ABC shows coming in Fall 2009

ABC tries to show us the funny and fails. But the dramas are almost good

ABC Upfronts

Argh. So many upfronts to cover. Today, at least, I’ll be covering ABC’s shows and hopefully – work willing – I’ll have looked at CBS’s and The CW’s new shows for Fall 2009 by the end of Friday.

Ah ABC. If only there was some language somewhere where ABC stood for “Night of the Long Knives”. Because you can pretty much guarantee that just about every show here is going to be cancelled by this time next year, just as last year’s got culled this week.

So prepare to not get too attached to: V, Flash Forward, Cougar Town, Eastwick, The Forgotten, Hank, Happy Town, The Middle and Modern Family. Argh. That’s a lot. It took me two hours to do this. I’m really not sure half these shows are worth two minutes.

Cougar Town (coming this fall, Wednesdays 9:30/8:30c)
Half-hour comedy
Can a woman of a certain age be a mom, a successful career woman and still be on the prowl? Jules Cobb (Courteney Cox) is about to give it a try.

In a small Florida town, the center of high society is the Cougars high school football team… which is wildly appropriate since this town is the natural habitat for over-tanned, under-dressed divorcées prowling for younger men. Jules desperately doesn’t want to be one of them, but with an ugly divorce behind her and 40 staring right back at her, she’s longing for a little more action in her life. The available men her own age, like her silver fox of a neighbor, Grayson Ellis, only seem interested in dating barely legal hotties — which is awkward considering he’s also her teenage son Tad’s therapist. Egged on by her very married and very irreverent best friend Elle and her determined assistant Laurie, Jules reluctantly dips her toe back into the dating pool. To her surprise, she hits it off with a nice young guy named Bobby — emphasis on the young — and discovers this gal still has the goods.

Co-executive produced by Courteney Cox and Bill Lawrence (Scrubs), Cougar Town is the single-camera comedy that dares to tell the truth about dating after divorce. Juggling a teenage son with her thriving career and budding love life isn’t easy, but before you know it, Jules will have you cheering, “Go Cougars!”

The series is from ABC Studios. Bill Lawrence is executive producer/writer/director, Kevin Biegel is writer/co-executive producer, and Courteney Cox and David Arquette are executive producers.

Cast and credits
Courteney Cox as Jules
Christa Miller as Elle
Busy Philipps as Laurie
Dan Byrd as Travis
Brian Van Holt as Bobby
Josh Hopkins as Grayson
Ian Gomez as Andy

Executive Producers: Bill Lawrence, Kevin Biegel, Courtney Cox, David Arquette

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: A good cast (with a couple of exceptions) and a few good lines, this does look like it’s trying to be a cross between Scrubs and Desperate Housewives, but isn’t being very good at either. A little bit of regurgitation of some of the best bits of Sleepless in Seattle, The Sweetest Thing and Sex in the City, all the same, it’s not too bad and Christa Miller is always worth watching.

The Deep End
One-hour drama
Sterling Law is one of L.A.’s most prestigious law firms. Each year it recruits four new young lawyers from the finest law schools worldwide. It will nurture, guide and shape these recruits into the best damned lawyers they can possibly be — or else.

This year the lucky four are Dylan, a blue collar kid made-good; Addy, a sweet mid-Westerner with a lethal legal mind; Beth, a brilliant Brentwood babe; and Liam, an Australian with serious drive. Sterling Law is under the control of ruthless senior partner Cliff Huddle (Billy Zane), aka “The Prince of Darkness.” But when legendary partner Hart Sterling returns to the firm after a long hiatus caring for his dying wife, he’s ready to shake things up. The only way for these first years to survive being caught in the middle of this major power struggle is to support each other, even as they compete against one another in the cutthroat arena of corporate law. They discover unlikely allies in their mercurial recruiter Rowdy and litigating whirlwind Susan, who is Cliff’s icy, but talented wife. Dylan also manages to make a deeper connection with an ace paralegal named Addy, but every alliance at Sterling is complicated. Addy is drawn to Dylan, but it seems she hasn’t quite broken off her affair with Cliff.

The complex personal and professional lives of Grey’s Anatomy’s interns combine with the high-stakes world of L.A. Law in this sharp dramedy from David Hemingson, co-executive producer of How I Met Your Mother. Greed, betrayal, illegal acts; it’s all a part of being a first year associate at Sterling Law. Law school definitely didn’t prepare them for this.

The series is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television.

Matt Long as Dylan Hewitt
Ben Lawson as Liam Priory
Tina Majorino as Addy Fisher
Norbert Leo Butz as Rowdy Kaiser
Leah Pipes as Beth Bancroft
Billy Zane as Cliff Huddle
Sherri Saum as Susan Oppenheim
Clancy Brown as Hart Sterling

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: Not desperately impressive and do we need another Raising the Bar? Nevertheless, Billy Zane and Clancy Brown aren’t to be scoffed at, the Australian guy’s quite fun and there were a couple of funny bits in the trailer.

