upfronts

Shonda Rhimes Takes Over ABC’s Thursday Nights

Three ShondaLand shows will air back-to-back-to-back on Thursdays, while ABC splits up the Marvel Universe. Everything else is business as usual.

For the third time, Shonda Rhimes will have three shows airing on ABC, but for the first time ever, all three will air back-to-back-to-back. Yes, Thursdays become ShondaNight (trademark pending) as Grey’s Anatomy shifts to 8 p.m., Scandal moves to 9 p.m., and How to Get Away with Murder bows at 10 p.m.

“[Rhimes] is one of the greatest voices on television and you’ve seen us stumble at that 8 p.m. hour,” ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee said of the big Thursday night switch in a conference call with the press shortly after the 2014–2015 schedule was released. The plan is to use the monster success of Scandal to “drive into and lead out to How to Get Away with Murder,” Rhimes’ new series starring Viola Davis.

And Lee isn’t worried about moving Grey’s back to 8 p.m. for its 11th (yes, 11th) season either. “We really think Grey’s is such a strong show. It has such a built-in audience. The audience loves it… We feel very confident in it,” Lee added. There was concern from some journalists about the adult content Grey’s offers airing at the earlier hour, where it once lived. “We have no doubts that Grey’s is going to play great at 8 so that’s really not an issue,” Lee said. “We’re going to make sure that what we air is appropriate.”

As far as the network’s new content goes, Lee said ABC took a new approach. “We actually went out and approached some of the strongest voices and best storytellers in the world,” he noted. “And we said, ‘Bring us your passion projects.’ And I really don’t think they disappointed,” Lee continued, citing midseason drama American Crime from John Ridley as a prime example. Lee called the show, which will replace Resurrection after it finishes its 15 or 16-episode run, “a very big swing for ABC.”

The network is also diversifying with three of its new comedies: Black-ish and Cristela, which will debut in the fall, and Fresh Off the Boat, which will hold until midseason. “We really wanted to reflect the changing face of America,” Lee said. Of Fresh Off the Boat, specifically, he added: “It’s really sizzling. It’s a very, very, very distinctive voice. We really do think ABC reflects the new face of America.”

Meanwhile, the network isn’t doubling up on Marvel shows as Agent Carter, which Lee called a “S.H.I.E.L.D. origin story,” will serve as bridge programming between the fall finale and winter premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which Lee referred to as a “self-starter.” “It took a little bit of time to find our sea legs, but the back nine of shield are really excellent,” he admitted. “We feel good about it.”

Also bridging a gap is the medieval musical Galavant, which will air while Once Upon a Time is on hiatus. “We thought it’d be a really fun idea to do a half-hour musical,” Lee said of Galavant, which he said is “totally adorable.”

A few other notable details:

Black-ish, starring Anthony Anderson scored the post-Modern Family time slot, which has been less of a blessing and more of a curse for the last few shows that resided there (Super Fun Night, Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B*tch in Apt 23).

• Given Shark Tank’s killer ratings, many wondered if ABC would test the reality show in a new time slot, but it will stay on Fridays, where it routinely wins the night. Dancing with the Stars and Castle, a proven Monday night draw, are also staying put.

• Lee was also very confident in The Goldbergs’ move from Tuesdays to Wednesdays. He said he believes it was “the best comedy of the year this year” and thinks it’s “perfectly positioned to stay on the network for a really long time.”

• Critics were devastated by the loss of freshman comedy Trophy Wife and Lee admitted he too “was sad to see it go.” “It was a really great show and we certainly gave it a lot of promotion in a whole lot of different ways, but in the end, I’m sorry it didn’t come back,” he added.

• But! There is good news for Revenge fans: After finally finding its footing again in Season 3, the show will get a full fourth season. “The showrunners had a great idea of how we can just give it a little twist and reset the story,” Lee noted.

The full schedule is at the bottom of the story, and the new shows are now arranged in night-of-the-week order.

