ABC has given a pilot pickup to a drama from Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry toplined by country star Reba McEntire.

Written by Cherry, the untitled project marks the return to the network for both Cherry, whose dramedy Desperate Housewives was one of ABC’s biggest hits of the past decade and a half, and McEntire, who starred in the network’s comedy series Malibu Country.

The new drama centers on Ruby Adair (McEntire), the sheriff of colorful small town Oxblood, KY, who finds her red state outlook challenged when a young FBI agent of Middle Eastern descent is sent to help her solve a horrific crime. Together they form an uneasy alliance as Ruby takes the agent behind the lace curtains of this Southern Gothic community to meet an assortment of bizarre characters, each with a secret of their own.

“I am thrilled to be coming back home to ABC. What makes it all the sweeter is Reba McEntire is coming with me. And we can’t wait to share with our fans this wonderful Southern Gothic soap opera we’ve been cooking up for them,” said Cherry.

In another year where scripts are late, possibly delaying pilot pickups, ABC is ahead of its broadcast competitors with one straight-to-series drama order for next fall, Marvel’s The Inhumans, as well as two pilots orders that both have talent already in place: comedy Libby & Malcolm, starring Desperate Housewives alumna Felicity Huffman and People V. O.J. Simpson’s Courtney B. Vance, and for the Cherry project starring McEntire. All three projects hail from ABC Studios.


ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey drew attention with her post-election comments at a London conference in late November that the network, known for its glitzy soaps, was looking to add more drama series that reflect the working class. It was blue-collar voters in the flyover states that propelled Donald Trump to the presidency. “We have a lot of (dramas) that feature very well-to-do, well-educated people, who are driving very nice cars and living in extremely nice places. There is definitely still room for that… but in recent history we haven’t paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans in our dramas,” Dungey was quoted as saying.

The Cherry project starring country music star McEntire, set in the traditionally Republican state of Kentucky, was a late buy, receiving a script commitment plus penalty in a competitive situation. In was announced in December, a couple of weeks after Dungey’s comments. It is believed to be part of the network’s push for more programming that reflects Middle America.

In addition to writing, Cherry will serve as showrunner on the series, which he executive produces with Sabrina Wind via their own Cherry-Wind Productions; McEntire; as well as Mindy Schultheis and Michael Hanel of Acme Productions. Shultheis and Hanel are long-time McEntire collaborators and served as executive producers on her previous TV series, the WB comedy Reba and ABC/ABC Studios comedy Malibu Country.

Besides the ABC Studios-produced Desperate Housewives, Cherry also created the studio’s dramedy Devious Maids, which just wrapped a successful run on Lifetime.