Our resident script reader Jean-Maxime Renault has read the pilot scripts for almost all of this year's series pickups heading into upfront week. For his detailed thoughts on all of the year's contenders, be sure to check out his pilot script reviews.
ABC's has two priorities this year: to launch new dramas that resonate with the audience (especially in the 18-49 demo), and to lure back women to the network. That can't happen if they don't shake things up in a schedule that's been conservative for a long time now, and which only offered 10pm slots for new entries. All of which is to say they're going to have to take more risks this year, and that's what's exactly what my fantasy schedule proposes.
Here’s the score card to date...
GREY'S ANATOMY | MODERN FAMILY | AGENTS OF SHIELD | HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER | THE GOLBERGS | FRESH OFF THE BOAT | BLACK-ISH | AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE | THE GOOD DOCTOR | A MILLION LITTLE THINGS | THE ROOKIE | THE CONNERS | SINGLE PARENTS | BLESS THIS MESS | SCHOOLED
STUMPTOWN | FOR LIFE | THE BAKER AND THE BEAUTY | EMERGENCE | MIXED-ISH | UNITED WE FALL
FOR THE PEOPLE | THE FIX | SPEECHLESS | SPLITTING UP TOGETHER | WHISKEY CAVALIER | THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
TO BE DETERMINED
NYPD BLUE | TRIANGLE
....and here's how ABC's fall schedule would look if I was programming it:
No more Dancing With the Stars on Monday? Yep. See Sunday's comments section below for more. Opening Monday nights up to dramas should start by moving medical hit The Good Doctor to an earlier timeslot, where it should get back a portion of the viewers it lost during its second season and hopefully catch up with people who didn't watch it live because of its later start. It would also provide a strong launchpad to two new series back to back. Stumptown and For Life are clearly the frontrunners for fall slots and their semi-serialized nature seems like they'd fit well with The Good Doctor. That way, the night would consist of medical drama followed by a detective drama, followed by a legal drama. A full meal deal! The Bachelor would then come back midseason, potentially alongside romantic dramedy The Baker and the Beauty, for 10 consecutive weeks until mid march, and then the dramas would come back for the reminder of the seasons, as The Good Doctor, Stumptown and For Life would be limited to 18 episodes per year.
Last year, ABC couldn't find a good multicamera comedy to pair with The Conners. This time, they picked up United We Fall so they'd better give it the slot, even if it means benching American Housewife, which could comeback midseason and take over for The Conners again, as the second season of the #1 comedy may only consist of 11 episodes. In the meantime, ABC should look for stability in the 9pm and 10pm slots. The ratings were not great this spring, but Bless This Mess did a better job than expected and The Rookie is doing a better job than anything else in the slot for years -- perhaps since the end of NYPD Blue. Speaking of which, if ABC picks the <i>NYPD Blue</i> reboot up for midseason after all, it could still get its iconic slot back, assuming The Rookie is not a full season again.
There are plenty of possible pairings when it comes to ABC comedies, and common sense would dictate pairing Mixed-ish with Black-ish and keeping Schooled with The Goldbergs. Still, something else could be tried: pairing them thematically! Both The Goldbergs and Mixed-ish are set in the 80s -- wouldn't it be fun to have a back-to-the-80s hour? Plus, Mixed-ish seems to be aiming at a less adult-oriented audience than Black-ish. Single Parents should stay where it is, for stability and because no other other options seem all that promsing. And then at 10, that's where ABC should send Grey's Anatomy spin-off Station 19. I get that it's not ideal to break them up but ABC shouldn't put A Million Little Things back there, and they shouldn't bench Station 19 for a midseason launch.. Let's not forget A Million Little Things is supposed to be 22 episodes for the second season. And this move has at least one advantage: the crossover episodes with Grey's Anatomy would make more sense with Station airing first in the week, since in general you're rescued by the firefighters BEFORE ending up in the hospital, not the other way around.
Is the TGIT branding a thing of the past now Shonda Rhimes has gone to Netflix and fewer Shondaland shows are on ABC's slate? I'd say A Million Little Things moving after Grey's Anatomy was the first nail in its coffin. Since the results were encouraging, the network should leave the show there and give How To Get Away With Murder a final season announcement so it ends with a satisfying conclusion and without overstaying its welcome. Then next year, ABC can premiere something new in the slot or just slide Station 19 there for the reminder of its third season.
Remember my proposed 80s hour on Wednesdays? Since Speechless has been cancelled, ABC could also create a 90s-set comedy hour with the pairing of Fresh Off The Boat and Schooled. Yes, The Goldbergs' spin-off did okay on Wednesday, but it didn't own its sloty, so moving it to Fridays isn't all that crazy. At 9, the network should stick with unscripted, perhaps their new family competition show Don't produced by Ryan Reynolds.
After reducing Dancing With The Stars to one cycle per season and losing the results show, the long-running unscripted hit is still having trouble staying relevant. With a change of executive producers, the 28th season looks like the perfect occasion to finally move it where it belongs: Sunday nights. ABC could make it an unscripted night all year long, with filler shows (such as DWTS Junior and Child Support) in the winter and American Idol coming back in the spring for a third season. That way, they would also avoid NBC's weakened but still potent The Voice. Shark Tank should stayput, where it does a decent job.
The Baker and The Beauty – Paired with The Bachelor in the Winter
NYPD Blue – Spring launch in The Rookie's slot
Emergence – Summer fare
Triangle – Midseason launch in Station 19's slot, which would slide into How To Get Away With Murder's slot
American Housewife – Midseason launch in The Conners' slot
We'll have complete coverage of ABC's upfront presentation on Tuesday May 14th. In the meantime, join us in our forums to share your opinion!
Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom