ABC’s sweet spot has been wealthy women between 18-49 for a long time. ABC President Paul Lee likes to use terms like “sophisticated” and “emotional” to describe his series, but this year, they’re not only scheduling specifically for “empowered women,” but they’re also looking for “four-quadrant crowd-pleasers.”
The family (read: male) viewing that ABC shot for (and missed by a mile) with shows like “Last Resort” and “No Ordinary Family” over the last couple of years may actually be in the cards for them this year. Their big, tentpole drama, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” could be the ticket to that “co-viewing” success that Lee has been after. We attended the network’s upfront presentation on Tuesday in New York City, and got a sneak peek at the four major dramas set to debut this fall.
Arguably the most highly anticipated broadcast network pilot of the season is “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Despite the clunky title, it appears to have lived up to every expectation — and the expectations were astronomical, considering Joss Whedon’s involvement. “You nerds are gonna love it,” teased Lee at the upfront, and for once, we actually believe him. In the show, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who has been resurrected from the feature films, assembles a team of non-superhero agents to “protect the ordinary from the extraordinary.” (“Clark Gregg is an actor so talented, even I couldn’t kill him!” teased Whedon at the Upfront.) The trailer has a touch of humor, a whole lot of action, and just enough emotional pull for it to make sense for ABC. We hate to be nay-sayers, because the new agents look interesting enough, but we do have a few doubts about some of the acting featured in the trailer. Since we want to love this one so badly, we’ll hope it’s just a result of the trailer editing, and not a harbinger of clunky work in future episodes.
“Lucky 7” is a series about gas station employees who win the lottery together. Paul Lee says that it’s “aspirational” because they do indeed win, but that ABC has made efforts to keep the show grounded and relevant in today’s economically challenged society. (They don’t only want wealthy female viewers, guys.) We always love to see “Jack & Bobby” favorite Matt Long back on TV, but this trailer leaves something to be desired. ABC is proud to say that it’s executive produced by Steven Spielberg, but given the oddly cheap-looking cinematography, we question whether Spielberg has ever actually seen a frame of it or if he just slapped his name on it. The “be careful what you wished for” theme doesn’t seem particularly compelling, and the choice to put the show (which doesn’t seem remotely humorous) on Tuesday nights after two new comedies doesn’t make it seem like ABC has much confidence in it.
When the “Once Upon a Time” spin-off, now called “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” was conceived, it was supposed to be a series that could bridge the hiatus between “Once Upon a Time’s” fall and spring episodes. However, Lee was so impressed with Sophie Lowe as Alice, he decided to use the series to launch the Thursday night line-up, which he says is now about “empowered women.” This is certainly a fresh, new take on the iconic tale of a mystical dreamland accessed by a rabbit hole. The period piece, which finds Alice in a mental ward being questioned about her childish fantasies, strikes a dark tone, with a romantic (and even sexy!) note thanks to Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), a genie who falls in love with Alice as they gallivant through mystical lands. Tinged by “madness, anger, and lost love” as Paul Lee describes it, this might just be the perfect companion to “Once Upon a Time.” We’re not entirely sure it’ll fit with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” on Thursday nights, though.
Lee describes “Betrayal” as a “limited series” — which is to say, it’s a miniseries, that could potentially lead to future short seasons. It’s certainly on brand for ABC, as it appears to be a perfect blend between “Revenge” and “Scandal,” mixing sex, ulterior motives, and political drama. It’s basically the television equivalent of a melodramatic, beach-read thriller novel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — on a Sunday night, a little salacious soapiness is just what we’re looking for to offset the Monday dread. A politically-driven drama about a couple of extramarital affairs is just what we need
to take our minds off our actual lives.