Only 30% of ABC’s freshman scripted series from the last four years have lived to see a second season. (Here’s the breakdown by year in case you were wondering – 2010-2011: 22%, 2011-2012: 46%, 2012-2013: 22%, 2013-2014: 25%.)
And although that number may seem low, approximately 30% is actually on par with just about all other broadcast networks for the same time period. The difference being, is that the other networks aren’t currently in last place with viewers in the coveted 18-49 demo.
Below is a list of all renewed and cancelled first year series from the last four TV seasons:
|Body Of Proof
Don’t Trust The B
Last Man Standing
Once Upon A Time
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
|Better With You Family Tool
Detroit 1-8-7 How to Live with Your Parents
Mr. Sunshine Last Resort
My Generation Malibu Country
No Ordinary Family Red Widow
Off The Map Zero Hour
The Whole Truth Back in the Game
Charlie’s Angels Betrayal
GCB Killer Women
Man Up! Lucky 7
Missing Mind Games
Pan Am Mixology
The River OUAT in Wonderland
Work It Super Fun Night
666 Park Avenue Trophy Wife
Much like NBC just a few short seasons ago, ABC seems to be going with the ‘let’s try a little of everything until we find what works’ plan.
In the ‘what works’ department is ABC’s bread and butter – family sitcoms. This is the network that brought us TGIF after all so it’s no surprise that series like Last Man Standing, Suburgatory, The Neighbors, and The Goldbergs found success in a lineup that already included Modern Family and The Middle.
Female skewing dramas also tend to do well on ABC (mostly thanks to Shonda Rhimes). Grey’s Anatomy has been airing for years, Private Practice lasted for six seasons, and Scandal is all anyone can talk about these days. Throw in Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Body of Proof, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, and Nashville, and there’s some solid soapy goodness / guilty pleasures to choose from.
Like any other TV network though, ABC has on occasion doubled down on what’s working hoping that viewers won’t tire of: ‘More of the same, but with a twist!’. Shonda Rhimes’ producers credit couldn’t save Off the Map and not every family-centric sitcom has worked, see: Family Tools, How to Live With Your Parents, Malibu Country, Back in the Game, and Trophy Wife.
ABC’s also tried it’s hand at the hangout comedy, with mostly lackluster results. Cougar Town only remains on the air because TBS was willing to take a chance on the cul de sac crew, saving it from cancellation back in 2012 and in the last four years only Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23 and Happy Endings escaped a one-and-done fate. Despite the renewals, both series were aired out of order, shuffled around the schedule, and then quietly left to die. Happy Endings was burned off in one-hour blocks on Friday nights and the 8 unaired episodes of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 were made available for a limited time on ABC.com and Hulu.com
Of course that’s not to say that ABC hasn’t tried thinking outside the box. Lost concluded it’s run in the Spring of 2010 and every broadcast network, including ABC, has hoped to replicate its success ever since. And although I typically think of NBC or FOX for genre fare, it seems like every TV season ABC tries to work one supernatural or sci-fi or fantasy or uber-serialized series or some combination thereof into their line-up. Over the last four years only Once Upon a Time and Resurrection have survived to see a second season, and they certainly aren’t Lost.
As I mentioned in the last blog post, ABC’s ‘why the hell not’ attitude in picking up pilots has had some perks for viewers, even if most of the shows have failed spectacularly. I mean where else could you have seen found-footage horror on the small screen – The River, a period drama about airline stewardess – Pan Am, a cross-dressing comedy – Work It, an unnecessary remake – Charlie’s Angels, 24’s storytelling structure adapted for a half-hour comedy – Mixology, or a television tie-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
ABC’s newest crop of scripted TV series for the 2014-2015 TV season was unveiled just a few short weeks ago, and it seems like ABC is sticking with what they know, even if that doesn’t always work.
Three new family-based comedies have been given the greenlight: Black-ish, Cristela, and Fresh off the Boat along with two comedies about 20-somethings: Selfie and Manhattan Love Story. Based on the descriptions and trailers for all five of the new comedies and ABC’s recent track record with sitcoms, I’m going to assume that Selfie and/or Manhattan Love Story are doomed.
In the drama department, Shonda Rhimes will pull off the hat trick on Thursday nights with the addition of her newest series, How to Get Away With Murder starring Viola Davis. Their other three dramas are scheduled for mid-season debuts, two of which (Secrets and Lies & American Crime) look to fall more on the serious side of drama as opposed to the soapy-camp more commonly found on the network. The third is supposedly a 10-episode limited series entitled The Astronaut Wives Club.
ABC’s also going with more Marvel, having picked up Agent Carter based solely on the existing one-shot starring Hayley Atwell.
The Whispers, which is about aliens controlling our children, and Forever featuring an immortal protagonist fill their quota for series with a supernatural spin.
And in the WTF department is Galavant, a medieval musical. I can’t possibly imagine a way in which this series will work, but I’ll be watching it regardless, after all it’s certainly different.
ABC’s not exactly re-inventing the wheel here, but the network does have one thing going for it – diversity. Several of ABC’s new and returning series boast diverse casts, including non-white characters in leading roles. So points for progress.