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.
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.
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.)
Premieres Wed., Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Designated Survivor (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)
Premieres Wed., Sept. 21 at 10 p.m.
Notorious (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)
Premieres Thurs., Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.
Conviction (Mondays at 10 p.m.)
Premieres Mon., Oct. 3 at 10 p.m.
American Housewife (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.)
Premieres Tues., Oct. 11 at 8:30 p.m.
Still Star-Crossed (Midseason)
Downward Dog (Midseason)
Time After Time (Midseason)
Imaginary Mary (Midseason)
Ten Days in the Valley (TBD 2017)
Here is the ABC fall 2016 schedule:
Dancing With the Stars 8–10 p.m.
*Conviction 10 p.m.
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.
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.
Grey's Anatomy 8 p.m.
*Notorious 9 p.m.
How to Get Away With Murder 10 p.m.
Last Man Standing 8 p.m.
Dr. Ken 8:30 p.m.
Shark Tank 9 p.m.
20/20 10 p.m.
Saturday Night Football 8 p.m.
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.