ABC, coming off the highs and lows of the extraordinary ratings success of the Roseanne revival and the turmoil after its abrupt cancellation, is heading into next season with four new comedy series: the Roseanne spinoff The Conners, two more family comedies, The Kids Are Alright and Single Parents, and one more spinoff, The Goldbergs sequel Schooled; as well as five dramas, ensemble A Million Little Things, soap Grand Hotel, legal drama The Fix and light procedurals The Rookie and Whiskey Cavalier.
But as the broadcast networks are gearing up for fall 2018 launch, they are also looking ahead as they begin to buy pitches for the 2019-20 season.
In an interview with Deadline during TCA, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey talks about the network’s development targets in drama and comedy and gives a status update on The Middle spinoff and two pilots from last season, which were kept alive for redevelopment, drama False Profits and comedy Steps.
“On the drama side, we are still looking for more soaps, we are looking for escapist programming,” she said. “We are still focused on close-ended storytelling, which doesn’t necessarily mean procedurals though it can. We are looking at family shows.”
Multi-generational family dramas are a priority.
“We were going into this season wanting to do our version of Thirtysomething, and I feel that we found that in A Million Little Things,” Dungey said. For next season, “we are talking about Brothers & Sisters and trying to see if we can find a way to do that.”
On the comedy side, ABC plans to largely stay in its lane while widening that lane a bit.
“I feel like we really own the family comedy brand, particularly in network TV,” Dungey said. “We want to continue to expand what our definition of family means.”
Additionally, “we are still trying to figure out a way how we can speak more directly to the millennial audience; there are couple of ideas we are floating around that are more in that young adult vein.”
ABC previously explored millennial themes with the black-ish spinoff grown-ish, which was piloted at ABC before moving to Freeform.
Comedy spinoffs have definitely been part of ABC’s MO the last few years, with black-ish, The Goldbergs and now Roseanne all getting spinoff series. Another high-profile comedy spinoff, from long-running The Middle, also is in the works.
The project, starring series co-star Eden Sher, from the original series’ creators/executive producers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline and studio Warner Bros. TV, has a pilot production commitment. Because of the pedigree and the auspices, the spinoff is expected to get a greenlight but that is still ways off. Dungey said she will be hearing a pitch for the show this week.
In other updates, “I just received a new script on False Profits, we’ll see where we go on that,” Dungey said. “Steps, we are pulling that back and moving more slowly on that, I haven’t seen any material yet.”
Both projects extended the options on cast members, and False Profits in May also received an order for backup scripts.
Overall. Dungey expects to buy a number of pitches in line with last year. And despite the rocky experience on Roseanne, she remains open to reboots with some caveat.
“I don’t necessarily want to dive into rebooting for the sake of rebooting,” she said. “In the case of Roseanne, I felt there was a real story to tell there, and it was focusing on a segment of the population that was not being showcased on TV, and that was important to us. I’m certainly open to a reboot if something comes to me with the right creative or a spin on the creative that makes sense.”
Will ABC try to do more comedies focused on that segment of the population, Middle America?
“It’s too early to tell but we have had that as a priority on both sides, comedy and drama,” Dungey said.