ABC’s upfronts 2016-7 – a rundown and clips from the new shows

We’ve seen the worst – and best – that USA, Fox and NBC are planning to offer us in the Fall 2016-2017 season. Now it’s the turn of ABC.

Currently placed fourth in the ratings, it’s no surprise there’s been a change of management in the company and with new blood comes new ideas… and plenty of cancellations. That means there’s a big roster of new shows for ABC this Fall:

  • American Housewife: A woman is fat.
  • Conviction: A woman is badly behaved.
  • Designated Survivor: Kiefer Sutherland is president.
  • Downward Dog: A dog comments on a woman’s life.
  • Imaginary Mary: An imaginary friend comments on a woman’s life.
  • Notorious: A news producer and a lawyer are friends.
  • Speechless: A woman has a disabled son.
  • Still Star-Crossed: A sequel to Romeo and Juliet
  • Time After Time: HG Wells and Jack The Ripper in modern day New York.

One caveat: I said new blood and new ideas, but obviously I meant “More of the same.” Sorry about that.

American Housewife
Short version
A woman is fat. Much ‘hilarity’ ensues.
Long version
Katie Otto (Katy Mixon, Mike and Molly), a confident, unapologetic, plump wife and mother of three, raises her flawed family in the wealthy town of Westport, Connecticut, filled with “perfect” mommies and their “perfect” offspring. She lets us in on her deepest, most unfiltered thoughts through voiceover as the she lives her life as the second fattest housewife in Westport.

The series stars Katy Mixon as Katie Otto, Diedrich Bader as Jeff Otto, Johnny Sequoyah as Taylor, Daniel DiMaggio as Harrison, Julia Butters as Anna-Kat, Carly Hughes as Angela and Ali Wong as Doris.

American Housewife is written by Sarah Dunn (Spin City, Bunheads) and produced by Kapital Entertainment and ABC Studios. Aaron Kaplan, Rick Weiner and Kenny Schwartz are executive producers and directed by Ruben Fleischer, also an EP.

TMINE’s verdict
Depending on how you look at it, this is either ABC’s Mike and Molly or its fat woman black-ish, neither of which is something that’s probably sustainable in the long term and it wasn’t even that funny in a trailer. Also, much of the plot and dialogue has become meaningless since it became American Housewife rather than The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport. 

Short version
Correctly accused lawyer Hayley Atwell tries to help the wrongly accused.
Long version
Lawyer and former First Daughter Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell) is about to accept a job offered from her sexy nemesis, NY District Attorney Wayne Wallis, to avoid jail time for cocaine possession and avoid hurting her mother’s Senate campaign. Working with his team at the new Conviction Integrity Unit will let her use her brilliant mind to turn over cases where there is credible suspicion of wrongful conviction, and give her a chance to turn things around with her high-powered political family.

In addition to Atwell, Conviction stars Eddie Cahill as Wayne Wallis, Shawn Ashmore as Sam Sullivan, Merrin Dungey as Maxine Barton, Emily Kinney as Tess Thompson, Manny Montana as Franklin ‘Frankie’ Rios and Daniel DiTomasso as Jackson Morrison.

TMINE’s verdict
Such a ridiculous and insulting concept, it was almost physically painful to watch. Frankly, I suspect it’ll be cancelled after just three episodes, after which Atwell will be free to do Agent Carter on Netflix again. My doesn’t Eddie Cahill look old now? I remember him when he was Rachel’s younger boyfriend in Friends…

Designated Survivor
Short version
The entire government of the United States is blown up, leaving minor minion Kiefer Sutherland to become President.
Long version
Kiefer Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, a lower-level White House cabinet member who is appointed the “designated survivor” — the member of the cabinet who is sequestered away from the US Capitol building during a president’s State of the Union address just in case something awful happens. Well something awful does happen — there’s a devastating attack on Washington — and Kirman becomes the unelected and seemingly unfit Commander In Chief. The question is, is he up to a seemingly impossible task? 

Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q and Kal Penn co-star in the series, from The Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios. David Guggenheim is creator and executive producer alongside Simon Kinberg, Sutherland, Gordon, Nick Pepper, Suzan Bymel, and Aditya Sood. Paul McGuigan directed the pilot.

TMINE’s verdict
A weird cross between Quantico and 24, this looks somewhere between bonkersly bad and mildly promising. Of course, Kiefer can make anything look good, so it’s all going to depend on where they go with the terrorist threat/enemy nation/nuclear war options. Unless it turns out to be a dodgy gas main.

Downward Dog
Short version
A dog comments on his owner’s life.
Long version
Downward Dog
 is about a struggling millennial, Nan (Allison Tolman), from the point of view of her lonely and philosophical dog, Martin. One session at obedience school already makes them realise that even at their worst, they may be the best thing for each other.

Allison Tolman stars as Nan, Lucas Neff as Jason, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Jenn, Barry Rothbart as Kevin and Mo Collins as Kim.

Downward Dog creators/writers Samm Hodges and Michael Killen will executive produce with Mosaic Media Group’s Jimmy Miller and Sam Hansen, and Animal’s Kathy Dziubek. Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky were executive producers of the pilot. The series is from Legendary Television and ABC Studios.

TMINE’s verdict
Do you own a dog? Is your brain made of suet pudding? Then you’ll love Downward Dog.