Eastwick (Coming this Fall Wednesdays 10/9c)
One-hour dramedy
Single-handedly, housewives accomplish astonishing things… and together, watch out. In the seaside village of Eastwick, this might just be evidence of their inner-witch rising to the surface.

Until today, Roxanne, Kat and Joanna didn’t get along because of their preconceived notions of each other. Roxanne was the flaky artist, Kat was a doormat wife and mom, and Joanna the uptight local reporter. But after a weird encounter in the park coupled with a few margaritas, these three have suddenly become fast friends. Now, a mysterious stranger’s arrival in town will bring them even closer and test them in ways they’d never imagined. Daryl Van Horne is an irresistible package of wealth, charisma and bad boy sex appeal. If he’s not buying up a local business, he’s attempting to seduce one (or all) of these ladies, physically and professionally. What’s even more dangerous, he’s unleashing their supernatural powers. But by igniting their heart’s desires, he might just be opening Pandora’s box. This small New England town will be turned upside down by these witches coming into their own. Though bad for a few locals, it’s still the best thing to happen in Eastwick in centuries.

The X-Files director/producer David Nutter and writer Maggie Friedman (Once and Again) conjure up a devilish blend of Desperate Housewives and Charmed that explores the hidden depths of women. Based on John Updike’s celebrated best-seller and the hit movie, Eastwick is brimming with romance, mystery and wicked charm, offering a tempting vision of the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy.

The series is produced by Warner Bros. Television. Maggie Friedman is executive producer/writer.

Cast and crew
Rebecca Romijn as Roxie Torcoletti
Lindsay Price as Joanna Frankel
Jamie Ray Newman as Kat Gardener
Paul Gross as Darryl Van Horne
Sara Rue as Penny
Veronica Cartwright as Bun
Johann Urb as Will
Jon Bernthal as Raymond
Ashley Benson as Mia.

Executive Producer: Maggie Friedman

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: Not too bad. Reasonably good cast, Paul Gross (the nice Canadian guy from Due South) doing a particularly fine job. Could be promising, but it really depends on where they take it, since it could just end up as even softer, wetter version of Practical Magic.

Flash Forward (Coming this Fall Thursdays 8/7c)
One-hour drama
When a mysterious event causes the entire world to black out, humanity is given a glimpse into its near future, and every man, woman and child is forced to come to grips with whether their destinies can be avoided or fulfilled.

Adapting award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer’s revolutionary novel, executive producers David S. Goyer (visionary co-writer of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”) and Brannon Braga (”24,” “Star Trek: Enterprise”) invite you to embark on a journey to answer the question, “if you knew what your future held, what would you do?”

Cast and crew
Joseph Fiennes as Mark Benford
John Cho as Demetri Noh
Jack Davenport as Lloyd Simcoe
Sonya Walger as Olivia Benford
Courtney B. Vance as Stan Wedeck
Brian O’Byrne as Aaron Stark
Christine Woods as Janis Hawk
Zachary Knighton as Bryce Varley
Peyton List as Nicole

Executive Producers: David S. Goyer (show runner), Brannon Braga, Marc Guggenheim (show runner), Jessika Goyer, Vince Gerardis, Ralph Vicinanza

ABC web site/ABC fan site

Rob’s initial impression: An interesting idea but I’m not seeing them doing too much with it from this trailer. But a good cast, a good crew, so I’ll probably tune in to a couple of episodes at least, just to see where they’re going with it.

The Forgotten (Coming this Fall 10/9c)
One-hour drama
Gone but not forgotten. That’s what they say. But what if a killer took your life — and your name? Every city has its share of unidentified murder victims. When standard police procedure fails to give them a name, that’s when the Identity Network steps in.

A group of dedicated, amateur detectives, the members of the Identity Network attempt to reconstruct the pieces of these John and Jane Doe’s lives from what little evidence is left behind. Each episode is narrated by a “body” who watches the team as they pursue the tantalizingly difficult challenge of figuring out who this victim once was. Why would anyone volunteer for such a grim task? As new recruit Tyler Davies quickly discovers, each of the members of the team has his or her own reasons for volunteering for the Network. Alex Donovan is a former cop, whose 11-year-old daughter was kidnapped and has never been found. Linda Manning, the woman who runs the network from her home, is a virtual recluse whose husband is a convicted murderer. Walter Bailey does stake outs — when he’s not blowing his cover. Candace Butler hates her day job. She also happens to have a special gift for putting people at ease — even the prickly Tyler, a talented sculptor with a background in forensics. Follow these committed amateur investigators as they race against time to piece together the stories of these dead people’s lives — and ultimately, hopefully, their murders.

