Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ABC Fall 2007 : My Hopes & Predictions

This week I'm making my hopes and predictions for the fall public for all to know. Not that anyone would want to. I'm going through and making educated guesses about which shows will be on the primetime schedules come the fall. Be it returning shows or pilots currently in development.

Be warned: I'm an expert only insofar as a self-proclaimed couch-potato can be an expert. I watch a lot of network TV and so here is how I think the fall will go down for ABC. Back away, Stephen McPherson, back away slowly.

08.00 : Wife Swap
09.00 : The Bachelor
10.00 : Eli Stone *new series*

Let Me Explain My Monday
I don't like Wife Swap, I don't watch Wife Swap. But whatever, I'll leave it. It's one of those reality shows that, rather inexplicably, people do watch. Same goes for The Bachelor. I'll keep it and let it lead into a new show.

That new show will be Eli Stone, a drama centering around a cutthroat corporate lawyer who begins having visions that turn his world upside down. The show combines spirituality and fantasy with quirky humor and sincere passion. The network even goes so far as to compare the show to a hybrid of The Ghost Whisperer, Monk and The Practice, the latter of which is the only one I've ever watched/liked. Regardless, it sounds like an interesting premise and I like the folks behind it.

The creators are Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim. (I never watched Everwood but I've only heard good things about it.) The director is Ken Olin, who directed many of my favorite episodes of Alias. I'm also a fan of members of the cast: Johnny Lee Miller plays the title character and Loretta Devine, Natasha Henstridge and Victor Garber (ABC's Alias) are some of the other names I recognize. Garber is a favorite of mine from his days as Jack Bristow.

08.00 : George Lopez
08.30 : The Thick Of It *new series*
09.00 : October Road *new night & time*
10.00 : Boston Legal

Let Me Explain My Tuesday
Never watched George Lopez, probably never will, but I understand its ratings are decent and that's that. I'm also keeping October Road, just on a new night. I watched the premiere last month and while I wasn't impressed or anything, it wasn't that bad.

Now the fun part. The Thick Of It is another BBC adaptation. But unlike NBC"s Coupling and other such catastrophes, this one was written by none other than Mitchell Hurwitz. If you never saw FOX's Arrested Development, do yourself a favor and check out the DVDs. There are three seasons worth and hardly a moment will pass that doesn't leave you laughing so hard it hurts. (Not an oversell, try me.)

I'm starting to ramble again. The Thick Of It is a single-camera comedy that follows a barely-elected, inept Congressman and the rather ridiculous inner-workings of the U.S. government. Without having seen it, I'm thinking Arrested Development (naturally) with a little The West Wing mixed in there. I'm looking forward to it. Directed by Christopher Guest, the cast features John Michael Higgins, Alex Borstein, Wayne Wilderson (recently on NBC's The Office) and one of my favorites, Oliver Platt (I enjoyed him on Showtime's Huff).

Boston Legal will keep its timeslot. I'm a fan of a lot of what David E. Kelley produces and this show knocks it out of the park most weeks. When it began, I was a devoted fan, but along the way I've missed episodes here and there. I have the first two seasons on DVD and will have the third when it's available.

08.00 : Cavemen *new series*
08.30 : The News *new series*
09.00 : Private Practice *new series*
10.00 : Dirty Sexy Money *new series*

Let Me Explain My Wednesday
You don't have to tell me it's a risky move to design an entire night of brand new shows, but here's why I think it could work. Two of the four shows won't be completely unfamiliar to viewers. To start, anyone who watches a normal amount of television has seen Geico's cavemen ad series at least once. They're hilarious. I'm a little skeptical as to whether the premise warrants a series, but I'm starting the night out with Cavemen nonetheless.

The News is another example of a powerful creative force. Ric Swartzlander wrote it and Marc Buckland directed it. Ever watched NBC's My Name Is Earl? Not sure I need to say more. The show delves into the "ego-ridden, hyped-up world of local TV news" and features a cast comprised of, among others, Barry Bostwick, Jay Harrington and Rachel Boston.

I think it's a fair guess that good percentage of the people who watch Grey's Anatomy will at least give Private Practice a shot so I'm betting on it being strong enough to anchor the night. For those who haven't heard, the spin-off will follow Kate Walsh's Addison to a new town and includes co-stars such as Taye Diggs, Merrin Dungey, Tim Daly and Amy Brenneman, to name a few. I and many others will be surprised if ABC passes on this potential gem of a series.

Lastly, Dirty Sexy Money is a drama that comes from the aforementioned Greg Berlanti and director Peter Horton. The show follows the exploits of a rich, spoiled, powerful family from the Upper East Side of New York City. Think: the Kennedys. Donald Sutherland, Peter Krause, Samaire Armstrong and William Baldwin make up a part of the impressive cast. And dude, the family's name: the Darlings. Seriously. We'll see how it goes with this one. You never know.

08.00 : Ugly Betty
09.00 : Grey's Anatomy
10.00 : Football Wives *new series*

Let Me Explain My Thursday
What is there to say about Thursday? I don't like Ugly Betty and I don't understand how it wasn't the first show canceled last season, but it lasted and even managed to hold on to a coveted Thursday night slot. So who am I to cancel it?

Grey's Anatomy is an obvious choice to leave well enough alone. It might also be worth mentioning that I watched the first season and a little bit of the second. I plan to catch up on DVD as time goes by. I've liked what I've seen.

