Friday, 15 January 2016

ABC 2015-16 Season Analysis




Gregory's Thoughts

ABC had a strong 2014-15 season and continued to set the standard for soapy dramas and family comedies on broadcast television. While their shows garner critical acclaim and large followings, ABC has yet to deliver a new show which maintains high ratings over many seasons (a la Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family et al).

Last season ABC added critically acclaimed comedies; Black-ish, and the second Asian-American sitcom in broadcast network history, Fresh off the Boat, which also broke the ABC mid-season comedy curse and is currently enjoying another critically acclaimed, triumphant season. In early 2015, ABC also premiered the critically acclaimed anthology drama American Crime and the buzzy surprise hit Secrets & Lies.

Unfortunately, ABC appears to be stuck in a rut of having critically acclaimed, boundary pushing series which lack big ratings. Shows like fantasy musical extravaganza Galavant and the Marvel produce 1940s set spy drama dAgent Carter have failed to meet expectations and other additions like The Muppets failed to live up to its hype. ABC still has a lot of promising shows benched for mid-season including mystery political drama The Family, Shondaland drama The Catch and the quirky coming out family comedy The Real O'Neals.

The main problem I see arising for ABC is their growing dependency on older hit shows and their apparent inability to create new ones. Grey's Anatomy, which is still very strong despite its age, will have to leave the schedule at some point, How To Get Away With Murder has lost some steam but remains a solid ratings performer, Scandal remains steady but dramas like Bones, Agents of Shield and practically all 10pm Tuesday shows are failing. Quantico, ABC's HTGAWM inspired CIA breakout drama of the season managed to escape the dreaded Tuesday slot to Sundays where it has found some success, but could (and in my opinion should) achieve higher ratings. Once Upon a Time is aging while Nashville is hanging on by a thread, Friday night comedy duo Last Man Standing/Dr Ken are doing well but could be improved, however, ABC has bigger problems to solve.

Development Slate

Unusually for ABC, there seems to be a deficiency of strong projects, although this appears to be a problem affecting all networks this development season. There are hardly any big surprises or out of the box ideas but, ABC appears to be sticking to what its good at; soaps, female-driven cop shows, family comedies, and of course Shonda dramas.

What Does ABC Need Next Season?

1. One or two new comedies, preferably family comedies because the genre has become ABC's forte. For the past several seasons, ABC has been trying relentlessly to make a strong Tuesday comedy block to now avail. While Fresh off the Boat has been a successful self-starter, it needs another sitcom to bolster it in order to become a unbreakable block in the same way Modern Family and The Middle have been parallel anchors since 2009. Plus, the latter shows are aging and are not owned by ABC. The more successful, in-house shows ABC produces over the next few seasons, the better.

2. Successful bridge shows; Agent Carter and Galavant have been critical darlings but have failed to achieve large ratings success. The concept of bridge shows is a intriguing idea which has yet to truly be successful.

3. Although not as high on the list of needs, another Shondaland drama or two wouldn't hurt ABC's schedule. Scandal, HTGAWM, and Grey's Anatomy seem to be in it for the long haul and the upcoming mid-season drama The Catch appears to have strong buzz leading up to its premiere. Shonda's formula has proven to be successful so, the more Shonda, the better.

3. Now that dramedy cop show Castle is almost out of steam, it would be wise for ABC to replace the show with another light hearted drama

UPDATE: ABC has cancelled Nashville. The Real O'Neals is the sixth new ABC comedy to be renewed alongside Fresh Off The Boat, Modern Family, Black-Ish, The Goldbergs and The Middle!

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