The series is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Television and Warner Bros. Television.

Cast and crew
Rupert Penry-Jones as Alex
Reiko Aylesworth as Linda
Michelle Borth as Candace
Bob Stephenson as Walter
Anthony Carrigan as Tyler
Rochelle Aytes as Detective Grace Russell

Executive Producers: Mark Friedman, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed, Danny Cannon

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: Despite the presence of Rupert Penry-Jones and Reiko Aylesworth, I want to stab my own eyes and ears out watching the clips. Pretty awful, in almost every way.

Hank (Coming this Fall, wednesdays 8/7c)
Half-hour comedy
Sometimes scaling back is the best way to get ahead. Wall Street legend Hank Pryor (Kelsey Grammer) and his wife Tilly have been living the high life in New York City. That is until Hank is forced out of his CEO job and has to move his family back home to the small town of River Bend.

A self-made man, Hank is used to running the show, but now that he’s lost almost everything, can he learn how to hang with his family? The Pryors have had to seriously downsize their lives — even their king-sized bed won’t fit in their modest new home. Tilly’s not too pleased to be back in the same zip code as her family — especially her badgering brother Grady. Hank’s offbeat son Henry worries about fitting in with a new crowd and his daughter Maddie would rather talk on her cell phone than be anywhere near her Dad. But every great businessman knows that the key to success is to turn setbacks into opportunities. Hank has big plans to get ahead in business… and to reconnect with his family. It may take a while for an industrial giant to figure out how to mingle with the little people — like his family — but Hank’s up for the challenge. Like that smaller bed… Turns out that wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Starring Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), this hilarious family comedy mixes genuine, heart-warming moments with Grammer’s trademark blustery humor. The series is written by Everybody Loves Raymond’s three-time Emmy Award-winner Tucker Cawley, and co-executive produced by Grammer along with The Life & Times of Tim’s Mike Clements and Tom Werner.

After many years of living the so-called good life, the Pryor Family is about to discover that downsizing just might be the key to living it up!

The series is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with McMonkey Inc., Grammnet Productions, Werner Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television. It is written by Tucker Cawley. Tom Werner and Tucker Cawley.

Cast and crew
Kelsey Grammer as Hank
Melinda McGraw as Tilly
David Koechner as Grady
Macey Cruthird as Maddie
Ryan Wynott as Henry

Executive Producers: Kelsey Grammer, Mike Clements

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: As desperate attempts to recreate Frasier go, this one’s pretty desperate. I think being run over by a hippopotamus in an SUV would be marginally preferable, despite Kelsey Grammer and Melinda McGraw, whom I both really like. Sigh.

Happy Town
One-hour drama
For the past seven years Haplin, Minnesota’s lived up to its nickname, Happy Town. Even the air is sweet with the smell of bread from the industrial bakery. Unfortunately, everything is about to change.

Seven years ago, an unknown psycho, nick-named “The Magic Man” kidnapped seven children before Sheriff Griffin Conroy chased him away. But the discovery of a local’s gruesome murder and the disappearance of a new child have everyone whispering the Magic Man is back. Now, Mayor Haplin has ordered Deputy Tommy Conroy to replace his father as Sheriff — whether he wants the job, or not. Tommy knows better than to cross the town royalty, whose bakery employs half the town, including his wife. As Tommy begins investigating, his friends and neighbors become suspects and the quiet small town life he’s always cherished begins to sour. But Tommy’s not the only one investigating Haplin. A mysterious young woman has just arrived in town, and she’s quietly searching for answers about her family’s history with the residents of Happy Town.

From the executive producers of October Road and Life on Mars, comes the enthralling new drama, Happy Town. In the sleepy little hamlet of Haplin, Minnesota, not all secrets have been put to rest.

The series is from ABC Studios.

Cast and crew
Geoff Stults as Tommy Conroy
Lauren German as Henley
Amy Acker as Rachel Conroy
Dean Winters as John Haplin
John Patrick Amedori as Andrew Haplin
Sarah Gadon as Georgia Bravin
Jay Paulson as Larry ‘Root Beer’ Rogers
Robert Wisdom as Roger Hobbes
Sam Neill as Merritt Grieves.

Executive Producers: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: Well, by the middle of the promo I was desperately hoping for someone to come along and start slaughtering everyone, so my wish was granted. It doesn’t have a great pedigree, doesn’t have a great cast (apart from Sam Neill and Amy Acker, who is likely to get slaughtered in minutes given she’s on Dollhouse still) and it feels like someone trying to recreate Twin Peaks by reading the back of the DVD box set. Not good.

The Middle (Coming this Fall, Wednesdays 8:30/7:30c)
Half-hour comedy
Forget about athletes, movie stars and politicians. Parents are the real heroes — but Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), well she’s some kind of superhero. A loving wife and mother of three, she’s middle class in the middle of the country and is rapidly approaching middle age.

