ABC’s comedy development has had a rough couple of seasons. The network hasn’t had a real breakout since the one-two punch of family comedies “Modern Family” (an ongoing mega hit) and “The Middle” (a modest but stable hit) premiered back in 2009.
Only three comedies launched since then remain on the air: “Suburgatory,” which faded enough in Season 2 to be held back for midseason next year; “Last Man Standing,” which plays to a base and is otherwise ignored on Friday nights; and “The Neighbors,” which will join “Last Man” in its Friday irrelevance in the fall. That means ABC needs to find a few more real players and the network has planned an aggressive launch of four new comedies in the fall and one more on the bench for midseason.
Most of them are broader, family-oriented, concepts modeled more on “Modern Family” than failures like “Happy Endings” or “Don’t Trust the B—-.” But there are two comedies about young singles in the mix as well. And while none of the preview footage for ABC’s new comedies is particularly promising, the good news is there’s no immediate “What were they thinking!?!?” debacles like “The Neighbors” (which, to its credit, survived the early toxic buzz) or “Work It” (which didn’t).
Still, don’t be surprised if only one or two of these make it to Season 2.
Here’s a rundown of the five new comedies ABC presented to advertisers at its 2013 upfront on May 14 at Lincoln Center in New York City.
“Super Fun Night” (Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET)
Australian breakout comedy star Rebel Wilson (“Bridesmaids,” “Pitch Perfect”) had the audience at ABC’s upfront rolling in the aisles with laughter at her raunchy routine on stage — but that had nothing to do with the show she stars in. “Super Fun Night” was in development last season at CBS, but the network passed and ABC gave it a go this year. Nothing in the preview suggests it was worth the second chance, except for the presence of Wilson (speaking with an unnatural, unnecessary and very distracting American accent).
That may actually be enough to turn the show around at some point, and ABC is showing confidence by scheduling it after “Modern Family.” But it’s telling that this is the shortest of all of ABC’s new show promos and still feels padded with redundant material. There have been trade reports claiming that ABC isn’t done tinkering with the show yet — they ordered it because they want Wilson on the air — so let’s help someone comes up with something better than various versions of Rebel in tight clothing or torn clothing. Otherwise this could be one of the biggest disappointments of the fall.
“The Goldbergs” (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET)
While “Super Fun Night” gets the shortest promo, “The Goldbergs” gets the longest — signaling far more confidence in what’s actually on screen instead of simply who’s involved. There’s another “Bridesmaids” co-star here: Wendi McLendon-Covey as the matriarch of a boisterous Jewish family who recall the “Malcolm in the Middle” clan, while the show’s ’80s nostalgia (for everything from “The Karate Kid” to floppy disk drives to REO Speedwagon) feels like an updated version of “The Wonder Years.” Patton Oswalt steps in for Daniel Stern as the narrator, while Jeff Garlin (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) is the patriarch and George Segal is a grandpa who fancies himself a ladies man. It’s all based on the real life family of creator Adam F. Goldberg (“Breaking In”), but the preview mixes a lot of screaming with a lot of heart-tugging sentimentality and comes off as little more than a more frenzied “Modern Family.”
“Trophy Wife” (Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET)
After guest starring on “Suburgatory” last season, Malin Akerman gets her own ABC comedy about a young woman whose new husband (Bradley Whitford) comes with a lot of baggage: Two ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins) and three kids. It’s executive produced by the writers of “Bad Teacher” and has a striking resemblance to that movie — except less mean and a lot less R-rated. It’s also instantly forgettable.
“Back in the Game” (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET)
“Trouble with the Curve” meets “Bad News Bears” in a sports-themed family comedy about a former star softball player (Maggie Lawson of “Psych”) who moves in with her grumpy dad (James Caan) and starts coaching her son’s team of Little League rejects. At least it’s not a cookie cutter concept for a TV show, but the preview still makes it look boring.
A comedy with a goofy high-concept premise — the entire first season takes place in one bar on one night with 10 different lead actors — and jokes completely indistinguishable from any other young single people comedy currently on the air. On paper it sounds like the most ambitious of ABC’s comedies, but in execution it looks like the most immediately dismissible.