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ABC Is Counting On Shonda Rhimes And Comedies Next Season

ABC picked up a new (their fifth!) Shondaland drama, but that means Scandal is moving to midseason.

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In many ways, ABC's 2016–2017 schedule represents a major change for the network. In February, Paul Lee was ousted as president of ABC Entertainment and Channing Dungey — formerly the head of drama development at the network — took over the job, hand-selecting which shows would make it to air.

But in other ways, the schedule is also in keeping with what has worked for ABC as of late (almost anything Shonda Rhimes; high-concept soaps), which is largely because Dungey helped develop all of those dramas. That could also be why very little has changed in terms of when exactly shows will be airing this fall.

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Solid night-opening anchors like Dancing With the Stars and Grey's Anatomy remain where they've long been, with ABC using them to launch new dramas; a returning series with a small but loyal fanbase, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will move to Tuesdays at 10 p.m., a historically difficult time slot for ABC; and given the network's success with comedy, they've added a third night of sitcoms to the schedule.

"We are extremely proud of what we like to call our 'ABC funny' brand. We think we have a very distinctive brand of family comedies that are working very well," Dungey said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning. "The development we had this year came in very, very strong and once we looked at that development in combination with the comedies we already brought back, it really did seem to make sense to open up another night of comedy."

This fall, two-hour comedy blocks will air on both Tuesday and Wednesdays nights, with freshman series American Housewife joining The Middle, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Real O'Neals on Tuesdays and Speechless debuting alongside The Goldbergs, Modern Family, and Black-ish on Wednesdays.

Over on the drama side, it was revealed that Scandal will be held until midseason — likely due to star Kerry Washington's pregnancy, thereby saving fans from enduring another round of seeing all the crazy ways the show attempts to hide her baby bump. But instead of subbing another Shondaland show into that highly touted TGIT programming block on Thursday nights (like sophomore series The Catch or the new drama Still Star-Crossed), a new drama from executive producer Josh Berman and co–executive producer Allie Hagan, Notorious, will get that choice slot.

"With Scandal being off in the fall, it made sense to give a new show a trial run there and see how things fare," Dungey said, reinforcing that ABC is simply using "some of [their] strongest assets" to launch new shows. The network has yet to decide if the night will continue to be branded "TGIT" — a hugely successful marketing move designed to encapsulate the OMG-style storytelling inherent in most Rhimes-produced shows. "Shonda's going to have five shows on the broadcast schedule by the spring, so we're gonna have to expand beyond Thursdays or we're not going to be able to accommodate them all," Dungey said.

As for the now-canceled Nashville and Castle, Dungey paid her respects, calling both "wonderful" and "good performers for a long time," but explained, "The future for us did not necessarily lie in those shows."

Like Fox and NBC, ABC is holding a large number of its new shows for midseason. In addition to the new shows and Scandal, 2017 will see the return of John Ridley's acclaimed anthology series American Crime; the debut of When We Rise, an eight-hour limited series from Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black about the LGBT civil rights movement; and the network is actively engaged in conversations about staging their first live musical, which have been successful for both NBC and Fox.

"This schedule very much reflects my sensibility about where I feel like the network is and where we want to be going," Dungey said.

So, with that, here's a closer look at the new shows coming to ABC in the 2016–2017 season.

Speechless (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.)

Kevin Foley / ABC

Who's in it? Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, Mason Cook, Micah Fowler, Kyla Kennedy, Cedric Yarbrough

Who created it? Scott Silveri, Jake Kasdan, Melvin Mar

What's it about? Driver and The Big Bang Theory's Bowie play parents of three, including a son with special needs, who are trying to adjust to a new home and a new town while also hoping their eldest is able to make a connection with someone outside the family in this new comedy.

First impression? There is obviously depth here, with Driver's Maya playing a difficult person whose journey with her nonverbal son J.J. has changed her — and even in this cutdown, Speechless doesn't appear to be shying away from how that affects the other children in the family. Fowler, who has cerebral palsy in real life, is the rare special needs actor playing a special needs character. Obviously, this show is a comedy. But I cried a little. —Kate Aurthur

Premieres Wed., Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m.

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Designated Survivor (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)

Bob D'amico / ABC

Who's in it? Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett, Tanner Buchanan

Who created it? David Guggenheim, Simon Kinberg, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Gordon, Nick Pepper, Suzan Bymel, Aditya Sood

What's it about? The 24 franchise continues on Fox without Jack Bauer onscreen. Sutherland has instead chosen to star in this ABC thriller as Tom Kirkman, a lower cabinet member who becomes president after an unexpected attack on Washington. After all, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The series also sees Maggie Q return to primetime as well as Kal Penn.

