The deluge of television news that's currently suffocating you isn't coincidental. That's because we're in the middle of the Upfronts, which is when the broadcast networks finalize their fall schedules by getting rid of the old and ushering in the new with several renewals and cancellations. It's also when the nets reveal the new shows we'll be treated to in the upcoming season, filling us with joy when we get to see the pilots we thought looked good, and anguish when they order the pilots we thought sounded terrible. NBC and Fox have already taken their turns at the podium, and today was ABC's chance to woo us with shiny new shows. So let's see what the old Alphabet has in store for the upcoming season and break down the good, bad, and ugly from its 2014-2015 lineup.
First thing first: Here's ABC's full 2014-2015 schedule.
Now let's get to the good stuff... as well as the bad stuff and the ugly stuff, 'cause that's the whole point of this story!
ABC did a lot of minor tinkering with its schedule, and it's almost all for the better. Sliding Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. back to 9pm on Tuesdays was a smart move to break smooth out the drama-comedy-drama layout it used on Tuesdays in 2013-2014. Besides, lots of people are still stuffing their faces with dinner during the 8pm hour, and chewing on meatloaf and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mythology simultaneously is a difficult task. With S.H.I.E.L.D. taking over 9pm, Forever has a much better chance of survival at 10pm, as the drama vibe will carry over without interruption from an hour-long comedy block.
The decision to shift the great family comedy The Goldbergs to Wednesday's comedy block is already a season overdue, but now that it's lodged between The Middle and Modern Family, it should live a long, healthy life. Better late than never! And I really respect the decision to give Black-ish the post-Modern Family slot, because it tells that me ABC thinks of Anthony Anderson's comedy as more than just a token African-American sitcom. The network must truly believe it can be a cross-cultural hit, and that's always great to see. Whether audiences will agree is up for debate, but Black-ish is actually a much better fit for Wednesdays than Mixology or Super Fun Night ever were. That's 120 minutes of family-friendly comedy, with 90 of 'em really incorporating a three-generation structure; all told, it's the most cohesive two-hour comedy block on television.
Even though it's not sandwiched between two dramas anymore, ABC still has One-Hour Comedy Island floating by itself on Tuesdays nights, this time with Selfie and Manhattan Love Story at 8pm and 8:30pm, respectively. The network seems content to sacrifice an hour of its schedule just to test out new shows, which is like throwing your kids into a pool to teach them how to swim. However, I don't know if there's a way to fix this without expanding another comedy block, though. Good luck, you two!
Also: If I'm How to Get Away With Murder, I'd wish I was the meat in the Shonda sandwich, sitting between Grey's Anatomy and Scandal for an extra boost. As the dessert of Shonda Thursdays, there's a greater potential for the audience to decline. There's also the question of whether or not that many soaps in a row is too much of a similar thing. Three hours of Rhimes Time? The core audience will eat it up, but it might be exhausting for everyone else.
Finally, I'm convinced that Sunday's sequence of Once Upon a Time into Resurrection into Revenge will be tonal whiplash, but that lineup held up fairly well in 2013-2014 season thanks to the midseason entry Resurrection only airing for eight episodes.
Where's the big, exciting new series to launch the fall with? ABC doesn't have a tentpole blockbuster to put its marketing muscle behind—unless you're really excited for Selfie, I guess. It appears the network wants to cram How to Get Away With Murder into that category, but doing so will only strengthen a preexisting fanbase (Grey's faithful; Gladiators). I was hoping to see The Whispers sooner rather than later because ALIENS, but ABC is holding it back until the midseason. And American Crime has the potential to be the network's most critically buzzed-about series, but it's benched until (probably) 2015, too. Heck, I'd even get excited about the fairy-tale musical Galavant, just to see what it's all about. Elsewhere, NBC has comic-adaptation Constantine and the Happy Endings-ish Marry Me, and Fox has the pre-Batman Gotham. ABC has Viola Davis teaching law school. (It also has new Marvel series Agent Carter, but that won't debut until S.H.I.E.L.D. goes into hibernation for the winter break.) Gaining traction in the fall is one of the keys to a good winter, and I don't know where how ABC is going to accomplish that with this schedule.
THE PROMISING TREND
ABC seems committed to colorblindness this year, with three new comedies featuring minority families at the center, a new soap with a minority lead, and a sizzling new drama about race relations (and with a cast that's half Hispanic). It's a refreshing change for a television landscape that's been criticized for being lily-white.
On the comedy front, Fresh Off the Boat follows a Vietnamese-American family that moves to suburban Orlando, Black-ish centers on an affluent African-American family whose patriarch feels like his kids are losing their sense of cultural identity, and Cristela revolves around a Latina who's moving up in the white-collar world while her blue-collar family looks on. And the interesting thing is that two of the three (Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish) are single-camera comedies that don't look half-bad.
Viola Davis leads the Shonda Rhimes-produced How to Get Away With Murder, which will follow the Kerry Washington-starring Scandal on Thursday nights. That means a single evening of television will feature two black female leads, which is something that's happened on television I would guess never.
Finally, American Crime looks race right in the face with a plot about a racially charged crime and its effects on the community.
Is this the beginning of a new era of multi-cultural television? Let's hope so.
Best-looking New ABC Series: American Crime
Look out, another cable-quality drama on network TV! It may not get the ratings it deserves, but this trailer looks seriously good. And the emphasis is on both the "serious" and the "good," even if it's just Timothy Hutton crying in a bathroom for an hour.
Worst-looking New ABC Series: Selfie
This Emily Kapnek (Suburgatory) comedy is about a social-media-obsessed woman who's trying to repair her image after becoming the subject of an embarrassing viral video (BARF), but it's too late. I hate her already and I don't want to spend any time with her at all. And that icky American accent dribbling from the mouth of Doctor Who's Karen Gillam is sacrilege. Didn't ABC learn anything from Rebel Wilson in Super Fun Night? Obviously not.
The Show That's Just Going for It and Doesn't Care What Anyone Else Thinks: Galavant
What if Glee and Once Upon a Time got drunk at Medieval Times and hooked up in the bathroom and a baby just shot right out of Glee? Galavant, that's what! This could be a lot of fun, or it could be 1,000-percent terrible. I'm leaning toward the latter. But I'm excited about it.
The Show That Could Be the Biggest Surprise Even Though You're Probably Like "Ehhh" From the Title (a.k.a. the Trophy Wife Award): Fresh Off the Boat
It's like if The Goldbergs and Suburgatory took on a foreign exchange student from Taiwan and all three of them went into one of those teleporters from The Fly and melded together into one thing. And since it's helmed by Nahnatchka Khan, who's last show was the sharp Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, it's got a solid voice.
How do your first impressions of ABC's new schedule and shows match up to mine?