ABC 2011-2012 drama first impressions: We're not in Seattle anymore

revenge-upfronts-320.jpgABC Entertainment president Paul Lee told the press at the network's Upfronts that in assembling a schedule for the fall, he was seeking to find a balance between stability and "real ambition." Judging solely on the host of new dramas chosen, we're thinking he went a little heavy on the ambition. While networks typically launch their biggest shows in the fall, Lee makes a point to say that he plans to use midseason launchpads like New Years' Eve and the Oscars to introduce tentpole series throughout the year.

The new dramas tend toward the cinematic, and many take us to exotic lands and fantasy worlds. Lee notes that he's kept merchandising and franchises in mind while choosing dramas that lead with "emotion and character" and appeal to ABC's typically upscale demographic.

"Revenge"
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When ABC released Emily VanCamp from her "Brothers and Sisters" contract, she didn't go far. VanCamp plays a woman who returns to the site of a childhood trauma - the ritzy Hamptons - to seek revenge on the people involved in destroying her family reputation so many years ago. The premise sounds soapy, but if the preview clips we saw are anything to go by, VanCamp maintains her broad appeal and we find ourselves rooting for the bad girl. Shot in North Carolina, the pilot isn't short of grandiosity as it dives into the world of the wealthy and mysterious,

"Charlie's Angels"
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Lee referred to "Charlie's Angels" as "pure candy" no less than three times on Tuesday. While we definitely dug the visuals in the previews - there's just something about a woman drag racing a car or scaling a building that appeals - we have our doubts as to whether there's any substance under all that pop. That said, it seems that "Angels" delivers on its promise and can stand beside, if not rise above, the original series.

"Once Upon a Time"
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Hello, green screen! "Once Upon a Time" is referred to as a "fairy-tale franchise" and Lee mentions it as one of the shows that lends itself to merchandising. In its 8 p.m. on Sunday time slot it's certainly well-positioned to be appointment family viewing -- we're just hoping that the fantastical elements of the series balance instead of distract from the modern day emotional connections. With a powerful writing team led by "Lost" E.P.s Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, the series is sure to be complex and adventurous. If Jennifer Morrison can be more relatable than she was on "House" and "How I Met Your Mother," ABC may have a family hit on its hands.

"Pan Am" ( Watch Clips)

The '60s are certainly making a comeback. ABC picks up on the "Mad Men" trend with this drama about "passion, jealousy, and espionage" ... on an airplane. The show is highly stylized with bright colors and broad sets, and the clips we viewed definitely had the desired effect of transporting us into another era. We love Kelli Garner and are thrilled to see her back on screen after "My Generation" crashed and burned. Christina Ricci's first regular television gig is worth tuning in for alone. We'll definitely be watching this one, and if it can hang onto the sass of the pilot, it's season pass material.

"The River"

Anything with Steven Spielberg's name on it has us intrigued. With "The River," a Steve Irwin-type explorer and TV personality goes missing in the Amazon, forcing his family, friends, and crew to set out on a terrifying adventure to find him. It's chock-full of good looking people and time-tested horror. The preview clips we viewed - which Lee warned us had been significantly toned down - reminded us of "Paranormal Activity." We're looking forward to the midseason launch of this one.

"Scandal" ( watch clips)

"Grey's Anatomy" boss Shonda Rhimes struck out with "Off the Map" this year, but "Scandal" may hit the note we're looking for. It revolves around the office of Olivia (Kerry Washington), a "professional crisis manager" who left her prestigious White House position to build her own firm. As can be expected from a Rimes drama, we'll see edgy cases and plenty of interpersonal drama.
Photo/Video credit: ABC
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