Ah, the curious case of the American Broadcast Company. Somehow, it just keeps stumbling upon more and more pieces of gold without anyone ever really noticing or giving the network any type of credit. I mean, come on. Do you really take ABC seriously when it comes to elite programming? That’s what I thought.
But alas, the Disney-owned company manages to establish itself as a mainstay within the upper echelon of the big four year after year. Just when you think the network is one “Mr. Sunshine” away from complete and utter irrelevancy, something like “Modern Family” twirls its hair and boasts a giant, straight, white-teethed smile in our direction and we are all reminded to never discount ABC again.
This year may prove to be precarious, though. A few odd decisions have been made for the network’s fall programming, as the big theme seems to be looking back to look forward (but we’ll get to that specifically below). The big news from the ABC upfronts is usually Jimmy Kimmel’s takedown of the network in a room filled with suits and critics nervously laughing their way through his always-derogatory monologue. But this year seemed quiet on the ABC front, really. No viral Kimmel videos. No genuinely “can’t-miss” shows (much like “Modern Family” appeared to be months before its premiere). And no real surprises from the cancellations department (though I still weep for you, “Ugly Betty,” as I recall the news of your demise last year).
“I think we have a lot of big swings,” Entertainment President Paul Lee told advertisers this year. He’s right. Though after taking a look at a few of the shows slated for this fall, that also leaves the door wide open for the possibility of a lot of big misses, too. Then again, this isABC we are talking about. For every “Brothers & Sisters,” there seems to be a “Modern Family” lurking somewhere near.
Onward and upward …
ABC TALKING POINTS
1. Tim Allen. In case you haven’t heard, the prequel to “Wild Hogs” fell through, and he’s back. “Last Man Standing” is the name of his new show and the ABC heads decided to throw it on Tuesdays, the same night reserved for the network’s true money-maker, “Dancing With The Stars.” Any and everything you can find online about this show all but promises it will be the less-attractive twin brother of “Home Improvement,” the show that ultimately thrusted Allen to fame way back in the deep, dark and distant 1990s. This all seems to be part of a plan for ABC to truly establish itself as a place to go for comedy as “Apartment 23,” a knee-slapper about a naive girl who moves to New York City (featuring James Van Der Beek, even!), “Cougar Town” and “Man Up,” a program the always-fabulous Lisa de Moraes so aptly described as “man-com” in her Washington Post column, are all set to join “Last Man Standing” at one point or another on Tuesdays. Sure, Allen has always seemed somewhat likable, and “Home Improvement” really was a giant in its day. But something about this smells “six episodes and done,” after seeing what happened to another male ’90s sitcom star recently (cough, Paul Riser, caugh). Either way, it would probably be a good idea to keep that “Wild Hogs” prequel script handy, tool man.
2. Charlie’s Angels. As if the name Tim Allen wasn’t proof enough that the network is looking to capitalize on previous ideas to try and gain some current fanfare, we are going all the way back to the 1970s for this one. Set to air on Thursdays at 8 p.m., “Charlie’s Angels” will star Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh as the three sizzling hot women who go do whatever it is Charlie’s Angels do. This can’t work, right? Right? Not to be too pessimistic, but didn’t somebody already try this not too long ago on the big screen? Say, oh, somewhere around the year 2000 with Cameron Diaz (before she got weird), Drew Barrymore (before anyone could trust her) and Lucy Liu (wait, who?)? Yes, it took in over $264 million at the box office, but it also featured Matt LeBlanc and Tom Green. Eleven years later, and I’m not so sure this is a franchise a network can center its fall programming around considering how revisiting such a thing is tailor-made for nothing less than the big screen (ex: Destiny’s Child probably aren’t going to reunite and write an accompanying song that is utterly infectious — in a good way, of course — for a simple television show). Couple that with the fact that it’s up against what have become powerhouses on Thursday nights elsewhere — “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS and “Community” on NBC — and what you have is a long shot at best, a quick failure at worst. Hey, at least the lines “Girl, I didn’t know you could get down like that” and “Charlie, how your Angels get down like that?” are now stuck in your head for the first time in a long time now, after reading this.
3. Bringing in the new (or, well, old) means you have to make room by getting rid of the old (or, well, new). Goodbye, “Brothers & Sisters,” “Better With You,” “Detroit 1-8-7),” Mr. Sunshine” and, somewhat surprisingly, “V.” In the place of those shows, we have “Once Upon A Time,” a show already being compared to, you guessed it, yet another one of those ABC blockbusters, “Lost,” because it’s special effects-y, it mixes “real” things with “what the what the” things, and, well, it happens to be backed by two producers from the former island phenomenon. As if that wasn’t enough to sell you, it involves a Snow White and Prince Charming storyline! No, I’m not kidding. Literally. Look it up. It’s a Snow White and Prince Charming storyline. “Pan Am” is going to be yet another show on yet another network aimed at capitalizing on the success of “Mad Men,” though substituting all the major players with flight attendants (really, what is it about this idea that made at least half the major networks pick up a show featuring 1960s airplane drama?). And “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” moves to Fridays, prompting everyone to starch their collective heads considering how Friday is usually the day shows get sent to before receiving the ax. Or, as we may all be saying eight months from now, the day we can tune in to see “Charlie’s Angels.”