Upfronts 2014: ABC makes big moves on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Senior Television Writer
05.13.14 15 Comments


For the most part, the fall schedules announced by NBC and FOX at the start of upfront week were logical and conservative, leaving major changes for midseason (and in some cases not even announcing midseason plans beyond series pick-ups). As the fourth-place broadcast network – despite having some of the bigger hits on television in “Scandal,” “Modern Family” and “Grey's Anatomy” – ABC can't afford to play things so safely. So with 12 new series debuting between fall and mid-season, there are a lot of changes on the schedule.

The most prominent comes on Thursday, where “Grey's” and “Scandal” will each air an hour earlier (despite both being among the more sexually frank shows on network TV, and “Scandal” being among the more graphically violent) at 8 and 9, respectively, forming an entire night of Shonda Rhimes-produced programming, with Viola Davis as a law professor turned sleuth in “How to Get Away with Murder” at 10. We'll see if “Scandal” can launch another show, or if it – like “Lost” before it (or even “Modern Family” currently) – is the sort of thing where fans specifically tune in to watch it and do something else the moment it's done. (It will also set up a very interesting showdown in the spring between “Scandal” and “The Blacklist,” which ABC is moving to the same timeslot after the Super Bowl.)

A year ago, ABC set up an all-new Tuesday schedule under the mistaken belief that “Marvel's Agents of SHIELD” would be so huge – even airing opposite TV's most-watched drama in “NCIS” – that it could buoy all the shows after it. “SHIELD” has been a success, but a more modest one, and has had virtually no impact on the network's other Tuesday shows. (“Trophy Wife,” “Lucky 7,” “Killer Women” and “Mind Games” have all been canceled, and “The Goldbergs” is finally being sent to a more logical home on Wednesdays after “The Middle.”) ABC has at least finally blinked and moved “SHIELD” to Tuesdays at 9, against the slightly less potent “NCIS:LA,” but they don't seem to have learned the larger lesson, since it'll still be flanked by new shows: rookie sitcoms “Selfie” (a “Pygmalion” for the Twitter age starring Karen Gillan from “Doctor Who”) and “Manhattan Love Story” (a romantic comedy) at 8 and 8:30, respectively, and new drama “Forever” (Ioan Gruffudd as a New York medical examiner who solves crimes while searching for the secret to his own immortality) at 10.

The rest of the schedule is largely intact – Mondays (“Dancing with the Stars”/”Castle”), Saturdays (college football) and Sundays (“America's Funniest Home Videos”/”Once Upon a Time”/”Resurrection”/”Revenge”) return exactly as they've been of late – with only minor changes on a few other nights. (New comedy “Black-ish,” with Anthony Anderson, slides in after “Modern Family” on Wednesdays, while “Cristela,” starring stand-up comic Cristela Alonzo, goes to Fridays after “Last Man Standing.”)

But the Tuesday and Wednesday moves are big. And though ABC hasn't announced most of its midseason moves, they've said that “Marvel's Agent Carter” (a spin-off from the first “Captain America” film following Hayley Atwell's character in the years after World War II) will be used as fill-in program for “SHIELD” during the winter, while new musical fairytale series “Galavant” will do the same for “Once Upon a Time.” Between that – as opposed to this season's dumb idea to air “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” on its own, rather than to bridge the gap between “Once Upon a Time” segments – and recognizing that all new shows are doomed Thursdays at 8, and “Goldbergs” going to Wednesday (would that “Trophy Wife” could have survived to do the same), this suggests that while they didn't learn every lesson from this disastrous season, they learned at least a few.

Fienberg has the full schedule on his blog, but what does everybody else think? Is Paul Lee getting any smarter about scheduling? Should Rhimes just be running the network at this point?

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