ABC is joining CBS and NBC in unveiling a “regular” fall 2020 schedule with a lineup featuring new and returning series that are yet to be filmed when production could resume following months of COVID-19-related shutdown.
Like CBS and NBC, ABC is being conservative with few scheduling changes. Still, they are the biggest we have seen for a traditional fall schedule this year.
The scheduling moves include the relocation of Tuesday 8 PM anchor The Conners to Wednesday to take over the 9 PM tentpole position vacated by Modern Family.
ABC is going from three comedy blocks and 10 half-hour series on the fall 2019 schedule to one block and four comedies next fall, with black-ish held for midseason for the first time, along with spinoff mixed-ish.
The retreat from comedy on Tuesday is temporary to make room for the new season of summer staple The Bachelorette, which has been delayed by the pandemic. ABC will reinstate the Tuesday comedy block in midseason with black-ish and mixed-ish, possibly joined by at least one additional new comedy series.
Here is ABC’s fall schedule, whose launch may be later than usual because of coronavirus’ impact on TV production, followed by more insight into the network’s comedy strategy shift and scheduling changes as well as descriptions of ABC’s new series:
ABC FALL 2020-21 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE)
8 PM — Dancing with the Stars
10 PM — The Good Doctor
8 PM — The Bachelorette
10 PM — BIG SKY
8 PM — The Goldbergs
8:30 PM — American Housewife
9 PM — The Conners
9:30 PM — CALL YOUR MOTHER
10 PM — Stumptown
8 PM — Station 19
9 PM — Grey’s Anatomy
10 PM — A Million Little Things
8 PM — Shark Tank
9 PM — 20/20 (Two Hours)
8 PM — Saturday Night Football
7 PM — America’s Funniest Home Videos
8 PM — SUPERMARKET SWEEP
9 PM — Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
10 PM — The Rookie
ABC signaled its intention to pare down its comedy nights last month when it canceled sophomores Single Parents, Bless This Mess and Schooled. As veterans Modern Family and Fresh Off the Boat ended their runs, ABC is returning five comedy series for next season, half of the 10 comedy series on the 2019-20 schedule. (It has since picked up Call Your Mother and may add at least one more new comedy series for midseason.)
Despite the cancellations, “the decision was not to abandon comedy in any way shape or form,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke told Deadline. “I’m actually very proud of ABC’s comedy brand and think we have the strongest family comedy brand in the business. We were sunsetting our long running No 1 comedy, Modern Family, so we spent time being very strategic about how best to replace that show.”
ABC replaced Modern Family, the network’s highest-rated comedy among adults 18-49, with its second highest-rated in the demo and most watched comedy series, The Conners, in ABC’s signature Wednesday 8-10 PM comedy block. It will be used to launch new comedy Call Your Mother, staring Kyra Sedgwick.
While comedy’s presence on Tuesday will be restored, ABC’s pullback in the genre is likely here to stay. “We had 10 comedies on the schedule last season, and I think that is probably too many; too many marketing messages and too many shows to try and ask an audience to find and fall in love with,” Burke said. “We wanted to give some of the younger shows full seasons in order to find those audiences,” she added, referring to the spring 2019 decision to renew then-freshman comedies, Bless This Mess, Single Parents and Schooled.
Having fewer comedy blocks also helps “to make sure that all of our comedies are strategically scheduled so they have a chance to succeed, and we are not spreading them too thin across our schedule,” Burke said.
For comparison, CBS has six comedy series on two nights for fall, NBC has two comedies on one night and Fox has no live-action comedies while keeping its signature Sunday animated comedy lineup.
Burke called the suspension of The Bachelorette‘s planned summer run “one of the silver linings of the coronavirus shutdown” because the network will have the popular reality series available for fall for the first time. (The Bachelor spinoff launched in January 2003, airing as a midseason replacement for its first three seasons before moving to summer.)
The remaining ABC scheduling changes are largely driven by attrition. Big Sky replaces the canceled Emergence on Tuesday, Supermarket Sweep succeeds canceled Kids Say the Darndest Things on Sunday, joined by Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
Joining black-ish and mixed-ish on the midseason bench are just renewed freshman drama For Life and new seasons of American Idol and The Bachelor.
NEW SERIES DESCRIPTIONS
BIG SKY — From visionary storyteller David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies”) comes “Big Sky,” a thriller created by Kelley, who will write multiple episodes and serve as showrunner in its premiere season. Private detectives Cassie Dewell and Cody Hoyt join forces with his estranged wife and ex-cop, Jenny Hoyt, to search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana. But when they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, they must race against the clock to stop the killer before another woman is taken. Based on the series of books by C.J. Box,
“Big Sky” is executive produced by David E. Kelley, Ross Fineman, Matthew Gross, Paul McGuigan and C.J. Box, and is produced by A+E Studios in association with 20th Century Fox Television. A+E Studios is the award-winning studio unit of the global media company A+E Networks, LLC. 20th Century Fox Television is a part of Disney Television Studios, alongside ABC Studios and Fox 21 Television Studios.
Cast: Katheryn Winnick as Jenny Hoyt, Kylie Bunbury as Cassie Dewell, Brian Geraghty as Ronald Pergman, Dedee Pfeiffer as Denise Brisbane, Natalie Alyn Lind as Danielle Sullivan, Jesse James Keitel as Jerrie, with John Carroll Lynch as Rick Legarski and Ryan Phillippe as Cody Hoyt.
CALL YOUR MOTHER — From Kari Lizer (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”), this multicamera comedy follows an empty nester mom who wonders how she ended up alone while her children live their best lives thousands of miles away. She decides her place is with her family and as she reinserts herself into their lives, her kids realize they might actually need her more than they thought.
“Call Your Mother” is produced by Sony Pictures Television & ABC Studios. ABC Studios is a part of Disney Television Studios, alongside 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios.
Cast: Kyra Sedgwick as Jean Raines, Rachel Sennott as Jackie Raines, Joey Bragg as Freddie Raines, Patrick Brammall as Danny, Emma Caymares as Celia and Austin Crute as Lane.
SUPERMARKET SWEEP — ABC is bringing back the classic TV game show “Supermarket Sweep,” hosted and executive produced by Emmy® Award-nominated comedienne and actress Leslie Jones. The fast-paced and energetic series follows three teams of two as they battle it out using their grocery shopping skills and knowledge of merchandise to win big cash prizes. The original format aired on ABC from 1965-1967 and went on to become a global sensation. It was adapted in 13 international territories and, most recently, relaunched in the UK.
“Supermarket Sweep” is produced by Fremantle. Executive producers include Leslie Jones, Hunter Seidman and Jennifer Mullin, Alycia Rossiter and Wes Kauble.