Frankie and her husband, Mike, have lived in Jasper, Indiana their whole lives. A man of few words (every one a zinger), Mike is a manager at the town quarry and Frankie is the third-best used car salesman (out of the three) at the local dealership. She may not be a high-powered career woman, but when it comes to her family, she’ll go to just about any length. And with kids like these, she had better. There’s Axel, her semi-nudist teenage son conceived with Guns N’ Roses playing a significant role; Sue, the awkward teenage daughter who fails at everything with great gusto; and their seven-year-old son Brick, whose best friend is his back-pack.

Cast and crew
Patricia Heaton as Frankie
Neil Flynn as Mike
Eden Sher as Sue
Atticus Shaffer as Brick
Charlie McDermott as Axel

Executive Producers: Eileen Heisler, DeAnn Heline

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: Well, they’re ineptly trying to recreate Frasier and Twin Peaks so why not ineptly try to recreate Malcolm in the Middle as well? I’ll tell you why – it’ll be rubbish, too. If they let Neil Flynn and Patricia Heaton rip, this might have potential and there were a couple of clever moments in it. But I’m just not feeling the funny, here.

Modern Family (Coming this Fall Wednesdays 9/8c)
Half-hour comedy
When the Pritchett, Delgado and Dunphy families agree to be interviewed by a documentary crew, they have no idea just how much they’re about to reveal about themselves. Jay Pritchett met the stunning Colombian Gloria when she bartended in a bikini at the pool party he threw for himself the day his wife left him.

Now Jay and Gloria are married and Jay tries hard to keep up with his much younger and hotter wife and her passionate teenage son, Manny. Claire Delgado is having a hard time raising her own family. Her husband Phil is great, except for the fact that he thinks he’s “down” with their teenage kids, much to their embarrassment. Mitchell Dunphy and his enthusiastic partner Cameron have just adopted Lily, a precious little baby girl from Vietnam. This engaging new comedy offers a ‘mockumentary’ view into the complicated, messy, loving life of three unique families.

Cast and crew
Ed O’Neill as Jay
Sofia Vergara as Gloria
Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell
Eric Stonestreet as Cameron
Ty Burrell as Phil
Julie Bowen as Claire
Sarah Hyland as Haley
Rico Rodriguez as Manny
Nolan Gould as Luke
Ariel Winter as Alex

Executive Producers: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: No. No, no, no, no.

One-hour drama
Today, the world woke up to find spaceships over every major city. The Visitors claim to have come in peace, bringing gifts of medical miracles and technological breakthroughs. They promise to do no harm. They’re lying.

Most people believe the aliens have arrived just when we needed them most. We’re eager to embrace their generous offers of help, but while tracking a terrorist cell, Homeland Security agent Erica Evans stumbles upon something far more sinister. Erica discovers that the aliens have plans to infiltrate our governments and businesses, planting seeds for their plot to control mankind. Convincing anyone of the truth will be impossible because the Visitors have two powerful weapons. First, they’ve given the people faith with their reassuring presence and gifts. Second, they’ve rallied our youth. Thousands of teens, including Erica’s son, have been recruited as ‘Peace Ambassadors’ but they’re actually serving as unwitting spies. When Erica gets thrust into the resistance movement, she’ll have to balance her covert activities with her job and her role as a mother, fighting to protect her son Tyler – even as he joins forces with the enemy.

From executive producer Scott Peters, Emmy-nominated creator of The 4400, comes a bold re-imagining of the sci-fi classic. Let the invasion begin.

The series is produced by HDFilms in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Cast and crew
Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans
Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nichols
Joel Gretsch as Father Jack Landry
Lourdes Benedicto as Valerie Stevens
Logan Huffman as Tyler Evans
Laura Vandervoort as Lisa
Morena Baccarin as Anna
Scott Wolf as Chad Decker

Executive Producers: Scott Peters, Steve Pearlman, Jace Hall

ABC web site

Rob’s initial impression: Well, it’s a remake and it doesn’t look like they’ve changed much so far, beyond the special effects, so we have a fair idea of what’s coming, even if it looks like the Nazi Germany parallels are being played down in favour of religion. Not bad, but nothing too thrilling, really, but I’ll watch Elizabeth Mitchell in anything, so I’ll be watching this one. It’s going to air in clumps of episodes (six at a time, I think), so has the possibility of being concentrated goodness – and concentrated badness.

Overall impression
ABC’s comedy output looks bad enough to cause large-scale acts of violence. However, its drama output, while not exactly promising, does have a couple of potentially good shows in there – but not many – and it’s interesting that ABC is going with so many ‘female friendly’ shows. All the same, I’m expecting rather of lot of these to die quickly and early.

Additional clips are available at E!


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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