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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Upfronts 2015: ABC resists change (except for its totally changed meta Muppets)

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ABC trails NBC and CBS in the ratings race, but that’s no reason to panic, is it? ABC’s television head Paul Lee certainly doesn’t seem to think so. At ABC’s upfront presentation, Lee unveiled a 2015-2016 programming grid that reeks of confidence. While ABC swiped right for 10 new shows (six dramas and four comedies), only half earned spots on the fall schedule, which only reshuffled three nights.


Despite ABC’s ratings position, its fall schedule makes it the most stable network of the Big Three, with a slate solid enough to give the network the luxury of passing on the Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off, once considered a lock. The network recently axed three of its dramas (Forever, Revenge, and Resurrection), as well as freshman comedy Cristela, but ABC’s round of cancellations didn’t look like the orgy of production-halting violence going on in its competitors’ schedules. (It helps that ABC isn’t bashful about yanking underperforming shows sooner rather than later, so its cancellation of newbie comedies Selfie and Manhattan Love Story seems like ages ago.)

Lee would have been a fool to tinker with Mondays (Dancing With The Stars and Castle) or the all-Shonda Rhimes Thursday line-up. Wednesday’s comedy block is as strong as it’s ever been. Meanwhile, Nashville, Wednesday’s 10 p.m. drama anchor, does dismal numbers, but ABC gets generous tax incentives from Music City, and holding the show over for a fourth season opens lucrative syndication possibilities. (The network reportedly applied the same logic when it granted Revenge its just-wrapped fourth and final season.)

With Revenge and Resurrection out of commission, ABC is again stuck patching up its Sunday night, which has been a consistent troublemaker since Desperate Housewives ended in 2012, leaving a void the network hasn’t successfully filled for more than a season. So it comes as no surprise the network used new dramas Oil and Of Kings And Prophets to beef up Sundays, while the third drama, Quantico, will follow S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesdays. The two other fall additions are sitcoms: Friday’s Dr. Ken, starring Community’s Ken Jeong, and Tuesday’s The Muppets, a mockumentary reimagining of The Muppet Show.

Here’s a night-by-night breakdown of ABC’s fall line-up, with trailers for the new shows (in bold):


8 p.m.: Dancing With The Stars
10 p.m.: Castle

8 p.m.: The Muppets
8:30 p.m.: Fresh Off The Boat
9 p.m.: Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10 p.m.: Quantico

Nostalgia demands a healthy suspicion towards ABC’s new spin on the Muppets, which was developed by The Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady. But of its fall offerings, Lee seemed the most excited about this one, a Muppet mockumentary he compared to 30 Rock, with Miss Piggy as the Jenna Maroney of the bunch.

Quantico has been described as “Grey’s Anatomy meets Homeland,” which goes a long way toward explaining why it looks like Grey’s Anatomy meets Homeland. Priyanka Chopra stars as Alex, an FBI recruit who has to determine which member of her sexy cohort helped orchestrate a terrorist attack. If it’s anything like the shows to inspire it, all of its characters will be dead by the end of season one.


8 p.m.: The Middle
8:30 p.m.: The Goldbergs
9 p.m.: Modern Family
9:30 p.m.: Black-ish
10 p.m.: Nashville


8 p.m.: Grey’s Anatomy
9 p.m.: Scandal
10 p.m.: How To Get Away With Murder

8 p.m.: Last Man Standing
8:30 p.m.: Dr. Ken
9 p.m.: Shark Tank
10 p.m.: 20/20


Dr. Ken is another show that looks pretty much on screen the way it does on paper. Ken Jeong is a doctor who dispenses cutting insults to his patients, much to the chagrin of his supervisor, played by Dave Foley. The trailer isn’t promising, but Jeong built a career on doing a lot with a little. Besides, Trophy Wife’s Albert Tsai co-stars, and it’s hard to complain about a show that brings BERT! back to the screen.


8 p.m.: Saturday Night Football

7 p.m.: America’s Funniest Home Videos
8 p.m.: Once Upon A Time
9 p.m.: Oil
10 p.m.: Of Kings And Prophets


Oil, ABC’s latest Sunday night soap, stars Don Johnson and Chace Crawford as prospectors hoping to cash in on an oil boom in Williston, North Dakota. In other words, it’s like Dallas, but Williston is not a very good name for a television show. Delroy Lindo and Amber Valetta co-star.

The second of Sunday’s debut drama two-fer is unlike anything the network has put into the 10 p.m. time slot in years. Of Kings And Prophets joins television’s historical epic craze, with Ray Winstone as Saul, the king of Israel. NBC fared poorly with its Biblical drama, A.D.: The Bible Continues, but Prophets looks heavier on sex and violence, which may draw a male audience to the female-skewing network.

Midseason shows (Not yet scheduled)

The Catch

The Family

The Real O’Neals

Uncle Buck

Wicked City