3. Selfie (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)

ABC

Who’s in it? Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) and John Cho (Sleepy Hollow)
Who created it? Written and produced by Emily Kapnek (Suburgatory) with Julie Anne Robinson (The Last Song) directing and executive producing
What’s it about? Amy Pond does comedy! Loosely based on My Fair Lady, Gillan stars as Eliza Dooley, a self-obsessed twenty-something with a huge online following, who comes to realize that being popular online doesn’t translate into having real friends. So in order to makeover her life, she asks a co-worker (Cho) to help change her image. Let’s hope this is the theme song.
First impression? This premise looks like a wonderful…movie. Gillan’s got the comedy bitch act down pat, but I have serious concerns about there being enough evolutionary material here to make it past the zygote stage. —Jarett Wieselman

5. Manhattan Love Story (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.)

ABC

Who’s in it? Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid Love), Jake McDorman (Greek), Kurt Fuller (Psych), Nicolas Wright (Sensitive Skin), Jade Catta-Preta (Californication), Chloe Wepper (Criminal Minds)
Who created it? Written by Jeff Lowell (Spin City) who executive produced along with Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?), Robin Schwartz, Rachel Kaplan, and Jon Liebman. Michael Fresco (Better Off Ted) directed the pilot.
What’s it about? Dueling voice-overs illuminate what the opposite sex is actually thinking as a new relationship blossoms between Dana and Peter (Tipton and McDorman). Remember when Analeigh Tipton was on America’s Next Top Model?
First impression? I adore the idea of going inside the brains of modern-day singletons, but as I learned in my twenties, there’s not always a lot upstairs. But perhaps Manhattan Love Story, which Paul Lee called “adorable,” can prove otherwise. —Jarett Wieselman

7. Forever (Tuesdays at 10 p.m.)

ABC

Who’s in it? Ioan Gruffudd (Glee), Alana De La Garza (Law & Order), Joel David Moore (Avatar), and Judd Hirsch (Damages)
Who created it? Written and produced by Matt Miller (Chuck) with Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes) and Jennifer Gwartz (Veronica Mars) executive producing. Brad Anderson (The Machinist) directed the pilot.
What’s it about? A New York City medical examiner (Gruffudd) spends his days solving cases and his nights trying to figure out the cause of his immortality.
First impression? We’ve seen detectives paired with dozens of average people (writers, freelancer crime solvers, magically resurrected turn of the century soldiers). Now we’re getting a cop with an inexplicably eternal man. Everything else seems fairly routine. —Jarett Wieselman

9. Black-ish (Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.)

ABC

Who’s in it? Anthony Anderson (Guys with Kids), Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends), Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal), Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brow, and Marsai Martin
Who created it? Written by Kenya Barris (The Game), who executive produced with Anderson, Fishburne, Larry Wilmore (The Bernie Mac Show), and James Griffiths (Episodes), who directed the pilot
What’s it about? Wild success has led an African-American family to wonder if they’ve assimilated into white society too much. There is a character named Rainbow. That is all.
First impression? It only took one line for me to question this show. The teaser features a young (non-Jewish) boy telling his parents: “I want to have a bar mitzvah.” The attempted humor doesn’t hit for me and if the teaser is any indication, Black-ish seems to take everything one step too far. I worry this show will offend a lot of people, but, as with all of these first looks, it’s hard to say. —Emily Orley

11. How to Get Away with Murder (Thursdays at 10 p.m.)

ABC

Who’s in it? Viola Davis (The Help), Katie Findlay (The Carrie Diaries), Matt McGorry (Orange Is the New Black), Liza Weil (Scandal), Billy Brown, Aja Naomi King, Karla Souza, and Charlie Weber
Who created it? Written by Peter Nowalk (Grey’s Anatomy), who executive produced with Shonda Rhimes (Scandal) and Betsy Beers (Grey’s Anatomy). Michael Offer (Last Resort) directed the pilot.
What’s it about? Four law students studying underneath Annalise Keating (Davis) use the tricks they learn in her eponymous class to cover up a murder. TL;DR: Shonda enters the legal world with an Oscar-nominated actress at the helm!
First impression? This looks like Scandal turned all the way up in terms of twistiness, as a group of law students use the skills they learn in their Criminology 101 class — or as Viola Davis’ Professor Annalise Keating calls it, How to Get Away with Murder (the title!)— to do just that. Or they’re helping Annalise get away with a murder of her own. Or something. Either way, people are talking fast and covering up secrets, and Davis is magnetic. We’re already hooked. —Jace Lacob

