Upfront 2011

ABC Goes Heavy on Comedy for Fall

Disney Network Will Sprinkle Sitcoms Across the Week

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Paul Lee, president-ABC Entertainment Group
Paul Lee, president-ABC Entertainment Group Credit: ABC/Donna Svennevik

Walt Disney's ABC, coming off a lackluster season in which many of its new offerings failed to grab an audience, wants to build more comedy franchises across more nights while rolling out new drama throughout the season.

The network plans to add four new dramas and three new comedies to its fall lineup while peppering in four other dramas and two comedies as the season unfolded, it said during remarks to reporters to Tuesday morning.

ABC is making an effort to drill more deeply into an area that 's helped the network stand out in the past, according to Paul Lee, president-ABC Entertainment Group: dramas that strike a cultural chord in a large segment of U.S. viewers and programs that draw families to watch TV together. "It's a balance between comfort and escapism," he said.

ABC has had to balance between age and disappointment in the current season, which was developed by Mr. Lee's predecessor, the now-departed ABC entertainment chief Stephen McPherson. Many of ABC's new shows for the 2010-2011 season have not impressed. And several of its best-known shows -- "Grey 's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" -- are mature.

One older member of the network's Sunday-night lineup, "Brothers & Sisters," won't return next season, ABC said today. "It was time," said Mr. Lee. And ABC did not renew a number of its recently launched programs, including "Detroit 1-8-7," "V," "No Ordinary Family," "Better With You," "Mr. Sunshine," "Off the Map," "The Whole Truth" and "My Generation."

The new lineup marks Mr. Lee's first since taking the top entertainment job at the network. Previously, he oversaw entertainment at ABC Family.

ABC's bright spots -- Wednesday-night comedy "Modern Family" and Monday powerhouse "Dancing with the Stars" -- continue. Also returning to the network are "Body of Proof," "The Bachelor," "The Middle," "Private Practice," "Castle," "Cougar Town," "Shark Tank," "America's Funniest Home Videos," "The Bachelor," "Happy Endings," "20/20," "Secret Millionaire" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" -- as well as "Grey 's" and "Housewives."

'Pan Am'
'Pan Am' Credit: ABC

Sundays will feature two new programs and two returning shows. "America's Funniest Home Videos" returns at 7 p.m. and "Desperate Housewives" will run at 9 p.m. "Once Upon A Time ," a new drama that features normal characters encountering a world based on old fairy tales, airs at 8 p.m., while "Pan Am," an ambitious drama that looks at female flight attendants in the 1960s, airs at 10 p.m.

Mondays next season remain the same for ABC, with "Dancing" airing between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. and "Castle" airing at 10 p.m. "The Bachelor" has typically also run on Mondays after "Dancing" ends.

Tuesdays will start off with two new comedies. At 8 p.m., ABC will launch "Last Man Standing," which features the return to ABC of comedian Tim Allen, known for his role in ABC's massive hit "Home Improvement." In the new show, Mr. Allen stars as a macho marketing executive who finds himself being increasingly drawn into a caretaker's role at home. At 8:30 p.m., ABC launches "Man Up," about three guys wondering how to stay "real men" in an increasingly female world. Those shows will be followed by the "Dancing" results show at 9 p.m. and "Body of Proof" at 10 p.m. Mr. Lee suggested "Cougar Town" would fill the 9 p.m. block when "Dancing" ended its season, joined by a new comedy, "Apartment 23," which focuses on an "odd couple" of two female roommates.

Wednesdays will continue to be stocked with comedy. "The Middle" will run at 8 p.m. and "Modern Family" at 9 p.m, with two new comedies running on the half-hours. "Suburgatory," at 8:30, will focus on a single father who moves his active teen daughter out of the city and into the suburbs to keep her from growing up too fast. At 9:30, ABC brings back "Happy Endings," which debuted late this season to some decent reviews.

ABC takes "Revenge" at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays. The new drama stars Madeleine Stowe as a young women eager to destroy a ritzy Hamptons community that once ruined her family and reputation.

'Charlie's Angels'
'Charlie's Angels' Credit: ABC

"Grey 's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" continue in their regular time slots -- 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. -- on Thursdays, but they will be joined by a remake of the always popular "Charlie's Angels," in which a trio of female detectives come together due to the machinations of a mysterious benefactor. The show will be set in Miami.

Fridays and Saturdays will be stocked with returning programs. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," once a Sunday-night favorite, moves to Fridays at 8 p.m. "Shark Tank" airs that evening at 9 p.m, followed by "20/20" at 10 p.m. Saturdays will be devoted to college football in the first part of the season.

Mr. Lee seemed to have more enthusiasm for a series of dramas that may not see the light of day until 2013. He seemed particularly excited about "The River," about a famed explorer gone missing, and the family and crew that sets out to find him. "Missing," featuring actress Ashley Judd, tells the story of a former CIA agent looking for her missing son overseas. Mr. Lee said the program had a 10-episode order at present, however, a sign that ABC may see the show as a one-time event rather than as a permanent addition to the lineup.

Among other mid-season shows planned, "Good Christian Belles" carries on in the vein of "Desperate Housewives," telling the story of a woman who returns home as an adult to find a very high-school atmosphere pervading the town in which she grew up. "Scandal," from the producer behind "Grey 's Anatomy," focuses on the life and work of a professional crisis manager and her dysfunctional staff. A comedy, "Work It," steals a concept from the old Tom Hanks sitcom "Bosom Buddies," telling the story of two men who dress like women in order to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps.

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