Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ABC: Everything old is gone again

ABC released its fall schedule today with one big surprise, and one complete non-surprise.

The surprise: ABC's most popular show, Grey's Anatomy, is moving to Thursdays at 9 p.m. to compete head-to-head again television's highest-rated drama, CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and NBC's most talked-about new series, Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. That's a strategy that will either succeed gloriously, or blow up in ABC's face. As my former chorus director used to say, choice number two is always right.

The non-surprise: All of the shows ABC debuted last season have been scrapped. There was a good reason why I dubbed ABC's Fall 2005 schedule "Already Been Canceled."

That means, of course, that ABC has space for a boatload of new product this fall. I'll leave it to you to decide whether any of these sound remotely promising:
  • Help Me Help You. Ted Danson and his toupee play a self-help guru who can't get his own life together. Danson is one of those TV personalities whose appeal escapes me entirely. People must like him, though, because he keeps getting work.

  • Men in Trees. Here's stunt casting for you: Anne Heche stars as a relationship counselor in Alaska. Yeah, I want Anne Heche giving me relationship advice. Umm...no.

  • Day Break. Apparently this is one of those "high-concept" shows: I've heard it described as The Fugitive meets Groundhog Day. I'm not sure what that will look like, but Taye Diggs stars in it, so those of you who admire inhumanly attractive men will at least have one reason to tune in.

  • Brothers and Sisters. A family drama featuring Calista Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths. I'm thinking that family dinners will not play a large role in the storyline.

  • The Nine. No, it's not about a baseball team from Mudville. (By the way, did you know that the "Mudville" in the familiar poem "Casey at the Bat" is Stockton, California? Just one of those little factoids that keeps you coming here.) It's a drama about a group of people who shared the experience of being hostages during a bank robbery.

  • Let's Rob.... In case the previously mentioned show doesn't quite fulfill your appetite for larceny, this comedy stars Donal Logue (if you've never seen him in the film The Tao of Steve, by all means rent it) as the leader of a band of thieves who target celebrities. Mick Jagger, one of the show's executive producers, is slated to be their first victim. Logue is a terrific actor, and the premise is certainly novel, but as we all know, I don't do sitcoms.

  • Betty the Ugly. I'm not 100 percent certain, but I believe this may be the first network television series to use the word "ugly" in its title. It's about a plain-looking, plus-sized woman who becomes a fashion model. Imagine you're an actress, and this is the job your agent lands for you. Are you happy to get the work, or crushed that someone thought you'd be perfect for the title role? (The actress in question is America Ferrera from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, whom I actually think is rather cute. Go figure.)
ABC remains the home of exploitative reality-based claptrap like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (isn't this show long overdue for retitling, given that the original Extreme Makeover left the airwaves a couple of years ago?), American Inventor, and Dancing with the Stars. That, and lousy ratings.


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