Friday, June 06, 2008

Network Report Card '08, V: ABC

Oh, ABC, ABC, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

--The most imaginative slate of new shows from any network this year, including "Eli Stone," "Dirty, Sexy Money," and "Pushing Daisies."
--A schedule that satisfied people both critically and in the ratings, such as "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."
--Looking to poach the best of other networks, by grabbing "Scrubs" after NBC discarded it and nearly grabbing CBS' "Old Christine."

WHAT WAS GOOD: Just about everything. There wasn't a network that came up with more innovative stuff than ABC, ranging from the wonderful comedy/drama mix of "Eli Stone" to the perfection that was "Pushing Daisies." "Samantha Who?" was the network's most successful sitcom, both creatively and numbers-wise, in ages.

"Desperate Housewives" had a big rebound year thanks to the addition of Dana Delaney, and "Lost" hit on all cylinders, owning the public eye while everyone else was on strike. "Grey's" just finished out of the Top 10 at No. 11, and "Ugly Betty" turned in a very solid sophomore campaign.

On the reality front, ABC owned the No. 2 reality series with "Dancing With the Stars" and also got strong ratings contributions from "Extreme Makeover," "Oprah's Big Give" and "The Bachelor."

WHAT WAS BAD: ABC didn't hit on every cylinder. It also gave us the worst show of the year by far in "Big Shots." "Carpoolers" and "Cavemen" were duds that were more consistent with ABC's sitcom failures of the past. "Private Practice" failed to live up to the show it was spun off from, "Grey's Anatomy."

"Miss/Guided" had a lot of potential, but ABC buried it on the schedule and won't bring it back.

ABC also announced it has renewed the likes of "Boston Legal" and "According to Jim" for another season.

OVERALL: ABC's hits far exceeded its misses. While it didn't have a break-out-of-the-pack commercial success like it did when "Grey's," "DH" and "Lost" all came out, the best of the new shows used a combination of critical praise and timing from the strike to earn renewals. ABC may be making a mistake by not re-airing some of those series to give new viewers a chance to catch them before the new fall season begins.

GRADE: A-. Had ABC spared us "Big Shots" and "Cavemen," they might have earned an A.

COMING NEXT: Mini-report cards for cable.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Tonight's new "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 9 p.m.) is called "The Doctor's Daugter." Yes, we do meet the Doctor's daughter Jenny (Georgia Moffett), and her existence is explained in the first minute as the Doctor, Martha and Donna land in the midst of a massive war. Fun fact No. 1: Moffett is genuinely the Doctor's daughter - her dad is Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor (and her mother is Sandra Dickinson, Trillian from the BBC's "Hitchhiker's Guide" miniseries from the 1980s.) Fun fact No. 2: Moffett originally auditioned for the role of Rose Tyler, which of course went to Billie Piper. Fun fact No. 3: Moffett is apparently dating series star David Tennant in real life, according to the UK press.

Also new is "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.), which finds Vipers flying with Cylons, not against them.

The extremely popular "Meerkat Manor" (Animal Planet, 9 p.m.) kicks off a new season as well.

On Saturday, "Robin Hood" (BBC America, 9 p.m.) finds himself fighting the Black Knights. (Hopefully, they won't try biting his kneecaps off).

CBS presents a remake of "Sybil" (CBS, 8 p.m.), with Jessica Lange playing the shrink who has a patient with multiple personality disorder.

On Sunday, Spike airs the "Deliverance"-style movie, "Backwoods" (Spike, 9 p.m.) "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (USA, 9 p.m.) kicks off its new season, followed by a new episode of "In Plain Sight" at 10 p.m.

Also kicking off its season is the popular drama "Army Wives" (Lifetime, 10 p.m.)


Coastbunny said...

Wow. Totally agree. It's hard to believe it was just a few short years ago (pre-Lost, DH, and Grey's) that ABC was having a rather tough time. I say kudos to ABC for such a brilliant re-build and giving me some of my favorite shows.

Phillip Ramati said...

What was annoying about ABC is that they used to show little patience with shows that got good critical buzz but not the numbers. Now, they are willing to take more chances.

Jonathan said...

I can remember when "America's Funniest Home Videos" was their biggest hit; times have changed. But it's all cycles which now Fox over the last few years has gotten to become a part of. Five years from now we'll be wondering what the hell is wrong with ABC and praising NBC.

IAmATVJunkie said...

Dude. Your a Disney Screenwriting Fellow.

Cyl - I - nder.


Phillip Ramati said...

Dude, it's "you're" not your and I said I was a finalist for a fellowship, not an actual fellow.

Chalk it up to Sudafed and blogging at 1 a.m.

Phillip Ramati said...

Jonathan, I hope most of the shows listed are still around in five years. These things always run in cycles, and right now, ABC is in a groove. Hopefully, NBC will find one.

zodin2008 said...

Phillip, I even remember a time when you were ready to boycott ABC a few years back. I can't remember exactly what, but yeah, this network deserves a lot of credit this year.

"Eli Stone" was tremendous.

By the way, I tried TWICE watching the pilot episode of "In Plain Sight" and fell asleep both times. Oh well. I am happy "Criminal Intent" is back Sunday and that "My Boys" is back next week. Though I haven't watched it yet, I will soon be watching the NBC anthology series, "Fear Itself". I am grateful for any original summer programming.

Phillip Ramati said...

I was ready to boycott ABC a few years back because of their giving short shrift to a lot of shows such as Cupid. Ironically, now ABC is looking to remake that show for next year (sadly without the original cast).

I guess we are seeing a kindler, gentler ABC.