Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

upfronts 2010

Modern Family Made ABC Cocky in Comedy: Now the Network Wants to Drama Your Face Off

Detroit 1-8-7

ABC had plenty of success launching new comedies this season, but with the failure of FlashForward and Eastwick, a new hit drama remains elusive. So prepare to be hit with just about every type of one-hour genre show you might imagine next fall as the network gets serious about finding successors to longtime tentpoles Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy (as well as the soon to be dearly departed Lost).

Looking for a gritty-funny police hour? There's Detroit 1-8-7 with Michael Imperioli, which will try to fill the law-enforcement gap ABC's wanted to close since NYPD Blue left the air. But if a live-action version of The Incredibles is what you and your brood hanker for, ABC's got the all-ages appropriate action-adventure No Ordinary Family (starring Michael Chiklis, last seen on ABC as The Commish, and last seen with superpowers as the Thing in 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer). ABC's trademark full-box-of-Kleenex tear-jerker (Brothers and Sisters, thirtysomething) will this year arrive in the form of My Generation, and it's designed to be the first TV hour to make Generation Y (and maybe a few millennials) feel old.

Throw in a Quincy/Crossing Jordan–style medical-crime show (Dana Delany is Dr. Megan Hunt in ABC's Body of Proof!), a Bruckheimer legal procedural (The Whole Truth), and the final chapter in the Shonda Rhimes Medical Trilogy (Off the Map, slated for mid-season), and it suddenly seems like the Alphabet put dream-maker Oprah Winfrey in charge of development this year ("You get a drama! And you get a drama!"). For those keeping score at home, the Alphabet will launch five new one-hour dramas in the fall, which is almost as many original hours as the entire CW lineup.

ABC entertainment chief Steve McPherson told Vulture this morning that "attacking at 10 p.m." and creating new "event television" were two of his key priorities this development season. "Once pilot season was over, we had the material to deliver on those goals."

And yet, while 10 p.m. entries Detroit and The Whole Truth seem solid enough contenders — as well as good follow-ups to Monday success story Castle — McPherson actually seems most psyched about the two new hours he's slotted at 8 p.m.: Tuesday's No Ordinary Family and Thursday's My Generation.

NoFa (as we've just decided to call No Ordinary Family; NBC has really gotten us in the swing of that since calling Law & Order: Los Angeles "LOLA") is a high-concept hour that contains enough sci-fi elements to earn it a slot at Comic-Con, but which McPherson insists really isn't a sci-fi show. "It's a family show, an action-adventure series," he says, adding the series "tested phenomenally well." What NoFa absolutely isn't is the follow-up to Lost. Nothing on ABC's lineup will try to fill that void, McPherson said: "There's never gonna be another Lost. We're looking to do the next thing, and not something derivative of something that's worked before."

My Generation, meanwhile, is based on a cool Swedish show called Blomstertid (On God's Highway) that had us tearing up just with the video for its theme song. The American remake is designed to fit right into the adult-soap niche ABC knows how to fill so well. McPherson says My Generation's premise — the class of 2000 takes stock of its life ten years later — is inspired in part by how social-media sites such as Classmates and Facebook are constantly driving friends from the past to reconnect. "This show comes out of that," he says, predicting ABC's marketing for My Generation will rely heavily on social-media sites.

In addition to event dramas and bolstering 10 p.m. with what McPherson calls "great procedurals with a lot of character," ABC's other big goal next season will be to boost its Wednesday comedy block. It will do that first by shifting The Middle to the lead-off 8 p.m. slot, allowing the network to launch Better Together, a new comedy from long-time Friends show-runner Shana Goldberg-Meehan. It revolves around three related couples and seems like Modern Family without the little kids.

Modern and Cougar Town remain in the 9 p.m. hour, though there'll be changes as the season progresses, McPherson says. He said the network will use Modern as a "launching pad" to bow one of two other comedies the net has ordered: the Matthew Perry show Mr. Sunshine and the Friends-like Happy Endings. That means Cougar Town will likely take a break sometime this fall or winter. McPherson is also promising to once again use Dancing With the Stars as a platform for debuting a new comedy, squeezing in a single show at 9:30 Monday when the show shifts to a 90-minute format later in the fall. "Mr. Sunshine and Happy Endings are shows we're incredibly high on," McPherson said. "They'll launch later this fall. They won't be mid-season shows."

Rhimes's Off the Map will be a mid-season series, however, and it seems likely to take the place of either Private Practice or Brothers and Sisters at some point next season (allowing those shows to air mostly in originals, skipping the increasingly useless rerun airings).

Also coming mid-season: V, which has had an up-and-down history since premiering last November but finally seems to be stabilizing. The delay to mid-season could be a sign ABC feels the show's producers need still more time to completely get the show right.

Some other quick observations about ABC's new schedule:

— The nineties are back! Not only is Detroit 1-8-7 filling the NYPD Blue time slot, but two of ABC's new half-hours (Mr. Sunshine and Happy Endings) are from executive producer Jamie Tarses (who is also producing the just-ordered Franklin and Bash for TBS). Tarses, of course, is the former NBC development chief whose success with shows such as Friends landed her (briefly) at the top of ABC's programming ranks. (True story: Tarses peddles gourmet macaroni and cheese at farmers' markets with her husband on many weekends. We hear it's quite tasty.)

— Any reality fans worried because Shark Tank, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, and Wife Swap aren't on ABC's fall schedule? Don't be: The network is still mulling pickups for at least two of those three shows. We'd bet Oliver is most likely to return.

— If ABC's new Friday reality show Secret Millionaire sounds familiar, that's because it's aired before — on Fox. Fox got great ratings from a holiday run of the show a few years ago, but never made a deal to bring it back. McPherson, however, thinks Millionaire — which has rich folks going undercover to try to help those less fortunate — is particularly well suited to the times. "It really speaks to the gap between the rich and poor," he says. What's more, with Undercover Boss a hit on CBS, it's clear noblesse oblige is now officially a TV Trend to Watch.

Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC