Network Upfronts by John Keegan

2013 Network Upfronts: ABC

2013 Network Upfronts: ABC

It’s no secret that ABC has been trying to find a way to regain the prominence that came with Lost, and has met with limited success.  This might be the season when they have another such hit on their hands.  Everyone knows that they have picked up Agents of SHIELD, the television tie-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, by virtue of their connection to Disney.  And of course, Once Upon a Time is a thinly-veiled riff on familiar Disney archetypes.  But is that all they have in their favor in the 2013-2014 season?



8-10PM “Dancing with the Stars” (Returning)
Almost as if they are colluding with NBC to make Monday a huge reality block, ABC has put Dancing with the Stars at the top of the order for a while now.  If nothing else, it makes jumping over to Syfy’s Monday night programming a lot more attractive, and opens  the door to FOX as well.

10-11PM “Castle” (Returning)
Another staple of the ABC Monday night lineup, Castle continues to roll, which makes fans of Nathan Fillion happy, if nothing else!  I’m not a regular viewer of the show, as it’s not my cup of narrative tea, but it does have its devoted fans.


8-9PM “Agents of SHIELD” (NEW)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is killing box office records left and right.  If this show doesn’t have a massive initial viewership, I’ll be floored.  And with Joss Whedon and his hand-picked producers in charge, this could hit the ground running and never look back.  Easily at the very top of my most-anticipated for the fall!

9-9:30PM “The Goldbergs” (NEW)
Of course, the problem for ABC is that there’s little else on the schedule to put as a logical follow-up.  This is a comedy set in the 80s, brought to us by Adam Sandler’s production company.  If it can tap into the same quirky level of humor that Whedon is likely to bring to Agents of SHIELD, then this might be a wise combo.  But I have my doubts.

9:30-10PM “Trophy Wife” (NEW)
Despite the familiar sitcom trappings, I actually find this intriguing, if only because of the cast.  Bradley Whitford normally hits it right out of the park.  I might give it a chance at some point, but in first run, it will have stiff competition from The New Girl.

10-11PM “Lucky 7” (NEW)
And here we are with the high-concept series.  A group of 7 people in an office lottery pool hit it big, and the series will follow their stories in the aftermath.  I have a hard time generating any interest in this, even with Spielberg as a producer.  A lot of the shows he’s backed in recent years have been underwhelming, to say the least.


8-8:30PM “The Middle” (Returning)
I know next to nothing about the full ABC sitcom lineup, so I can’t speak to this show at all.  But I’m sure fans are pleased to know that it is returning.

8:30-9PM “Back in the Game” (NEW)
A sitcom about a former softball talent that gets roped into coaching a local team while living with her famous dad.  Not my thing, and even more so when the cast includes one of my least favorite cast members from the British version of Being Human.  Next!

9-9:30PM “Modern Family” (Returning)
Even the best comedies have a certain half-life, and I’m beginning to think that Modern Family is rapidly approaching its own point of irreparable decline.  For now, though, I’m still enjoying it quite a bit.

9:30-10PM “Super Fun Night” (NEW)
No, it’s not an American version of a Japanese game show, so that’s one strike right there.  I know some people love Rebel Wilson, but even though I liked her enough in Pitch Perfect, I have no desire to watch a sitcom built around her.

10-11PM “Nashville” (Returning)
I don’t care if Hayden Panettiere looks super-hot in those promos and ads.  Two things stand against this show for me, right from the start.  One, it’s a soap opera, and doesn’t pretend to be otherwise, and two, it’s soaked in country music.  Let’s just say the second one far outweighs everything else, and leave it at that!


8-9PM “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” (NEW)
I find this a bit confusing.  My understanding was that Once Upon a Time’s split season would mean that this spinoff would air in its place during the hiatus period, thus creating a roughly continuous Sunday night presence for the franchise.  That’s apparently not the case, which suggests that the original short-season intent for this series has taken on a longer view.  With the quality of writing for Once Upon a Time taking a lot of hits this past season, with an erosion of ratings over the same period, I question if doubling down on the franchise is the wisest move.

9-10PM “Grey’s Anatomy” (Returning)
The spinoff may have ended, but the original remains strong on the schedule.  This one is getting the split-season treatment, like so many shows on the networks these days, which has also become an odd vote of confidence on the part of the networks.  For better or worse, that’s how programming is done these days.

10-11PM “Scandal” (Returning)
Much like Grey’s Anatomy, I know practically nothing about this show, and I’m perfectly happy to live with that ignorance.  But the show does have its fans, so I’m happy that they get more of what they enjoy.  I suspect I’ll be paying attention to CBS and CW on this night, anyway!


8-8:30PM “Last Man Standing” (Returning)
It’s not a good sign when I see the title of a returning show and assume it’s new, because I’ve literally never heard of it.  It’s apparently a Tim Allen sitcom, which probably explains my ignorance.

8:30-9PM “The Neighbors” (Returning)
The same applies to this sitcom, which is apparently the one about a secret community of space aliens hiding in New Jersey.  As if those of us in New Jersey would even recognize the difference.

9-10PM “Shark Tank” (Returning)
Some kind of business-based reality show.  It’s probably obvious that I don’t pay any attention to ABC on Friday nights, and haven’t for quite some time…

10-11PM “20/20” (Returning)
I will admit, though, to tuning in to this occasionally, whenever they are featuring something I find intriguing.  Granted, it’s not very often at all, but at least I’ve heard of 20/20!


8-9PM “Once Upon a Time” (Returning)
This show is just barely keeping its head above the water, from a narrative point of view, to justify interest in where the story might be going.  I still don’t understand the notion of a full-fledged spinoff (a limited series sounded like a reasonable alternative), and I’m wary that all the potential of the second season finale will be squandered shortly after the third season starts.  But there’s just enough here to bring me back, especially since the cable networks don’t really bring out the big guns until the next hour!

9-10PM “Revenge” (Returning)
This show is ridiculously popular among its fans, but I’ve never really been able to get into it.  But as I just mentioned above, this is when the cable networks typically run their best material, so I wouldn’t be tuning in to ABC, anyway.

10-11PM “Betrayal” (NEW)
Seeing this title, I thought perhaps this was a spinoff of Revenge, but apparently not.  It sounds a lot more like a standard soap opera, perhaps designed to use Revenge as a lead-in, just as scheduled.  It has some interesting names on the cast, but not enough to overcome my apathy towards the subject matter.


“Killer Women” (Unscheduled)
A period drama about Texas Rangers starring Tricia Helfer and with a ton of other familiar genre names attached.  On the one hand, I’m not much for this sort of show.  On the other hand, that is one intriguing cast list!

“Mind Games” (Unscheduled)
Christian Slater wants to have a hit high-concept series more than anything, it seems, because I swear he gives it a go each and every year.  This one is about solving crimes involving psychological manipulation.  This one is from Kyle Killen, too, and his shows tend to be critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged.

“Resurrection” (Unscheduled)
This one is a strange egg.  A boy wakes up in a field, and appears to be the resurrected son of a couple, who lost that son decades earlier.  And apparently he’s not the only one who is supposed to return.  Not quite a zombie thriller, this could go in a lot of really terrible directions.

“Mixology” (Unscheduled)
A sitcom about assorted singles who frequent a high-end Manhattan bar.  Hard to imagine this didn’t get an instant pickup.

“The Quest” (Unscheduled)
OK, fellow geeks, get ready to hear this one.  Imagine if The Amazing Race took place in a mocked-up version of some generic MMO; that’s essentially what this show is.  And it’s not running on Syfy, as one would logically expect.  I have no idea how this is going to work without the general public mocking every little thing about it, since it’s basically Competitive LARPing.  I may have to check this out, just to be ready for the inevitable snark.

“Suburgatory” (Unscheduled)
Fans will be happy to know that the show has survived, but it doesn’t show up in a timeslot yet, so it’s anyone’s guess where it will end up.  It has some good cast members and Jane Levy is gorgeous, so I don’t mind.

“The Taste” (Unscheduled)
This is apparently a returning reality cooking competition show, which news to me.


I know a few people who liked Happy Endings, but it was canceled, which isn’t much of a shock, when the ratings are taken into account.  Most of the other canceled shows were non-starters, with the writing on the wall fairly early into their runs.


ABC has a potential instant-hit on their hands with Agents of SHIELD, and it’s clear that they intend to capitalize on Once Upon a Time for as long as possible, while the ratings are still better than a lot of other network offerings.  But a lot of their other shows are mostly appealing to their specific audiences, and comedies tend to be very hit or miss.  All that said, ABC may have the most diverse schedule out there.

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Network Upfronts by - 5/14/2013 4:23 PM465 views


5/15/2013 10:41 AM

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Not even gonna lie. I love game shows, I love trashy reality shows, and I love MMOs. I am SO HERE for The Quest. Has this show already taped does anyone know? If I can apply to be a contstant I am so there.
5/15/2013 12:22 PM

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I'm guessing from the general lack of promo material that it might not have filmed yet, but I'm sure there's a website for it on the network site already...;)
5/15/2013 1:31 PM

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Rob, you just need to go on Big Brother already! I want to see you in that house so bad, and I know you would get on the show.
5/14/2013 8:56 PM

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Yeah, the most appealing of all the shows of the networks so far is Agents of SHIELD. Like you said, I will be surprised if it doesn't get high ratings.

As for other abc shows, I am a fan of Modern Family and The Middle. Really funny shows.
5/15/2013 9:03 AM

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Yeah, I don't see how SHIELD can fail either, and its not even that our viewpoint is skewed just because we're in the target demographic. It actually looks really good.
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