The Friends “reunion” on ABC will have to wait, at least for now, as the network opted against pairing Courteney Cox’s returning comedy Cougar Town and Matthew Perry’s new series Mr. Sunshine on the fall schedule.
“There was a lot of debate, we spent probably more time on that than any other decision,” ABC’s scheduling chief Jeff Bader said, adding that in the end, putting the two shows together might have been too “cutesy.” The network also thought that the Wednesday comedy block might be too young to launch two new series there, instead only moving The Middle to 8 PM, leading into new relationship comedy Better Together.
Along with Mr. Sunshine, another high-profile new scripted series, Shonda Rhimes’ new medical drama Off The Map too is being held for midseason. The plan for now is to premiere it later in the season behind Desperate Housewives, using the same launch pattern it successfully applied for Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy years ago, before moving the series to Thursdays. In preparation, ABC reduced the order for Housewives’ lead-out Brothers & Sisters to make room for Off The Map.
After a very unusual launch pattern this season, V will be held until November to give it time to amass episodes, and the goal is to run the series uninterrupted through the rest of the season.
The main goal for fall was “to shore up the 10 PM time slots, which are very important to our affiliates,” Bader said. Last fall, the network failed to take advantage of the decreased competition in the hour by the introduction of NBC’s The Jay Leno Show and establish new 10 PM dramas on Tuesday and Wednesday with The Forgotten and Eastwick. That led to stepped-up development of procedurals, with two new ones, cop drama Detroit 1-8-7 and legal drama The Whole Truth slotted in those periods for fall.
Overall, ABC stuck closely to its scheduling template from last season, once again keeping Sunday and Monday intact, launching new dramas at 10 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday and 8 PM on Thursday and going for a lineup of a reality series/hourlong scripted series/20/20 on Friday. The only major change this year is putting drama No Ordinary Heroes on Tuesday at 8 PM (The network had a reality series, Shark Tank, in the slot last year, leading into the Dancing With the Stars result show.)
New superhero family drama No Ordinary Family starring Michael Chiklis (photo on right) should do fine going against Fox’s hot dramedy Glee on Tuesday, Bader said, noting that No Ordinary Family is a more mature drama with stronger male appeal.
Another new drama, My Generation, is stepping in for canceled FlashForward at 8 PM on Thursdays. Bader calls My Generation “a very big idea and very different show that can make noise and is very compatible with Grey’s.”
It’s interesting that Friday 8 PM is becoming the slot for feel-good reality for fall with ABC’s Secret Millionaire (formerly a Fox series) and NBC’s School Pride. Once again, ABC is opting for a scripted series at 9 PM on Fridays. Last year, it put Ugly Betty in the time period where is struggled mightily. This time, it’s new procedural Body of Proof starring Dana Delany. While Ugly Betty was younger-skewing, targeting adults 18-34, Body of Proof’s target audience is women 35+, making it “much more appropriate for Friday night,” Bader said. “It has a very similar profile to the CBS shows on the night, and they have faded.”