ABC, looking to extend its ratings rebound, is banking on two new dramas about strangers thrown together by unusual circumstance, one of them from a creator of the hit castaway thriller Lost, the network said Tuesday.
Unveiling its prime-time lineup for the 2006-07 television season, ABC also said it had decided to impeach Commander In Chief. The White House drama starring Academy Award winner Geena Davis languished in the Nielsens after a promising start last fall.
"It's frustrating," ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson. "Creatively, the show didn't build to where it needed to be."
McPherson, who described the network's schedule as "aggressive," said the new shows would rely on the sort of strong, well-rounded characters that had proven successful for ABC in the past. "Characters are what drives audiences who come back week after week," he said.
Like the majority of shows unveiled Monday by rival network NBC, the new ABC schedule rolled out at the second day of presentations to advertisers relies heavily on dramas, six in all.
Two of the new shows at ABC, a unit of Walt Disney Co. , bear a striking resemblance to Lost, whose plot revolves around plane crash survivors on a mysterious island. That program helped reverse ABC's ratings slump and inspired a new wave of spooky TV themes.
Six Degrees, centering on six New York City strangers enmeshed in a web of mysterious coincidence, is the latest offering from Lost cocreator J.J. Abrams, whose other credits include big-screen thriller Mission: Impossible III.
ABC also seized on the theme of ordinary individuals connected by extraordinary happenstance in The Nine, about a group of people taken hostage in a bank robbery gone awry.
The top US networks are beginning their annual negotiations with advertisers to book the bulk of commercial time in advance of the fall season. CBS and Fox present their prime-time programming later this week.
Media buyers expect advertisers' spending at this year's upfront to be flat to slightly lower than the $9.1 billion booked a year ago. While television still commands the largest audiences overall, it faces growing competition from other media outlets, from video games to portable music players.
Two years after trailing its three major network rivals, ABC has bounced back in the ratings thanks to such hits as Lost, prime-time soap Desperate Housewives, and hospital drama Grey's Anatomy.
The network now looks set to finish the current season a close second behind Fox in the race for viewers aged 18 to 49--the group advertisers most cherish--and as the second most-watched network overall, behind CBS.
ABC is the only major network up year-to-year by both measures. For the upcoming season, it is rolling the dice by moving its popular Grey's Anatomy from Sunday night to the highly competitive Thursday night slot.
ABC also is adding two well-known actresses to its lineup. Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart will return to series television as the star of family soap opera Brothers & Sisters, while film actress Anne Heche will play a divorcee who moves to Alaska in Men in Trees.
Rounding out ABC's hour-long roster are Betty the Ugly, based on a popular Spanish-language program about a plain woman trying to make it in the fashion world; national security thriller Traveler; and crime thriller Day Break, starring Taye Diggs as a policeman framed for murder.
On the comedy front, ABC renewed family sitcoms According to Jim and George Lopez, while picking up six new shows that include Help Me Help You, featuring Cheers veteran Ted Danson as a troubled celebrity psychologist.
NBC is owned by General Electric Co., CBS is owned by CBS Corp., and Fox is owned by News Corporation.