Imaginary Mary
Short version
Jenna Elfman’s CGI childhood pal returns to comment on her life.
Long version
Imaginary Mary
 centers on Alice (Jenna Elfman), a fiercely independent career woman whose life is turned upside-down when she meets the love of her life – a divorced father with three kids. This triggers even more upheaval when the slightly unhinged imaginary friend she created as a child suddenly reappears to help her navigate the transition from single girl to a woman ready for a family.

Elfman stars alongside Stephen Schneider, Rachel Dratch as Mary (VO), Nicholas Coombe, Matreya Scarrwener and Erica Tremblay.

The live action/CGI hybrid comes from Adam F Goldberg (writer/executive producer), David Guarascio (writer/executive producer) and Happy Madison’s Doug Robinson (executive producer). Mary CG animation is designed by Patrick Osborne (creator of Academy Award winning animated short, The Feast), who is also executive producer. The pilot was directed by Shawn Levy, who is also executive producer.

TMINE’s verdict
I love Jenna Elfman. I did not love this. 

Short version
News producer and attorney friends conspire to further each other’s careers.
Long version
, inspired by the true-life stories of famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and cable news producer Wendy Walker, who serve as executive producers, is a provocative look at the unique, sexy, and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media. Berman co-wrote the project with Allie Hagan.

Piper Perabo, Daniel Sunjata, Sepideh Moafi, Kate Jennings Grant, Ryan Guzman, Kevin Zegers, J. August Richards and Aimee Teegarden star in the series, exec produced by Berman, Michael Engler, Kenny Meiselas, Jeff Kwatinetz and Josh Barry. Hagan is co-executive producer. Michael Engler directed the pilot.

TMINE’s verdict
I love Piper Perabo. I did not love this. 

Short version
Minnie Driver has a disabled son. Much ‘hilarity’ ensues.
Long version
Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver) is a mom on a mission who will do anything for her husband Jimmy, her kids Ray, Dylan, and JJ, her eldest son with special needs. As Maya fights injustices both real and imagined, the family works to make a new home for themselves, and searches for just the right person to give JJ his ‘voice’.

The cast includes John Ross Bowie as Jimmy DiMeo, Mason Cook as Ray DiMeo, Micah Fowler as JJ DiMeo, Kyla Kennedy as Dylan DiMeo and Cedric Yarbrough as Kenneth.

Scott Silveri is executive producer of the show, along with Fresh Off the Boat’s Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar.

TMINE’s verdict
I love Minnie Driver. I did not love this. I am getting tired of writing variations on those two sentences.

Still Star-Crossed
Short version
Romeo and Juliet: what happened next.
Long version
Still Star-Crossed,
 a period drama from Shondaland, picks up where the famous story of Romeo and Juliet ends, charting the treachery, palace intrigue and ill-fated romances of the Montagues and Capulets in the wake of the young lovers’ tragic fate. The series is based on the book by Melinda Taub.

Still Star-Crossed stars Wade Briggs (Home and Away) as Benvolio Montague, Anthony Head as Lord Silvestro Capulet, Zuleikha Robinson as Lady Guiliana Capulet, Lashana Lynch (The 7.39) as Rosaline, Ebonee Noel as Livia, Sterling Sulieman as Prince Escalus, Medalion Rahimi as Princess Isabella, Grant Bowler as Damiano Montague, Susan Wooldrigde as Nurse, Torrance Coombs as Paris and Dan Hildebrand as Friar Lawrence.

Heather Mitchell (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) is writer and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Michael Goldstein are executive producers. Michael Offer is executive producer and director.

TMINE’s verdict
Actually looks mildly promising. But only mildly. I suspect I’ll give up after an episode.

Time After Time
Short version
HG Wells and Jack the Ripper end up in modern day New York using Well’s time machine.
Long version
Based on the novel by Karl Alexander and the movie, Time After Time delivers a fantastical cat and mouse adventure through time when famed science fiction writer HG Wells is transported to modern day Manhattan in pursuit of Jack the Ripper. Once Wells arrives in New York City, he finds a world he never thought possible and a young woman who captivates him. Williamson (The Vampire Diaries) is exec producer and writer.

Time After Time stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells, Josh Bowman (Revenge) as John Stevenson/Jack the Ripper, Genesis Rodriguez as Jane and Regina Taylor as Vanessa Anders. Time After Time is from Outerbanks Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television Williamson and Marcos Siega are executive producers. Siega directed the pilot. Williamson wrote the teleplay.

TMINE’s verdict
Probably the most promising looking of the entire bunch, it’s 10 boxes of frogs crazy, but looks like it could be loads of fun nevertheless.

(New programmes in UPPER CASE; all times ET)

8 PM — Dancing with the Stars

8 PM — The Middle
9 PM — Fresh Off the Boat
9:30 PM — The Real O’Neals
10 PM — Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

8 PM — The Goldbergs
9 PM — Modern Family
9:30 PM — black-ish
10 PM — Designated Survivor

8 PM — Grey’s Anatomy
9 PM — NOTORIOUS/Scandal (midseason)
10 PM — How to Get Away with Murder/The Catch (midseason)

8 PM — Last Man Standing
8:30 PM — Dr. Ken
9 PM — Shark Tank
10:00 PM — 20/20

8 PM — Saturday Night Football

7 PM — America’s Funniest Home Videos
8 PM — Once Upon a Time
9 PM — Secrets and Lies/(TIME AFTER TIME midseason)
10 PM — Quantico


  • 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.