NBC’s ads for midseason drama series Believe feature front and center its mastermind, newly minted Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón, touting his best director statuette for Gravity. Meanwhile, the promos for another heavily marketed midseason drama that premieres within a day of Believe, ABC’s Resurrection, don’t even mention the fact that it comes from the producers of best picture Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is behind Resurrection, with the company’s two other principals, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who shared in the best picture Oscar with him, executive producing the series. Just like Plan B’s 12 Years A Slave managed to top Gravity and seven other movies to land the biggest prize, ABC probably hopes its show would spark some ratings magic. And boy, does the network need some of that.
ABC is on an unenviable streak of three consecutive new drama entries hitting a 0.6 rating in adults 18-49 — an all-time low on a Big 4 network: The Assets (which was billed as a limited series), Killer Women and Mind Games. That, coupled with the 0.7 low marks for the long-forgotten Lucky 7 and Betrayal and the 0.8 for Once Upon A Time In Wonderland makes for a very dismal freshman drama record this season. Even the heavily promoted fall entry Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been fading, gradually slipping from the premiere high of 5.4 in Live+Same Day to this week’s series low of a 1.8, though the genre drama still picks up a sizable DVR viewership. (ABC’s crop of new comedies has not fared much better, with The Goldbergs showing some spunk on Tuesday but not much else of note as two series failed to take hold behind Modern Family – Super Fun Night and Mixology.)
It all comes down to this Sunday and new drama Resurrection, which couldn’t have been titled more appropriately given the turnaround hopes ABC has riding on it. As it did with S.H.I.E.L.D. in the fall, ABC put almost all of its midseason eggs in the Resurrection basket, giving the new series a huge marketing push, including provocative billboards and a special promo during the Oscar telecast last Sunday. There are encouraging early signs, with the show getting better reviews than most other new ABC dramas this season. This is ABC’s best and only remaining chance to make a mark this season, and the network knows it. Many times, it has taken one breakout hit after a string of flop after flop after flop to start a turnaround. NBC did it with The Cosby Show in the 1980s and recently with The Voice, ABC accomplished it with two overnight hits in the same 2004 fall premiere week, Lost and Desperate Housewives.
ABC and Disney brass certainly hope this will be the case with Resurrection. The stakes could not be higher. ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has been taking the ratings struggles on the chin, spearheading development and building a pilot slate in an echo chamber of constant rumors about his future. Depending on the outcome, Resurrection’s premiere could silence critics or amplify speculation. Lee’s predecessor on the job, Steve McPherson, was installed two weeks before the upfronts in 2004 as ABC was wrapping another season in which it failed to produce a hit. Ironically, the pilot slate he inherited from dismissed Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne yielded three mega hits the following season, Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy.