May 17, 2016



ABC’s fall line-up is a mix of the audacious and the not-so-much.

UPDATED with reactions to trailers, which are available here.  

Broadcast Grids SBD Fall 2016 ABC NBC FOX


ABC needed to shake things up for next season, and to an extent it has, although even if things go well, there will be more to do.  It’s relying on its brands of female-skewing dramas and family comedies, and keeping things largely in-house:  all of the new fall shows are at least co-produced by ABC Studios, with a pair of outside shows waiting for midseason.  Here’s a night-by-night look:

MONDAY:  Legal drama CONVICTION, starring Hayley Atwell, inherits the Castle slot after Dancing With the Stars.  It’s going to face off with NBC’s much-touted Timeless, and will be challenged by the fact that The Voice will give that show a better lead-in.  However, the demos will bear watching here, as ABC will hope to grab more of the female audience.  (Trailer:  CONVICTION looks like a very routine legal procedural, with a predictable character arc that will have Hayley Atwell learn to love the law each week and gradually become a better human being.  It could have an uphill battle against TIMELESS.)

TUESDAY:  The most aggressively reprogrammed night of the schedule.  ABC has established a valuable brand in family sitcoms, and it will extend that into a 2-hour Tuesday block.  The Middle is a self-starter that will give the night a strong foundation.  It’s followed by the new AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, a comedy about a “normal” woman living among the wealthy, which sounds very much on-brand.  The Middle/Housewife combo could hurt FOX’s damaged comedy duo of Brooklyn Nine-Nine/New Girl, although those shows will likely skew younger.  Fresh Off the Boat and The Real O’Neals move to the 9PM hour, and although neither is a breakout hit, they should match up well with their lead-ins.  The questionable move is shifting Agents of SHIELD to 10PM, new territory for a superhero series (the show reportedly intends to go “darker”).  SHIELD has already been struggling, and this won’t likely help, but on the other hand, Tuesday 10PM has been such a series of fiascos for ABC that even low-rated stability may be better than none at all. (Trailer:  There will no doubt be an audience for AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, and it may well be compatible with the audience for THE MIDDLE, making this a wise choice for ABC.  Present company, however, will have to be excused, as this kind of play-to-the-balcony heartwarming ha-ha isn’t to everyone’s taste.)

WEDNESDAY:  Moving The Goldbergs to the 8PM anchor slot is a no-brainer, and yet another family comedy follows with SPEECHLESS, which is distinguished by the presence of a character (and actor) with special needs.  It’s not a sure thing, but not much of a stretch for the line-up either.  Modern Family and Black-ish follow, and then ABC makes its big move at 10PM with the Kiefer Sutherland political thriller DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, which seems to be about as far away from Nashville as you can get. Designated faces real competition from Chicago PD and presumably a CBS procedural, but Sutherland’s presence guarantees it will get attention, and if the show works, it could give ABC a big win in what has been a tough slot.  (Trailers: SPEECHLESS seems like a solid fit with the family comedies that surround it, with Minnie Driver playing a more grounded variation of her role from ABOUT A BOY, and some built-in distinctiveness arising from the character of her son.  DESIGNATED SURVIVOR could be a pleasant surprise, with a Kiefer Sutherland who seems much subdued from his Jack Bauer days and a tone more like MADAM SECRETARY than 24.)  

THURSDAY:  Technically, the network has disrupted its TGIT line-up by inserting the non-Shonda Rhimes NOTORIOUS in Scandal‘s 9PM slot (the latter is being held for a truncated midseason run due to Kerry Washington’s pregnancy).  But Notorious, a soap about crime and the media, seems to be non-Shondaland in name only, and should fit well between Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder.  With Rhimes’s Scandal, The Catch and the new STILL STAR-CROSSED waiting in the wings, even if Notorious fails, it can go away without much damage.  (Trailer:  As expected, NOTORIOUS is as ShondaLand as a show can be that doesn’t bear her logo, all furiously pumping dialogue and racing deadlines, with pretty leads in Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata.  Whether it has any substance is yet to be seen, but it should draw a fair share of GREY’S ANATOMY fans.)

FRIDAY:  No changes, as the line-up of Last Man Standing, Dr. Ken, Shark Tank and 20/20 returns.

SATURDAY:  College Football in the fall.

SUNDAY:  The most puzzling decision on the schedule is the placement of SECRETS & LIES Season 2 between Once Upon A Time and Quantico. S&L‘s season was pushed from 2015-16, which doesn’t suggest huge confidence, and the Sunday line-up, which has been floundering this spring, could have used a lift this show is unlikely to provide.  If Quantico falters in the fall, the 9-11PM block on Sunday may be the first place to need adjustment.

Apart from the trio of ShondaLand shows, ABC has period time-travel drama TIME AFTER TIME (from Warners TV) and comedies DOWNWARD DOG and IMAGINARY MARY (from Sony) on hold for midseason. (Trailers:  The TIME AFTER TIME pilot is evidently a cut-down of the original movie, and it looks like an effective restaging, although that leaves open the question of what happens after the pilot is done. DOWNWARD DOG, IMAGINARY MARY and STILL STAR-CROSSED are the network’s WTF entries, featuring respectively a narrating dog, a CG BFF for lead Jenna Elfman, and quasi-Elizabethan soap. Behind the gimmick, MARY seems like it’s going to be the most conventional of the three, basically another form of family sitcom.  DOG is more of a question mark, and it’s hard to believe STAR-CROSSED would be getting on the air without the network’s Shonda Rhimes deal behind it.)


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."