Thursday 8 PM slot + new Shonda drama gets nice ratings, then I'll change my mind. We'll see. Plus, I kinda like damage this will inflict to NBC for their reckless moving of The Blacklist to Thu 9 PM.

5. Friday - Status quo (multi cams at 8 PM for entire season) is preventing Shark Tank from becoming megahit it would be with compatible lead-in. Last Man Standing needs episodes for syndication, so another no biggie. But if they insist on it in 2015-16 schedule again, it will be.

6. Only two new dramas. Revenge is in its last season, Castle and Nashville have at most 2 seasons left, OUAT and Resurrection might have only 2 season left in the legs. Grey's leads all renewed contracts for 2 years recently, so it looks they're preparing endgame for it too. Yet, ABC is not looking for replacements. As usual, they'll be aggressive only when it's already too late.

Spot said...

Definitely the best schedule we've seen from ABC in a while. Even if/when the Tuesday comedies fail, it shouldn't hurt SHIELD too much, and SHIELD should benefit from being in a higher HUT hour. I might have liked to see Castle and Forever swap, but meh. And there's finally a comedy after Modern Family that seems like it should be there! Huzzah!

Spot said...

Scandal-Blacklist will be quite the battle! Strong shows can coexist in the same hour, and the Blacklist seems to skew much older than Scandal, so it might be okay. Scandal has a huge African American audience while the Blacklist killed off their one Indian cast member and left the fate of the one major African American character unsure, so I'm not sure how much crossover there is. Scandal seems like a lot more W18-34 while Blacklist is probably more into W25-54

Spot said...

I think the schedule is fine, but, like ABC's other recent schedules, it's a little too conservative.

I wonder if three hours straight of Shonda isn't too much. The Tuesday comedies feel like they're being pretty much left to die (despite the lack of comedy competition). I'm also not convinced Cristela is a good fit with Last Man Standing.

I appreciate that ABC isn't trying to launch too much this fall. Only six newbies compared with a eight last season.

This schedule totally screws NBC on Thursday. The Biggest Loser vs Bones vs Grey's vs Thursday Night Football (and then Big Bang) is going to be fun to watch in fall. NBC might be regretting that Community cancellation...

Spot said...

My personal worry isn't "three hours, one producer." It's the Mork & Mindy Curse. I at least halfway expect Scandal and the newbie to fine. I also fully expect Grey's will crater. Maybe better numbers than Once In Wonderland, but not enough to avoid getting the axe.

Spot said...

The three shows with the same creator should not be an issue, since they aren't all in the same genre. Three NCIS' might be overkill, same with a Big Bang, Men, Mike & Molly, and Mom comedy block. I think if they announce it as the final season of the show it can still do well. Final season announcement stopped the bleeding from ER in its final year, which is the most comparible show (Decade old medical melodrama getting low to mid 2's on Thursday)

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