13. Cristela (Fridays at 8:30 p.m.)

ABC

Who’s in it? Newcomer Cristela Alonzo, Carlos Ponce (Lipstick Jungle), Terri Hoyos, Andrew Leeds, Sam McMurray
Who created it? Alonzo and Kevin Hench (Last Man Standing), who executive produce with Marty Adelstein (Last Man Standing), Shawn Levy, and Becky Clements. John Pasquin directed the pilot presentation.
What’s it about? A law student (Alonzo) struggles to balance her work life, her home life, and her Mexican-American family’s cultural expectations in this semi-autobiographical sitcom.
First impression? Laughs are as plentiful in this trailer as beers are in Cristela’s house. In short, there are none. —Jarett Wieselman

ABC

15. Fresh Off the Boat (Midseason, TBD)

ABC

Who’s in it? Newcomer Hudson Yang (the son of a Wall Street Journal columnist), Randall Park (Veep), Constance Wu, and Forrest Wheeler (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone)
Who created it? Writer Nahnatchka Kahn (The B*tch in Apartment 23), who executive produces with Jake Kasdan (New Girl). Lynn Shelton (My Sister’s Sister) directed the pilot.
What’s it about? Based on Chef Eddie Huang’s memoir, this 90s-set comedy follows a newly relocated immigrant family who must adapt to a new way of life when they trade the thriving metropolis of Washington, D.C. for suburban Florida.
First impression? Laughed harder — and more often — than I was expecting. The offensive-ish title aside, the butt of these jokes doesn’t seem to be the Asian-American family at the center of the show, but rather, suburban American culture. If executed correctly, and it’s a fine line the show is towing, this comedy has great potential. — Jarett Wieselman

17. Secrets & Lies (Midseason, TBD)

Bob D’Amico / AMC

Who’s in it? Ryan Phillippe (Damages), Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County), KaDee Strickland (Private Practice), Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim), Natalie Martinez (Under the Dome), Belle Shouse, and Indiana Evans
Who created it? It hails from writer Barbie Kligman (Private Practice) and executive producers Aaron Kaplan, Tracey Robertson, and Nathan Mayfield and director Charles McDougall (who has directed a zillion pilots including Desperate Housewives).
What’s it about? When Ben Garner (Phillippe) finds the dead body of a 4-year-old boy, he instantly becomes the police’s main suspect, spurring him on a quest to find the real killer in order to clear his name.
First impression? The trailer looks great. But the problem with these kinds of elaborately plotted crime dramas tends to be revealed around Episode 7 or 8, when the writers are forced to come up with extraneous plots to sidetrack the characters en route to a resolution. But with such a short order, Secrets & Lies shouldn’t have to invent any time-killing detours. — Jarett Wieselman

19. American Crime (Midseason, TBD)

ABC

Who’s in it? Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Timothy Hutton (Leverage), Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist), Earl Brown (Chicago Fire), Richard Cabral, Caitlin Gerard, Benito Martinez, Elvis Nolasco, and Johnny Ortiz
Who created it? The pilot was written and directed by John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), who executive produces with former ABC Studios head of drama Michael J. McDonald
What’s it about? Revolves around a single crime (a young couple is attacked in their home) and the various people — friends, family, strangers — who are impacted by the heinous act.
First impression? The insanely amazing pedigree, both in front and behind the camera, is not going to waste, judging from this complex, heavy, and ultimately effective trailer. Whether or not there’s enjoyment to be mined from this intense series is will only be revealed once subsequent episodes air. — Jarett Wieselman

21. The Whispers (Midseason, TBD)

ABC

Who’s in it? Lily Rabe (American Horror Story), Barry Sloane (Revenge), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Derek Webster, Brianna Brown, Catalina Denis, Kylie Rogers, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf
Who created it? Written by Soo Hugh (Under the Dome), who exective produced along with Steven Speilberg (E.T.), Justin Falvey (The Americans), Darryl Frank (United States of Tara), and Dawn Olmstead (Prison Break). Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) directed the pilot.
What’s it about? Aliens begin their invasion by inhabiting the world’s children, who are unwittingly helping unseen enemies as the clock counts down in a race to save humanity. Luckily, Rabe has experience with extraterrestrials from American Horror Story: Asylum. (Yes, we all wanted to forget about that. Sorry.)
First impression? Though the basic premise of this sounded absurd (and though it is bound to draw comparisons to Dark Skies and other similar horror film fare), the trailer looks truly chilling…as long as we don’t actually see the creatures who are supposedly compelling these children to do awful things since the visual has been the weakest point in similar extra terrestrial stories. Losing Lily Rabe on American Horror Story is a shame, but she is clearly throwing all of herself into this role and killing it. —Jaimie Etkin

