Upfronts 2009: ABC Takes Another Shot at Comedy

VIDEO: Click here to watch clips from ABC's pilots

Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage from B&C

It's no secret that ABC has struggled to build solid comedy franchises,
though it hasn't been for lack of trying. The network will attempt to push that
rock up the hill again next Fall mounting a comedy night on Wednesday that
includes four new sitcoms: Hank, The Middle, Modern Family and CougarTown.

Eastwick--which ABC Entertainment Group
president Steve McPherson described as "a re-conceptualization" of the big
screen adaptation of John Updike's novel The
Witches of Eastwick
--will close out the night at 10 p.m.

Hank stars Kelsey Grammer as a
corporate titan who is forced to reconnect with his wife and kids when he loses
his job. The Middle is a recession
comedy with Patricia Heaton as an Indiana
mom of three trying to make ends meet. Modern
is presented mockumentary-style, with Ed O'Neill as the patriarch of
an eclectic, blended family. And Cougar
stars Courteney Cox as a recently divorced single mom re-entering a dating
world that favors the young.

McPherson described the gamble on five new shows on Wednesday night as the
network's "biggest risk" as well as its "biggest opportunity." He added that
thematically, the comedies will help to get ABC "back into the family

The Wednesday night lineup is part of a new fall slate that also includes
six new dramas and the reality entry Shark
from Mark Burnett.

Returning series include Scrubs
and Better Off Ted, which will be
paired together most likely during midseason, according to McPherson. ABC has
ordered 18 episodes of Scrubs, with
series star Zach Braff committed to appear in at least six episodes. Ted was given a 13 episode order.

The remaining new dramas are The Deep End, Flash Forward, Happy Town,
and the
Jerry Bruckheimer crime procedural The Forgotten.

Bruckheimer's crime franchises on CBS, said McPherson, "beat up on me every
week, so it's good to have him on our team."

The Shonda Rhimes drama Inside the Box,
starring Kim Raver as a hard-charging Washington D.C.
television news producer, has been sent back into development.

"We were surprised by how the test audiences reacted to it," said McPherson,
adding that with Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, he did not want to put
added pressure on Rhimes to rush the new show on to air.

McPherson also said he thinks NBC's decision to program Jay Leno at 10 p.m.
will help his network and CBS.

"I think Leno is a different audience," said McPherson. "I think it's an
older audience. We think it's an opportunity for both us and CBS."

He also reacted to Fox's decision to run midseason reality competition So You Think You Can Dance in the fall
to help shore up a flagging first half, a scheduling move that puts Fox's dance
entry in direct competition with ABC's hit Dancing With the Stars.

"It will be interesting to see how [So
You Think You Can Dance
] performs," mused McPherson. "I believe it trailed
off at the end of last season."

ABC also handed out pickups to Castle
and reality series True Beauty. They
join previously announced pickups for America's
Funniest Home Videos, The Bachelor, Brothers & Sisters, Dancing With the
Stars, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Private Practice,
Supernanny, Ugly Betty, Wife Swap
and ABC News' 20/20.

Samantha Who has been canceled.
The Christina Applegate comedy was a relatively solid performer when it debuted
in 2007, but it never regained its footing after the writers'

"I feel really responsible for that," said McPherson. "It was really

Below is ABC's 2009-2010 schedule:

MONDAY:     8:00 p.m.          "Dancing With the Stars" (two-hours)

                      10:00 p.m.        "Castle"

TUESDAY:    8:00 p.m.          "Shark Tank"

                       9:00 p.m.          "Dancing With the Stars the Results

                      10:00 p.m.        "The Forgotten"

WEDNESDAY:    8:00 p.m.          "Hank"

                             8:30 p.m.          "The Middle"   

                             9:00 p.m.          "Modern Family"

                             9:30 p.m.          "Cougar Town"

                            10:00 p.m.        "Eastwick"

THURSDAY:    8:00 p.m.          "Flash

                          9:00 p.m.          "Grey's Anatomy"

                         10:00 p.m.        "Private Practice"

FRIDAY:           8:00 p.m.          "Supernanny"

9:00 p.m."Ugly

p.m.        "20/20"

SATURDAY:    8:00 p.m.          "Saturday Night College

SUNDAY:         7:00 p.m.          "America's
Funniest Home Videos"

                          8:00 p.m.          "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

                          9:00 p.m.          "Desperate Housewives"

                          10:00 p.m.        "Brothers & Sisters"