First impression? Upon reading this pilot script, Sutherland said he realized he was "potentially holding the next decade of [his] life in [his] hands" and based on the very compelling trailer, he could be right. An interesting premise, a solid supporting cast (particularly Maggie Q), and a cinematic visual flair make this one of the most promising-looking new fall dramas. Granted, this is also the kind of premise that could go wildly off-the-rails after the pilot — and not in that "24 is so batshit-insane, it's good" kind of way. —Jarett Wieselman

Premieres Wed., Sept. 21 at 10 p.m.

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Notorious (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)

Kevin Foley / ABC

Who's in it? Piper Perabo, Daniel Sunjata, Ryan Guzman, Kevin Zegers, J. August Richards, Aimee Teegarden

Who created it? Josh Berman, Allie Hagan

What's it about? The drama takes on today's 24-hour news media cycle by examining how criminal justice and the media work together and against each other. The show is inspired by the lives of criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and cable news producer Wendy Walker.

First impression? I wish this were a prequel to Tori Spelling's VH1 reality spoof So NoTORIous, but alas, this it's a drama starring Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata, the only actor of color in a lead role on the usually more diverse ABC this fall, as my colleague Kate Aurthur pointed out. It's giving me Sports Night vibes (good!) instead of The Newsroom ones (bad!), but with Great News also coming to NBC next season, I feel like I'll get tired of the newsroom drama fast. —Jaimie Etkin

Premieres Thurs., Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.

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Conviction (Mondays at 10 p.m.)

Bob D'amico / ABC

Who’s in it? Hayley Atwell, Eddie Cahill, Shawn Ashmore, Merrin Dungey, Emily Kinney, Manny Montana, Daniel DiTomasso

Who created it? Liz Friedman, Liz Friedlander, Mark Gordon

What’s it about? Former first daughter Hayes Morrison (Atwell) is trying to avoid jail time for cocaine possession and totally fucking up her mom's Senate campaign, so she accepts a job from her nemesis, New York District Attorney Wayne Wallis (Cahill). Working for Wallis's new Conviction Integrity Unit, she's tasked with turning over cases where there might've been a wrongful conviction. Basically, Agent Carter is kicking ass all over again.

First impression? Hayley Atwell playing a former first daughter with a rebellious streak and a knack for breaking laws sounds so good on paper and thankfully, it's equally enjoyable in action. Although this is yet another ABC drama where an impossibly diverse group of well-dressed people hold up 8x10 headshots of clients they hope to free, there is a palpable sense of fun permeating the trailer that sets it apart from its heavier small-screen siblings. —Jarett Wieselman

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Premieres Mon., Oct. 3 at 10 p.m.

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American Housewife (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.)

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Who's in it? Katy Mixon, Diedrich Bader, Ali Wong

Who created it? Sarah Dunn

What's it about? This show used to be called The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport but that title was scrapped when...I dunno, someone actually read it aloud perhaps. The series revolves around Katie Otto (Mixon) who is referred to as "a confident, unapologetic, plump wife and mother of three" in the official description from ABC. Through her the viewer is given a unique look at the crazy mothers in the über-rich — and presumably, über-thin — town of Westport, Connecticut.

First impression? Yes, changing the name of this show was wise: The clever Trophy Wife and Cougar Town both proved that gimmick titles really can be a barrier to entry for viewers. Is American Housewife smart like those shows? It's not immediately clear from this trailer, though I did laugh when she says to her greedy, Westportian son, "And I'm Stalin!" If this show can cut the fat jokes, and never make a Spanx joke again, maybe it will be relatable, funny, and sweet. It's also interesting that ABC, with its family-oriented and expanding comedy brand, will have two new comedies featuring special needs kids. (The other is Speechless below.) That is certainly a concern to lots of parents, and this wave feels new. —Kate Aurthur

Premieres Tues., Oct. 11 at 8:30 p.m.

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Still Star-Crossed (Midseason)

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Who’s in it? Wade Briggs, Anthony Head, Zuleikha Robinson, Lashana Lynch, Ebonee Noel, Sterling Sulieman, Medalion Rahimi, Grant Bowler, Susan Wooldridge, Torrance Coombs, Dan Hildebrand

Who created it? Heather Mitchell, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, Michael Goldstein, Michael Offer

What’s it about? What happened to the Montagues and Capulets after Romeo and Juliet met their tragic fate? This ShondaLand period drama, based on Melinda Taub's book of the same name, picks up after the feuding families have each lost someone with Briggs starring as Benvolio, and Head and Robinson as Lord and Lady Capulet. This cast may be even more diverse than Baz Luhrmann's.

