For the past few years at the upfronts, ABC has had both one of the more stable schedules among the broadcast networks while simultaneously picking up scads of new shows each season. Which means that while the network’s anchors — “Dancing With the Stars,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” the Wednesday comedy block — are doing well, its record of developing new hits has been underwhelming of late.
The network did score one of the only bona fide drama hits this season with “Once Upon a Time,” which we see anchoring a new Sunday schedule now that “Desperate Housewives” is ending. But filling in the rest of our proposed ABC schedule was a tougher job than it was for NBC and FOX. It’s not that there are a lot of holes, but what holes there are don’t have many obvious patches.
Also? Almost all of the dramas ABC seems likely to order — save perhaps the crime-show-with-magic “Gotham” — are serialized, character-driven shows. It’s a field where ABC has had success, but still, we’re a little surprised there aren’t at least a couple more procedurals in the mix given the tough sledding most serialized shows have had recently.
Here’s our best guess at what ABC’s fall 2012 schedule will look like (the announcement comes Tuesday, May 15). All times are ET/PT, and new shows are in italics.
8 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars”
10 p.m. “Castle”
No reason to mess with a lineup that’s working pretty well.
8 p.m. “Last Man Standing”
8:30 p.m. “Malibu Country”
9 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars” results
10 p.m. “Nashville”
“Last Man Standing” had a decent first season, but ABC never found a really compatible comedy to work with it. “Malibu Country,” which stars Reba McEntire as a woman trying to pick up her life after her musician husband leaves her broke, could strike the right tone. “Nashville,” a family drama with Connie Britton as a country-music star, could keep “DWTS” viewers around.
8 p.m. “The Middle”
8:30 p.m. “Suburgatory”
9 p.m. “Modern Family”
9:30 p.m. Untitled Mandy Moore comedy (aka “The Family Trap”)
10 p.m. “Revenge”
We’d like to see the just-renewed “Happy Endings” again in the fall, but our gut feeling is ABC will try to launch a new comedy using “Modern Family” as its lead-in. Mandy Moore‘s show, about a young couple who moves back to the town where her eccentric, boundary-free family lives, feels like a good fit here, as would “How to Live With Your Parents,” starring Sarah Chalke. “Revenge” found a good niche this season at 10, so it stays put.
8 p.m. “Red Widow” (aka “Penoza”)
9 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy”
10 p.m. “Private Practice”
The 8 o’clock Thursday spot has been kind of a black hole for ABC the past couple seasons, and we’re not sure what would work here. We almost put a “Happy Endings”/”Don’t Trust the B—-” comedy block in the hour, but neither show has proven to be enough of a self-starter to thrive against “The Big Bang Theory” and “The X Factor.” So we’re taking a flyer on “Red Widow,” a thriller about a woman (Radha Mitchell) who takes her husband’s place in the organized-crime world after he’s murdered. At 10, we’re guessing “Private Practice” gets a shortened final season, which would then make room for something else — maybe “Scandal,” maybe a new drama — in early 2013.
8 p.m. “Shark Tank”
9 p.m. “Primetime”
10 p.m. “20/20”
“Shark Tank” had its best season and was rewarded with a 22-episode order for next year. ABC stays with unscripted and news shows here rather than trying to dive into the scripted waters.
8 p.m. “Saturday Night College Football”
Sports is one of the few things that works on Saturday nights.
7 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8 p.m. “Once Upon a Time”
9 p.m. “666 Park Avenue” or “Gotham”
10 p.m. “Americana”
“Once Upon a Time” was a real win for ABC this season, offering a fine alternative to football and FOX’s male-skewing animated shows on the night. We like the idea of it leading into another show with otherworldly themes. ABC’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” reportedly won’t make it, so either “666 Park Avenue” — about a New York apartment building whose residents may have made deals with the devil, who may or may not be Terry O’Quinn — or “Gotham,” a cop show with a bit of “Harry Potter” (or “Fables”) thrown in, would be a good fit. “Americana” is a family drama set in the fashion world and could be a good, soapy capper to the week.
Midseason: “Happy Endings” and/or “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23” could both sub into the Wednesday comedy lineup to help cut down on the number of repeats. The Shawn Ryan-produced drama “Last Resort,” starring Andre Braugher, is a prime candidate to fill in for the “DWTS” results show in the winter. And as we said above, “Scandal” — which feels like it would be well-served by a more cable-length season — or another new drama like the straight-to-series “Mistresses” could go in at 10 p.m. Thursdays.
How would you arrange ABC’s schedule for next season?