“Alias” Falls Off ABC Schedule
Two editions of the series Extreme Makeover seem especially appropriate for ABC’s fall 2004-05 schedule, since the beleaguered network’s lineup is undergoing quite an overhaul itself.
The most surprising move in new ABC Primetime Entertainment President Stephen McPherson’s fall schedule, which was unveiled Monday at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York during the network’s annual upfront presentation: no Alias. The butt-kickin’ spy drama starring Jennifer Garner will instead stay off the air until January, when its fourth season will unspool, sans reruns.
In Alias’ Sunday night time slot this fall: Desperate Housewives, a soapy drama about a suburban wife (Twin Peaks’ Sheryl Lee) who kills herself, but continues to watch over the Knots Landing-ish shenanigans of her cul-de-sac neighbors. Melrose Place and General Hospital writer Charles Pratt Jr. produces the show, which also stars former Melrose baddie Marcia Cross, Lois & Clark’s Teri Hatcher, Sports Night’s Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria (Dragnet and The Young and the Restless).
Housewives is part of the network’s bigger strategy to depend on drama series to revive its place in the network wars. Overall, ABC will add seven new dramas to its schedule–three at midseason–plus two new comedies and two new reality series.
“Every night we ask tens of millions of Americans to invite us into their homes, and it’s our responsibility to give them a reason to let us stay. I believe these programs, and this schedule, does just that,” said the sound bite-ready McPherson.
Tens of millions of viewers may actually be a ratings dream for ABC, the fourth-place network that, in last week’s ratings battle, for example, didn’t have one show in the top 10 and finished the week averaging just 8.3 million viewers.
The network, which has yet to recover from the nose dive its ratings took in 2001 when viewers decided they’d seen one–or 12–too many installments of the overplayed Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in prime time, is not only leaning on dramas to boost its profile, but is also looking to TV veterans like Patrick Dempsey, Steven Bocho, Tim Daly and Kelly Osbourne–in a dramatic role–to lure viewers back to its lineups.
A rundown of ABC’s other new series:
* The Benefactor (fall): Eccentric billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban looks to–forgive us–trump NBC’s successful reality series The Apprentice with his own competition, in which 16 butt-kissers endure a series of challenges to try to prove to Cuban why each of them is worthy of the million-dollar prize he’s offering.
* Rodney (fall): Comedian Rodney Carrington is the latest stand-up comic to get his own sitcom, this one–surprise–featuring him as an everyday guy trying to be a decent husband and father. Very Home Improvement-y.
* Lost (fall): Created by Alias’ J.J. Abrams, the drama revolves around a group of plane-crash survivors who are trapped on a deserted island. Stars Lord of the Rings’ Dominic Monaghan, Naveen Andrews (The English Patient) and Harold Perrineau (Oz).
* Wife Swap (fall): A reality series, based on a hit British show, about two moms who swap families for 10 days and must first follow the rules of the new house, and then implement their own lifestyle for the rest of the time.
* Life as We Know It (fall): Based on British author Melvin Burgess’ young-adult novel Doing It, the coming-of-age drama stars Kelly Osbourne (yes, that Kelly Osbourne) and newcomer Sean Faris (Undressed) and follows a group of sex-crazed teen boys (is there any other kind?) and their girlfriends. The series is produced by Freaks and Geeks producers-writers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah.
* Savages (fall): Keith Carradine (Deadwood) stars as a single dad who tries to wrangle a brood of five rowdy boys in a My Three Sons-ish sitcom produced by Mel Gibson and based on Gibson’s own experiences as the father of five boys.
* The Practice: Fleet Street (fall): James Spader will continue to steal every scene he’s in on this David E. Kelley-produced dramedy spinoff of The Practice that finds his Alan Shore character working with law cohorts William Shatner, Rhona Mitra and Lake Bell.
* Blind Justice (midseason): ER’s Ron Eldard stars as a blind detective in this promising drama from Steven Bochco. The show will fill the timeslot left when Bochco’s NYPD Blue wraps its 11-season run in January. Rena Sofer, from last year’s failed NBC sitcom Coupling, also stars.
* Grey’s Anatomy (midseason): A medical drama starring Patrick Dempsey (The Practice and Once and Again), Isaiah Washington (Out of Sight), Katherine Heigl (Roswell) and Ellen Pompeo (Old School).
* Eyes (midseason): Tim Daly, last seen as a drug-addicted gambler on The Sopranos earlier this season and best known for his role on NBC’s Wings, stars as a rogue private eye. Melrose Place star Laura Leighton and The L Word’s Eric Mabius also star.
Among the high-profile pilots that didn’t make the cut for ABC’s schedule: Hot Momma, a sitcom starring Nick Lachey; an untitled sitcom featuring Lachey’s wife and reality costar, pop singer Jessica Simpson; a comedy starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as a single mom; and a highly-touted John Stamos comedy that was thought by many to be a shoo-in for ABC’s Friday night lineup.
Among the other changes at ABC next season, substitute news anchor Elizabeth Vargas will take over Barbara Walters’ 20/20 cohosting duties; Chris Cuomo, son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, joins the round-up of anchors on Primetime Live; and British journalist Martin Bashir, best known for his infamous 2003 Michael Jackson interview, joins 20/20 as a correspondent.
And existing series missing from ABC’s 2004-05 plans: 10-8, I’m with Her, It’s All Relative, Karen Sisco, Kingdom Hospital, Life with Bonnie, Line of Fire and Threat Matrix.
The following is a night-by-night look at the Alphabet network’s fall schedule:
MONDAY: (fall) The Benefactor, Monday Night Football; (January) ABC Monday Night Movie, Grey’s Anatomy
TUESDAY: My Wife and Kids; George Lopez; According to Jim; Rodney; NYPD Blue/Blind Justice
WEDNESDAY: Lost; The Bachelor; Wife Swap
THURSDAY: Extreme Makeover; Life As We Know It; Primetimee Live
FRIDAY: 8 Simple Rules; Savages; Hope & Faith; Less Than Perfect; 20/20
SATURDAY: Wonderful World of Disney
SUNDAY: America’s Funniest Home Videos; Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; Desperate Housewives/Alias (January); The Practice: Fleet Street.
“Alias” Falls Off ABC Schedule