And then there's the second in a trio of British adaptations to round out the night. Football Wives chronicles the lives of three women and their husbands who are teammates on a fictional NFL team in Orlando. Here's the rub, though: the only members of the crew I recognize I last saw as producers on North Shore. So it should go without saying that I'm not really holding my breath. But the premise is just the sort of thing that might hit it big with the audience. That and the cast: James Van Der Beek, Eddie Cibrian, Ving Rhames, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Lawless and Kiele Sanchez (recently on Lost).

08.00 : Supernanny *new night & time*
09.00 : Men In Trees
10.00 : 20/20

Let Me Explain My Friday
Like I've said, Friday has typically been a throw-away night when it comes to network television. Ergo, Supernanny to open the evening. Don't watch, don't care to. You've heard it all before. Reality shows are cheap to produce and networks have 22 hours per week to fill with programming.

I saw the first episode of Men In Trees and it was funny and quirky like Ed, but I guess it didn't have whatever Ed did to really hold me as a viewer. But it's not a bad show and ABC already renewed so there it is. On the schedule. We'll polish off the night with some good ol' 20/20.

08.00 : Saturday Night College Football

Let Me Explain My Saturday
As if Friday night wasn't bad enough. I don't know what else to fill the night with aside from movies, so Saturday Night College Football works for me.

07.00 : America's Funniest Home Videos
08.00 : Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
09.00 : Desperate Housewives
10.00 : Brothers & Sisters

Let Me Explain My Sunday
America's Funniest Home Videos is an hilarious ABC staple and will be for years to come. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is stupid and pointless and will be for years to come. I haven't watched Desperate Housewives since the first season but the network already picked it up. I saw the premiere of Brothers & Sisters and was unimpressed but I've since heard they've made leaps and bounds in quality so I'd like to catch up and give it another try.

As always, you need a handful of shows that can step in and serve as a replacement when one of your new shows does a swirly. I'm keeping Dancing With The Stars (not sure why) and Primetime (soft news makes for great filler).

In addition, I'm obviously keeping Lost (since ABC already picked it up) for a fourth season. Hands down my favorite show on television. I love it and I always have. I read somewhere (accuracy as ever) that ABC is giving the producers what they want, a true midseason premiere, a la FOX's 24. It will give the show a continuous, uninterrupted run and not annoy the fans who are impatient when it comes to waiting for a new episode. As for Lost's timeslot placement, I'd either give Dirty Sexy Money a limited run until January or else wait until somebody crashes and burns.

That being said, there are quite a few new shows I'm going to put up for midseason. It might be more than a little ambitious especially when you consider that a show that was announced by ABC last May won't be premiering until almost June of this year (that is, Traveler, which I am looking forward to seeing).

Okay, enough whining already. Life On Mars is that third BBC series being converted for American TV by the American Broadcasting Company. The show gets its title from the David Bowie song of the same name and is about a detective who wakes up 30 years in the past (remember Journeyman on NBC?). He has to solve crimes without the aide of present-day tools and equipment and so forth. But more importantly, there's a girl he likes and needs save from imminent death. Can he?

Now here's the hook: David E. Kelley wrote the pilot. The reason it's not on the fall schedule, though, is that ABC pushed it back while they seek out a new lead actor. With the talent pool diminishing during pilot season, it's been difficult for the producers to nail down the right fella. Better to improve quality and premiere late than rush to premiere and ignore quality. Anyway, I watched the first few installments of the original British version on BBC America and enjoyed it very much. I'm looking forward to DEK's version.

Another show I'm saving for later is The Call. It's a single-camera comedy about a paramedics riding around in an ambulance all day. The show comes from the producers of Kitchen Confidential and 24, and naturally, takes place in real time. ABC describes it as an "hilarious, high octane thrill ride." I'll keep my eyes peeled.

One show I'm on the fence about but still interested in seeing make the schedule is TV version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Obviously Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have been recast. Go figure. Jordana Brewster and Martin Henderson will be filling the title roles and if for no other reason than the premise (husband and wife spies don't know each other's true identities) and to see Doug Liman do something on television other than The O.C. and Heist.

All right now, there's just one more. I'm interested in Perfect Gentlemen (formerly titled Bedrooms & Boardrooms) solely for the cast, since the writer, Jon Harmon Feldman, last wrote Reunion for FOX. Not impressive. That show was a good idea but poorly executed. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt this time, however, considering the talent he's cobbled together. There's Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, Joshua Malina, Nia Long, Paige Turco and Michael Vartan. Tell me that's not a brilliant group of actors. The show is basically about the blurred line between the boardroom and the bedroom and follows the travails of four CEOs who will do anything to stay on top.

ABC already put the ax to Six Degrees and Day Break. I believe I'll take the liberty of adding The Nine, According To Jim, Big Day, The Knights Of Prosperity, In Case Of Emergency, Help Me Help You and What About Brian to that list. I hope I'm not going overboard though. I just figured ABC's probably going to do it anyway so I'll beat them to the punch.

So there, that was my run at playing the ABC Entertainment President. McPherson, you can have the job back now. I look forward to seeing your selection next month, as well.

Just briefly now, you may notice that I went without mentioning Traveler in my schedule. Since it has yet to premiere, I can hardly make a ruling on it one way or another for the fall. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

It's weird how few half-hour comedy series ABC has had in the last couple years. Last year's fall schedule listed only one (and it's been canceled). I added a few and got rid of a few. But you know, you can do comedy in an hourlong format too. Just ask Boston Legal and Desperate Housewives. Sometimes it's even more effective that way.

I know you didn't ask, but my ABC shows are Lost, Boston Legal, October Road

Stephen McPherson announces the official ABC fall schedule on Tuesday, May 15.

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