There were a number of notable announcements at ABC’s TCA presentation on Tuesday — but more than anything else, what we really learned was that Shonda Rhimes may very well be queen of the network at the moment — even with her recent series “Off the Map” flopping nearly upon arrival.
The Changes – The Rhimes-related announcements began early, when ABC head Paul Lee announced that her new series “Scandal” was set to premiere on Thursday, April 5 — just after Rhimes’ most-popular show in “Grey’s Anatomy.” Meanwhile, her other remaining program in “Private Practice” is going to be shifted to Tuesdays following the “Dancing with the Stars” results show on April 24.
What this move may show is that there could be waning confidence in “Practice” as a show to capitalize on its stellar lead-in — or, it’s possible that ABC is so confident that Kate Walsh will keep her audience following “Dancing” that they wanted to give this new drama a chance to succeed. Either way, it’s going to be difficult for Rhimes to keep all three of these shows on the air next season thanks to a myriad of pilots — and only so many time slots being available.
As for some other time slot news not related to Shonda Rhimes, It was announced that the James Van Der Beek comedy “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” will premiere on April 11, one week after “Happy Endings” finishes up its season 2 run.
Blind Hope – In taking a page from Fox’s Kevin Reilly, Lee refused to acknowledge that two of the shows currently on the chopping block are indeed canceled.
First, he said that “Pan Am” is still under consideration despite drawing only a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic for its latest episode. (For a comparison, “The Vampire Diaries” has drawn the same rating on The CW this season.) While we’ve proclaimed all season that this series is really rather outstanding (and just plagued by a poor marketing campaign that made it appear like something that appeared only to women), we have to be realistic here that solid DVR numbers are not going to get this show a season 2.
Meanwhile, Lee said that “General Hospital” is still up in the air for another season. Katie Couric’s daytime talk show is looming, and conventional wisdom is that ABC’s final soap will fall to make way for it. The only way this doesn’t happen is if the network decides to boot “The Chew” or “The Revolution” after just one season — and this only seems likely if the latter show falls flat on arrival.
The “Cougar Town” dilemma – While ABC may have reason to tout “Once Upon a Time,” “Revenge,” and “Suburgatory” as success stories, they also had their share of flops. “Charlie’s Angels” and “Man Up!” are both already canceled, and the network looks to have another dud on their hands in “Work It.”
The real insult here is that Lee decided to put both “Man Up!” and “Work It” on TV before “Cougar Town” — a show that while it may not be a ratings beast, does manage to draw decent numbers and has a a devoted following. Since we fully expect the beyond-dreadful “Work It” to be gone from the schedule sooner rather than later, we can expect a return tot he cul-de-sac soon … right? Don’t count on it just yet. Lee said that he expected the show to return in March, but didn’t give an exact date. (For now, we just hope that “Cougar Town” creator Bill Lawrence will keep up his efforts to get people excited about the show.)
The major “Grey’s” dilemma – In going back to Shonda Rhimes, there was a giant elephant during the press conference that neither Lee nor Rhimes seem willing to address — whether or not Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, or the rest of the cast will be back on “Grey’s Anatomy” next season. Contract negotiations are underway, but some of the stars (in particular Dempsey) have expressed a desire to move on.
Rhimes has already said that she is focusing on writing the scripts for the show — meanwhile, Lee simply won’t comment at all.
Overall, ABC’s overall TCA performance was a bit like the state of their network at the moment — rather hit-and-miss. The network’s not doing a great job appealing to men in a post-“Lost” era at the moment save for some of their comedies (including “Modern Family,” currently the top scripted show on TV in adults 18-49), but they can tout doing a better job launching new shows than most of the other networks. While NBC and Fox are reliant on events like football and “American Idol,” ABC (like CBS) is poised for some long-term success thanks to a slew of shows that are not only performing well, but also still have some life left in them.