ABC: A strategy for stemming the slide

The plan

ABC Entertainment chiefs Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne went out of their way last week to downplay expectations for the struggling network's new fall season, which will offer viewers 51/2 new hours of prime time programs: four one-hour dramas and three half-hour comedies. In addition, the network will add two more new dramas in January after the Monday Night Football
season ends.

"Our core goal is to stop the downward trend in our ratings," said Lyne.

Braun said the network has tried to develop shows more aligned with the "traditional ABC footprint." That includes strong family comedies and a broad mix of drama, which in the past has ranged from "escapist" shows like Moonlighting
to intense, consistently well-done dramas like NYPDBlue
to the truly "out there" series like Twin Peaks.

Let's face it, ABC has more holes to fill than it could possibly do in one season. But Lyne and Braun are giving it their best shot. "We're not saying these shows will explode out of the gate or set the world on fire right away," said Braun. "But we think they're really good. And, if the quality is retained [beyond the pilots], they will find an audience."

The basic strategy is to try to lay claim to the 8-9 p.m. hour with broad shows that fit that aforementioned blueprint. ABC's new season promotion will focus mainly on that hour, which it has dubbed the "ABC Happy Hour," says Braun. "It's a horizontal approach to try to bring people in five nights a week. Everybody starts on an equal footing at 8 p.m."

Every weeknight on the ABC schedule has been reworked. The Saturday movie and the Sunday-night lineup return intact. The objective is get viewers to "at least think about tuning us in." After that, of course, the shows have to deliver.

New for the fall


8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter
John Ritter is a family man trying to understand the transformation of his two young daughters into teenagers. Tom Shadyac, Flody Suarez, Michael Bostick and Tracy Gramble are executive producers. From Touchstone Television.

Life With Bonnie
—Bonnie Molly (Bonnie Hunt) and her hectic life as a mom, wife and TV-show host. Hunt and Don Lake are executive producers. From Touchstone Television.

Less Than Perfect
—TV about TV, starring Sara Rue (Popular) and Eric Roberts (Star 80). Terri Minsky, Nina Wass and Gene Stein are executive producers. From Touchstone Television.


—Two iconoclastic doctors fight the big, bad HMO. Gary Tieche and Marc Platt are executive producers. From Touchstone Television.

—The continuation of this May's hit miniseries will kick off in one of network TV's toughest slots, Thursdays at 8. Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr. are executive producers. From Hallmark Entertainment.

Push, Nevada

Likened to Twin Peaks,
this hour features a hunky IRS agent who stumbles on mysterious doings in the desert. Ben Affleck, Sean Bailey, Matt Damon and Chris Moore are executive producers. From Touchstone Television in association with LivePlanet.

That Was Then
—Described as a drama with a Back to the Future
sensibility, the show features a 30-year-old who gets to go back in time and try to fix his messed-up life. Dan Cohan, Jeremy Miller and Jeff Kline are executive producers. From Touchstone Television.

Ready for midseason


Second Chance

—Ad man (Mitch Rouse) tries to reconnect with his family. Tony Jonas and Michael Jacobs are executive producers. From Touchstone Pictures in association with NBC Studios.

—A father-son archaeologist team have great adventures just like Harrison Ford and Sean Connery did. Patrick Massett, John Zinman, Bryan Spicer, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are executive producers. From Touchstone Pictures.


—It's a remake, but Dick Wolf is producing. Like Miracles
(below), it's intended to replace Monday Night Football
at 9 p.m. starting in January.

—ABC's Lyne says it's "part detective story, part thriller and part spiritual quest." It takes the field at 10 p.m. after Monday Night Football
Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Richard Hatem are executive producers. From Touchstone Television.