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ABC Stresses Stability, Not Ingenuity, With 2008-09 Schedule

May 14th, 2008 8:28am EDT
Ugly BettyNBC got a jump start on the other broadcast networks with its "in-front" presentation last month, which occurred a full six weeks before the traditional upfront period. At that time NBC, mired in last place amongst the Big Four (poor CW barely registers as a blip and therefore does not count), presented a bold, dynamic and risky 2008-09 year-round schedule.

In the weeks that followed, there was naturally some speculation as to whether or not the other networks would follow NBC's lead and change the rules of the game. ABC, which unveiled its 2008-09 plans yesterday, was the first to respond. Would the folks at the network follow suit and unveil a dramatically altered schedule of their own? Guess. You get a prize if you guess right.

So, what's the answer?

Well, the answer to that question is no, they would not. Elaboration will follow in just a moment, but first, there is the matter of a certain prize for those of you that guessed correctly. Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of an extremely rare and rapidly vanishing item - a shred of Lindsay Lohan's dignity. Treasure it.

ABC and status quo sitting in a tree…

Back to ABC. There is nothing outwardly wrong with the ABC 2008-09 television schedule. Technically, it is perfectly fine. One might even say solid. Only one problem - it's boring. The folks at ABC seem perfectly content to stick with content that has delivered decent, if unspectacular, numbers in both total viewers and the 18-49 demo.

ScrubsThere isn't going to be much that is unfamiliar to audiences next season on the network. At this point, ABC is planning on debuting two new shows this fall and a grand total of just five for the entire television season. Of course, counted amongst those five is NBC castoff "Scrubs," and as it will be entering its eighth season, it really can't be classified as "new." So with only four truly new shows, viewers of The Alphabet can expect much more of the same next season. Let's take a look at how the weekly lineup is shaping up for the fall.

Fall 2008

Monday nights will be home to the familiar combo of inexplicable powerhouse "Dancing with the Stars" (if you keep watching it, it won't go away) and "Samantha Who?" The duo is back once again to steal viewers from the superior Monday night programming offered by CBS and Fox. Moving into the 10 p.m. slot will be "Boston Legal," which will be having an abbreviated 13 episode final season. Yes, final season. Someone needs to pitch a new pilot starring William Shatner pronto, because the TV landscape just won't be the same without The Shat around.

Tuesday nights will lead off with a gameshow entitled "Opportunity Knocks." Be forewarned, said gameshow is from the "brilliant" mind of Ashton Kutcher. Prediction: it makes the world wish for the good old days when that timeslot was occupied by "Cavemen." The "Dancing with the Stars" results show will fill up the 9 p.m. hour, and it will be followed by everyone's favorite prophet/messiah "Eli Stone" at 10. Looks like good old Eli will enjoy a pretty sizable lead-in come the fall.

Pushing DaisiesWednesday will be identical to the Wednesday night lineup that ABC put forward in 2007. "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" all retain their pre-strike timeslots. It's been a while since any of these shows have been on the air, but if we recall correctly, two of them were quite good. Obviously, the dreadful "Private Practice" is the odd one out there.

The declining yet still critically adored "Ugly Betty" will kick off Thursday nights, giving the series yet another chance to get pummeled by the far superior "Survivor." "Grey's Anatomy" takes over at nine, and will be followed by the second of two new series, "Life on Mars." "Mars" is a remake of a fascinating British series about a cop in the present day who has an accident and travels back in time to the early 70s. Positives: interesting premise and one of the stars is none other than Colm Meaney (go Miles O'Brien!). Negatives: it is being produced by David E. Kelley, which, if it follows the usual DEK pattern, means that it will start out excellent and slowly decay until it is trash by the end of season two.

Friday nights will be pretty terrible. "Wife Swap," "Supernanny," and "20/20." Actually, terrible is not a strong enough word.

Saturday nights will be given over to college football in the fall; not that much of interest has been programmed on a Saturday night since the days when "All in the Family" called it home. Sunday will be another familiar night, as the lineup of "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" will return in its entirety.

Midseason excitement

At this time, it looks like ABC will debut three new shows midseason. The first, of course, is the aforementioned "Scrubs." The long anticipated move from NBC to ABC will result in a truncated 13 episode season for the medical comedy - most likely its last. Also debuting at some point will be a new animated series from Mike Judge entitled "The Goode Family." And, because one Ashton-produced show is not enough, an untitled beauty pageant project from the "dream team" of Kutcher and Tyra Banks is also in the works. Fun.

LostBeware…the abomination returns

Midseason will once again be home to a new season of "Lost," always a joyous occasion. But before you do Balki's dance of joy (oh "Perfect Strangers," you are still missed) look what else is coming back midseason. Yes, that's right. The horror known as "According to Jim," (a.k.a. the worst show on television seven years running) will be back for an eighth (eighth!) season. The beast is indestructible, seemingly feeding on the hatred of viewers across the country and just growing stronger. Be afraid.

Outlook

Although ABC is not doing anything drastic or game-changing like NBC, it is still fairly well equipped to compete in 2008 and beyond thanks in part to a solid schedule that includes a lot of returning favorites. Unfortunately, what that also means is that there will not be much unexpected in the upcoming season. That being said, as long as the shows that are coming back produce enough quality television, it shouldn't matter too much in the long run.

Overall Rating: B- (It would have been a B, but having "According to Jim" anywhere on the schedule is inexcusable, and thus penalizes 1/3 of a letter grade)

Thoughts on ABC's new schedule? What are you most looking forward to? Is there any show worse than "According to Jim?" Comment!

Related Stories:
-CBS Announces New 2008-09 Primetime Schedule
-ABC Stresses Stability, Not Ingenuity, With 2008-09 Schedule
-NBC Takes A Chance With 2009-09 Schedule, Year-Round Programming


Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer


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