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ABC: Finding Post-‘Lost’ Era Events

STRATEGY: Launch and build new drama franchises, particularly at 10 p.m., and bolster the fledgling Wednesday comedy block.

ABC unveiled a new fall slate heavy on drama in an effort to build new franchises in the wake of the departed Lost, which had its series finale last week, and aging hits Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. The network’s priorities for the 2010-11 season, according to Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment Group, are threefold: “event television,” “attack 10 o’clock” and stock the comedy coffers.

ABC will launch five new dramas, one comedy and one unscripted series this fall. But it will sprinkle new comedy throughout the fall, including when Dancing With the Stars goes to 90 minutes. Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes’ new medical drama, Off the Map, is targeted for midseason.

No Ordinary Family, starring Michael Chiklis as the patriarch of a family whose members find they have superhuman powers after surviving a plane crash, fills the “event” quota. It will air Tuesday at 8 p.m., leading into Dancing With the Stars.

On the 10 p.m. drama front, there is Detroit 1-8-7, a gritty crime procedural that will get the Tuesday slot after Dancing, and The Whole Truth, a Jerry Bruckheimer legal thriller for Wednesday night.

Family comedy Better Together will fill out the Wednesday comedy block at 8:30 p.m. ABC also has two comedies on the shelf: the Matthew Perry laugher Mr. Sunshine and Happy Endings. The latter is likely to bow later in the fall when Dancing goes to 90 minutes, McPherson says, while Mr. Sunshine will get a run at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday behind Modern Family.

ABC ended up with a pretty good keep-cancel average this season, renewing three of its four Wednesday-night rookie comedies and its remake of 1980s-era alien invasion thriller V. But with the exception of Modern Family, none of its freshman shows are bona-fide hits FlashForward, intended as an heir apparent to Lost, ultimately could not build a following. And Cougar Town needs to work to earn a third season.

McPherson admits that FlashForward was “disappointing,” but he said he had to make a choice between V and FlashForward and ultimately felt that V was stronger. “V and FlashForward were big ideas for us, big swings at the plate,” he says. “Event television has been a huge part of our rebuilding. To have V work and FlashForward not, it’s difficult, but we’ll take that success rate for sure.”

On Thursday, the documentary-style My Generation, which catches up with an Austin, Texas, high-school class 10 years after graduation, will anchor at 8 p.m. with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice staying put at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively. Friday will include two new programs: the unscripted Secret Millionaire at 8 p.m., followed by the Dana Delany medical drama Body of Proof.

Although the pickup tally is smaller than in years past, ABC spent about the same as usual on development, McPherson says. But ABC has always poured a lot into development: “We believe in R&D,” he says. “In all the [hard] times and cuts, we’ve never backed away from that. I’m a huge believer in development, in the process.”

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