23. Agent Carter (Midseason, TBD)

ABC

Who’s in it? Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Who created it? Michele Fazekas (Hawaii Five-O) and Tara Butters (Hawaii Five-0) executive produce along with Steve McFeely (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Christopher Marcus (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and Jeph Loeb (Heroes)
What’s it about? Yes, another comic-based show and ABC’s second in the Marvel world specifically. Set in 1946, this one follows Captain America’s Agent Peggy Carter as she juggles secretarial work and clandestine missions for Howard Stark, all while attempting to start dating again after losing the love of her life, Steve Rogers.
First impression? Nothing yet! The pilot hasn’t been shot and ABC showed footage culled from Marvel’s Agent Carter One-Shot from last year.

24. Galavant (Midseason, TBD)

ABC

Who’s in it? Joshua Sasse (Rogue), Timothy Omundson (Psych), Vinnie Jones, Mallory Jansen, Karen David, and Luke Youngblood
Who created it? Written by Dan Fogelman (The Neighbors), who executive produces along with Alan Menken (Aladdin), Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid), and Chris Koch (The Neighbors), who also directed the pilot
What’s it about? Described by ABC as “a musical comedy fairytale” about Galavant (Sasse), a white knight turned drunkard after the love of his life (Jansen) runs off with an evil king (Omundson). Filled with a newfound sense of revenge, he sets out to reclaim what was once his. Award-winning composer Menken and lyricist Slater are behind the songs, but oh boy.
First impression? Paul Lee described this as a cross between Spamalot and The Princess Bride, but that’s not exactly something we need in 2015. It looks a lot like Robin Hood: Men in Tights, except I did not laugh one time. Based on the response (or lack thereof) from the crowd at ABC’s Upfront presentation, I’m not alone. But maybe this can find the right level of camp and, therefore, an audience. — Jaimie Etkin

26. The Astronaut Wives Club (Midseason, TBD)

Angela Weiss / Getty

Who’s in it? Zoe Boyle (Lavinia from Downton Abbey!), Odette Annable, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Dominique McElligott, Aaron McCusker, Azure Parsons, Desmond Harrington, Erin Cummings, Joel Johnstone
Who created it? Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl) created and will executive produce alongside Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl), Stephanie Savage, Michael London, Len Goldstein, and Nick Cassavetes, who directed the pilot.
What’s it about? This 10-episode series, based on Lily Koppel’s best-selling novel, was pushed from a summer berth to a mid-season 2015 premiere. (So interpret that as you will.) If it ever makes it to air, the ‘60-set series will center on the ladies behind some of the biggest heroes in American history.
First impression? No trailer available yet.

27. Members Only (Midseason, TBD)

Jordin Althaus/Courtesy AMC / MCT

Who’s in it? Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), Boris Kodjoe (Undercovers), Callie Hernandez, Chris Conroy
Who created it? Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich)
What’s it about? Unsurprisingly, ABC picked up this upstairs/downstairs soap (previously known as The Club straight to series. It is set at a private country club. I cannot wait for Pine Valley: The Real Club.
First impression? No trailer available.

MONDAY
8-10 p.m. — Dancing with the Stars
10-11 p.m. — Castle

TUESDAY
8-8:30 p.m. — Selfie (new)
8-8:30 p.m. — Manhattan Love Story (new)
9-10 p.m.— Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10-11 p.m. — Forever (new)

WEDNESDAY
8-8:30 p.m. — The Middle
8:30-9 p.m. — The Goldbergs
9:00-9:30 p.m.— Modern Family
9:30-10 p.m. — Black-ish (new)
10-11 p.m. — Nashville

THURSDAY
8-9 p.m.— Grey’s Anatomy
9-10 p.m. — Scandal
10-11 p.m. — How to Get Away with Murder (new)

FRIDAY
8-8:30 p.m. — Last Man Standing
8:30-9 p.m. — Cristela (new)
9-10 p.m. — Shark Tank
10-11 p.m. — 20/20

SATURDAY
8 p.m. — Saturday Night Football

SUNDAY
7-8 p.m. — America’s Funniest Home Videos
8-9 p.m. — Once Upon a Time
9-10 p.m. — Resurrection
10-11 p.m. — Revenge

correction

This post has been updated to change language originally taken from a press release.

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