Upfront Navigator: ABC: Programming Monday Nights Without the Football Game

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Scheduling Monday nights this fall will be a new experience for most ABC executives, particularly ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson.

Mr. McPherson was in kindergarten when the network, longtime home of “Monday Night Football,” last rolled out nonsports programming on fall Mondays. Many of his staffers weren’t even born yet.

ABC is certainly accustomed to programming Mondays starting in midseason once the football season is over, but the network consistently has had trouble with Monday nights once the goal posts come down in January.

To bring in women, ABC could move either of its Sunday night performers “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy” to 9 p.m. (ET) on Monday. Such a move would provide a platform to launch new programming at 10 p.m. on both nights. The network could also go for broke and move one of the Sunday hits to Thursday at 9 p.m.

If that’s the strategy, ABC needs to “have two female-skewing shows to follow,” said Rob Golenberg, The Gersh Agency’s VP and head of TV packaging.

One possibility includes the soapy drama “Six Degrees,” from sister Walt Disney company, Touchstone Television and “Lost” producer J.J. Abrams. Last week ABC gave “Six Degrees” an early series pickup.

Besides picking up female-skewing shows, the network has also picked up the Warner Bros. hostage drama “The Nine” and the Touchstone thriller drama “Day Break” starring Taye Diggs, sources said.

ABC, too, has experienced the industrywide struggle to find a comedy on par with its dramas.

Its most recent midseason comedy, “Sons & Daughters,” aired back to back at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, failed to generate audiences. Tuesday’s 8 p.m. comedy “According to Jim” and Wednesday’s 8 p.m. sitcom “George Lopez” are expected to return, while “Lopez” lead-out “Freddie” and Wednesday’s 9 p.m. comedy “Hope & Faith” are on the bubble. Tuesday 8:30 p.m. comedy “Rodney” is not expected to return, according to several industry observers, including Brad Adgate, senior VP of research for media services Horizon Media.

That leaves potential openings in the Tuesday and Wednesday 8 p.m. blocks. It could also mean ABC has needs on Friday, unless the network goes unscripted that night with a reality block led by “Supernanny” followed by newsmagazine “20/20.”

Although ABC would not confirm any series pickups last week, it greenlit several comedies, including Touchstone Television’s sitcom “In Case of Emergency,” a single-camera show about four high school friends who reconnect later in life.

“Emergency” is one of many projects shot this season using the single-camera production style, which eschews traditional comedy tenets such as the use of a soundstage and a live studio audience.

ABC has also given the go ahead to Warner Bros.’ comedy “Notes From the Underbelly,” a sitcom about a group of friends whose lives are affected when one couple becomes pregnant.

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