Why The Huge Shakeup At ABC Matters To ‘Muppets’ And ‘Agent Carter’ Fans

There’s little that’s flashy about ABC. It lacks an Empire-sized hit. Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder recently returned to series-low ratings. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to be a ratings disappointment compared to the CW’s superior superhero series. But of the Big Four networks, ABC is quietly the most consistent.

Modern Family, while not Outstanding Comedy Series-worthy, isn’t a bad show, and Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, The Middle, and The Goldbergs continue to impress week after week. On the drama side, Quantico is a bonafide hit; Agent Carter has greatly improved in its second season; and your aunt probably still watches Castle. That’s a solid group of shows, but ABC ranks last in the 18-to-49 demographic, which is one of the reasons why the network’s frustrated entertainment president, Paul Lee, resigned today.

Mr. Lee’s departure was orchestrated by Ben Sherwood, chairman of the Disney-ABC Television Group, who became Mr. Lee’s boss early last year. Mr. Sherwood, who disagreed with Mr. Lee over programming choices and future strategy, has used ABC’s soft standing in the overall ratings race to make a case inside Disney for a management shake-up at the network. (via New York Times)

This departure is a big deal for two reasons. One, Lee is being replaced by Channing Dungey, the first black president of a major broadcast network. She helped launch Scandal and Once Upon a Time, two of ABC’s biggest hits.

Two, Lee emphasized diversity (Quantico, How to Get Away with Murder, Fresh Off the Boat, and Black-ish all premiered under his watch), wasn’t quick to pull the trigger on dramas with lower-than-expected ratings (like Agent Carter), and was willing to make on-the-fly adjustments, as he did (for the better) with The Muppets. In addition to being an advocate for those shows, Lee also backed “serialized dramas like Scandal and American Crime,” according to the New York Times, while the hands-on Sherwood “wanted ABC to focus more on CBS-style procedural crime series like N.C.I.S.” That’s worrisome.

It’s historically important that Dungey is the new president of ABC Entertainment, and lucky for her, Lee didn’t leave the cupboards bare. There are a lot of quality shows on ABC already — now it’s up to Dungey to find the one big hit her predecessor couldn’t. Hopefully it’s not N.C.I.S.: Orlando.


(Via the New York Times)