First impression? Shonda Rhimes has been trying to get a period piece on the air for quite some time now — RIP Gilded Lilys pilot — and she's finally done it with this adaptation of a book that picks up where Shakespeare left Romeo & Juliet. I am a sucker for soapy dramas set in the 16th century like The Tudors and Reign, and for Rhimes, so this looks like it'll give me everything I want: funeral fights, fabulous ensembles, and epic love triangles. I couldn't resist it if I wanted to. —Jaimie Etkin

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Downward Dog (Midseason)

Bob D'amico / ABC

Who's in it? Allison Tolman, Lucas Neff, Mo Collins

Who created it? Samm Hodges, Michael Killen

What's it about? Starring Tolman — the breakout star from Fargo Season 1 — as a self-focused millennial, the show is told from the point of view of her equally despondent dog.

First impression? I am the biggest animal fan in the world (and I have the receipts to prove it, Guinness), but I was incredibly nervous about this comedy about a dog that narrates his owner's life. But after getting emotional at the surprisingly touching trailer, I promise to never question my four-legged friends ever again. Nor shall I ever again doubt Allison Tolman, who has yet to make a misstep since breaking out in the first season of Fargo. —Jarett Wieselman

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Time After Time (Midseason)

Bob D'amico / ABC

Who's in it? Freddie Stroma, Josh Bowman, Genesis Rodriguez, Regina Taylor

Who created it? Kevin Williamson

What's it about? Stroma plays H.G. Wells, iconic writer of The Time Machine, who finds himself transported to present-day Manhattan where he attempts to capture Jack the Ripper.

First impression? Based on Karl Alexander's 1979 novel, and the movie of the same name starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, Time After Time appears to be using that story as a launching pad for a full series. Wells has to adapt to modern life, and of course no one believes him about who he is at first. Jack the Ripper fits in more easily (and he doesn't care whether people believe him). The usual questions crop up here: Will Wells be chasing Jack for seven seasons if this show is a hit? That was a problem Williamson had with The Following, which only lasted for three seasons! But let's not focus on the negative, because Time After Time looks fun, and Stroma was charming on the first season of Unreal. —Kate Aurthur

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Imaginary Mary (Midseason)

Ed Herrera / ABC

Who's in it? Jenna Elfman, Stephen Schneider, Rachel Dratch

Who created it? Adam F. Goldberg, David Guarascio, Doug Robinson

What's it about? A business-minded woman reconnects with the raucous imaginary friend from her childhood after meeting her dream man and his three kids.

First impression? The creators of Downward Dog are probably thrilled that this show exists to help their premise look slightly less laughable (and yes, I too chuckled at Downward Dog's cat joke). Elfman's Alice has a killer haircut, wardrobe, and job, but when she starts dating a guy with kids, her childhood imaginary friend re-emerges to help her through her fear — in turn, giving me nightmares about a hairy white polka-dotted creature with wide-set eyes and Rachel Dratch's voice. WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESERVE THIS? PS: That lesbian joke did not help matters. Nor did the Macarena. —Jaimie Etkin

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Ten Days in the Valley (TBD 2017)

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Who's in it? Kyra Sedgwick

Who created it? Tassie Cameron

What's it about? In early August, ABC ordered 10 episodes of Skydance Television's Ten Days in the Valley, starring and executive produced by Sedgwick. In the hourlong drama, she plays Jane Sadler, a hard-working TV producer on a controversial police series. Jane is also going through a messy separation and things take a turn for the worse when her young daughter goes missing in the middle of the night.

Here is the ABC fall 2016 schedule:

Monday

Dancing With the Stars 8–10 p.m.

*Conviction 10 p.m.

Tuesday

The Middle 8 p.m.

*American Housewife 8:30 p.m.

Fresh Off the Boat 9 p.m.

The Real O'Neals 9:30 p.m.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 10 p.m.

Wednesday

The Goldbergs 8 p.m.

*Speechless 8:30 p.m.

Modern Family 9 p.m.

Black-ish 9:30 p.m.

*Designated Survivor 10 p.m.

Thursday

Grey's Anatomy 8 p.m.

*Notorious 9 p.m.

How to Get Away With Murder 10 p.m.

Friday

Last Man Standing 8 p.m.

Dr. Ken 8:30 p.m.

Shark Tank 9 p.m.

20/20 10 p.m.

Saturday

Saturday Night Football 8 p.m.

Sunday

Once Upon a Time 8 p.m.

Secrets and Lies 9 p.m.

Quantico 10 p.m.

Note: An asterisk (*) indicates a new show for the 2016–2017 season.

Note: In mid-May every year, the five television broadcast networks — NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and The CW — present their new shows and upcoming schedules to advertisers at events called "the upfronts." That's why you see an onslaught of new programming in May, as well as the cancellation of current shows. This post will be continually updated.

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