ABC has handed early pickups for next season to six scripted series: flagship comedy Modern Family and the other sophomore members of the network’s Wednesday comedy block, The Middle and Cougar Town, flagship drama Grey’s Anatomy, its spinoff Private Practice and crime dramedy Castle. Additionally, a deal for two more cycles of the network’s top reality series Dancing with the Stars is in the works.
Most of the early renewals are in the “no-brainer” category: Modern Family, The Middle and Castle are up in the ratings from last season by double digits. Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy are the highest-rated comedy and drama series on TV among adults 18-49. (Dancing is holding the honor on the unscripted side.) Season-to-date, Private Practice is down 8% in the demo, but that is less than the decline of its lead-in, Grey’s (11%), and Private Practice remains the strongest, highest-rated 10 PM series on ABC. The only mild surprise on the list of early renewals was Cougar Town, which is up only 3% in the demo vs. 36% for its lead-in, Modern Family, but it seems ABC brass opted to pick up its three Wednesday comedies en block, just as the network did at the same time last year. At its TCA presentation last January, the network announced early renewals for Modern Family, The Middle and Cougar Town, which were followed by an early pickup for Castle in March. Sources stress not to read too much into the list of the series that didn’t make the cut – last year, such shoo-ins as Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and Private Practice weren’t renewed until ABC’s upfront in May. This time around, there seems to be only one scripted series that is conspicuously missing from today’s batch of renewals, Desperate Housewives. The veteran dramedy has posted the biggest declines for an ABC scripted series, down 20%, from last season, but it still ranks as ABC’s second highest-rated hourlong series behind Grey’s. Complicating issues is the fact that the stars of the series have not signed on for next season (negotiations with them are underway). Also, creator Marc Cherry has indicated that he intends to step back as showrunner of the show after the end of this season to focus on his new project for ABC, which is in consideration for a pilot pickup.