With a writers strike ended weeks before upfront presentations in May, many networks' programming slates showed a paucity of new shows. At the time, ABC was ready only to speak about "Life on Mars," a new drama about a time-traveling cop; "The Goode Family," an animated selection; "Opportunity Knocks" and an untitled project from actors Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks, both reality shows; and a pick-up of the comedy "Scrubs" from NBC.
Now the network is unveiling three new dramas -- "Castle," "Cupid" and "The Unusuals" -- and two new comedies -- "Better Off Ted" and "Single With Parents." The programs aren't likely to roll out until later in the fall or, even more probable, in 2009.
Busting out of genres
"Castle" appears to add some baroque elements to the formulaic "Law & Order"-type detective show. ABC is billing it as a "comedic crime procedural" about a famous mystery novelist, Nick Castle, who goes out to solve crimes that appear torn from the page of his books. In a similar vein, "The Unusuals" focuses on a group of oddball homicide detectives -- each with his or her own sense of humor and a few secrets to boot.
Meanwhile, "Cupid" is touted as a "romantic dramedy" about a fellow who may or may not actually be the Roman god of love and is under a psychiatrist's care. This is actually a remake of a series that ran on ABC in the late 1990s and starred Jeremy Piven in the title role. Rob Thomas, who produced the first series, returns to helm this one as well.
Among comedies, ABC will roll out "Better Off Ted," a workplace comedy about a conscientious researcher who works for a morally questionable corporation. "Single With Parents" features Alyssa Milano as a single, thirtysomething woman whose divorced parents rely on her way too much.
Can success last?
ABC moves into the season with the usual concerns that beset broadcast networks these days -- ratings erosion, increasing use of DVRs -- but also boasts some of the most watched programs among TV viewers. "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" have commanded some of the highest ad prices on TV, though some of the series have begun to age. ABC has long been criticized for its track record in comedy development, though the network launched "Samantha Who?" to some acclaim last season. Advertisers will also be watching to see if some series launched last year to critical acclaim, including "Pushing Daisies," will get more traction.