Paul Lee, President of ABC’s Entertainment Group, is extremely optimistic, like ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ optimistic. Some of his positive comments about the new season have merit. He says they’re looking for more diverse voices, not just actors but writers and producers, and that’s true. ABC has three new comedies, Cristela, Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat that feature Hispanic, African-American and Asian families respectively. Lee also feels that ABC has a vast selection of choices, which is also true – ABC has six new fall shows and five scheduled for midseason. Lee described several shows as looking like “big swings.” That’s his opinion, but I don’t see anything groundbreaking. Sure, Galavantis as different a concept as ever there was, but groundbreaking? American Crime was created using a new tactic, approaching a writer who is hot and offering him a little more freedom than usual. But even that’s not groundbreaking as the opinion I heard most about this show is that it would have been better on cable (aka — more freedom but not enough). I can understand Lee’s enthusiasm as their offerings in the past several years have been “meh” and this year they actually have a few that my colleagues and I didn’t find completely forgettable. Go ABC!
Regarding the line-up, here’s what didn’t change. Saturday night remains College Football. Sunday remains America’s Funniest Home Videos, Once Upon a Time, Resurrection and Revenge. And Monday remains Dancing with the Stars and Castle. The fun starts on Tuesday where ABC is starting the night off with two new comedies — Selfie and Manhattan Love Story. Paul Lee swears that The Goldbergs built itself with no help from the lead-in last season. I’m not sure that’s relevant, but that was his defense of anchoring the night with new programming. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D moves to 9PM Tuesday, leading in to the new drama Forever to cap off the night. Wednesday starts off with The Middle, followed by The Goldbergs, Modern Family and the new comedy Black-ish. The night ends with Nashville. Thursday night is Shonda Rhimes night! Shonda’s Grey’s Anatomy at 8PM, Shonda’s Scandal at 9PM and the newest Shonda: How to Get Away with Murder at 10PM. Critics question this but I think if you have two proven shows, why not add a third? Look at CBS with the CSI and NCIS franchises… works for them! Finally on Friday, we have Last Man Standing leading into Cristela, then Shark Tank and 20/20.
ABC New Shows
SELFIE, Tuesday 8-8:30PM, Comedy So much importance today is put on how many likes you get, the number of followers you have and how often you are retweeted. What happens when you’ve gone too far and forgotten how to make friends and communicate in person? In this present-day My Fair Lady comedy, it happens to Eliza, who of course goes to Henry for help reinventing herself. COMMENTS: I guess you’re supposed to initially dislike the character that needs to be transformed but Eliza is so dislikable that while discussing her, everyone in the room had the “I smell something nasty” face on. If there’s a way to save Selfie (other than changing the name), it would be to see more of John Cho, who plays an excellent Henry. You also get the feeling that ABC isn’t putting too much stock in Selfie, letting it hang out there at 8PM with no lead-in support.
MANHATTAN LOVE STORY, Tuesday 8:30-9PM, Comedy Dana (Analeigh Tipton from Crazy Stupid Love) moves to NYC from Atlanta to start her publishing career. She meets Peter and as they begin their romance, we are treated to all the thoughts they aren’t saying aloud. COMMENTS: This is a cute romantic comedy with a variety of characters that are all likeable. However, Manhattan Love Story, while entertaining, is totally forgettable. According to the ABC blurbs, they are counting on the internal monologue to make this show stand out, but these monologues are not the forefront of the show.
FOREVER, Tuesday 10-11PM, Drama Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) comes to TV in this mystery drama with Judd Hirsch. Gruffudd plays Henry, a 200-year-old man who isn’t aging and can’t stay dead. Currently a medical examiner in New York City, Henry has spent his 200 years trying to understand everything about dying, death and the human body. Consequently, Henry is almost super-humanly observant, which comes in handy as his new love interest is a police detective and calls on him for help. Hirsch plays Henry’s friend and the only person who knows his secret. COMMENTS: I believe that viewers love anything resembling a police procedural and it needs obvious flaws to fail. All I see are positives. Forever seems to have taken the best parts from all our favorite procedurals and rolled them into one: CSI’s in-depth science, Elementary’s observation-based deduction (and cool British accent), House’s slightly broken main character, Castle’s love story. However, there may be bits of too many shows and being up against Person of Interest is a problem.
BLACK-ISH, Wednesday 9:30-10PM, Comedy This witty family comedy revolves around the Johnson family whose patriarch, Andre (Anthony Anderson), is struggling with “staying black” and questioning what’s really important in raising his kids and being happy. The cast includes Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends) and Laurence Fishburne. COMMENTS: We talk a lot about the world of DVRs where lead-in and lead-out don’t matter, but you cannot dismiss the cushiness of coming out of Modern Family. In fact, if you squint, you can see that ABC has filled the Wednesday night line-up with comedies that are based on families — sort of. If that’s ABC’s tactic, good luck. In any case, Black-ish should find a home on ABC — it’s charming, smart and thoroughly likeable.
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, Thursday 10-11PM, Drama How to get away with murder is what criminal defense lawyer and professor Annalise Keating teaches law students at Middleton University. Keating is an intense, arrogant woman who expects everyone in her life, students included, to toe the line. She will win her case, and teach her students to do the same, no matter what the cost. How far will these ambitious students go? COMMENTS: Sorry to bring up the lead-out story, but this is also a compelling one — ABC has smartly taken the obvious route and placed HTGAWM (I made that up) after Shonda Rhimes’ award winning Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. Rhimes now writes and/or produces all of ABC’s Thursday night. Even without the perfectly matched lead-ins, this program would likely be a hit; it is filled with risqué, sexy characters and plots that unravel in shocking sequence.
CRISTELA, Friday 8:30-9PM, Comedy Cristela is a new family comedy about a young woman trying to fulfill her long-time goal of becoming a successful lawyer. Her family loves her but they cannot truly understand the sky-high goal, especially when she’s been pursuing it for so long with ‘nothing to show for it.’ COMMENTS: I found this to be a really funny, loving, happy program. The show touches on some serious issues but always with humor that is perfectly delivered by Cristela Alonzo. Appropriately paired with Last Man Standing, Friday night on ABC is where viewers expect to find wholesome, easy television like this.
ABC Mid-Season Replacements
THE WHISPERS The Whispers is a hair-raising show about children who are being manipulated by unseen forces. The reason is unclear at first but surely no good can come from the creepy invisible best friend.
SECRETS AND LIES Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis star in this crime mystery. Phillippe’s character is suspected of murdering his neighbor’s child while Lewis plays the detective hell-bent on proving it was him.
GALAVANT I’ll tell you about Galavant but you won’t believe me! Galavant is a musical comedy with a King Arthur/fairy tale twist. Yep. Sorry to be disrespectful to ABC and the highly regarded Alan Menken and Glenn Slater but if this makes it to air, I predict it will be canceled during the first commercial break.
FRESH OFF THE BOAT This “period piece” is set in Orlando in the 1990’s where a family goes after leaving all that is familiar back in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. They want to prove they too can have the American Dream. Fresh Off The Boat is a very irreverent look at their struggles.
AMERICAN CRIME This intense and dark crime thriller shows Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton at their best as parents of a murdered man, struggling and pushing their way through a racially charged investigation and trial. American Crime comes from John Ridley, the writer of 12 Years a Slave. According to Paul Lee, ABC went to Ridley, among other writers considered today’s top storytellers, and asked to see his “passion project” and let him create it “without handcuffs.”