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ABC's Schedule: Old Shows, Old School

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ABC announced its new fall drama in a Manhattan press conference this morning. That is not a typo: its new fall drama, singular, is a remake of the British show Life on Mars, in which a modern-day cop has a car accident and wakes up in what appears to be 1973. The network’s new reality show—singular—is Opportunity Knocks, a game show in which the hosts show up unannounced at the contestants’ homes. There are no new fall comedies, unless you count Scrubs, which, if you didn’t watch it on NBC, is New to You! [Update: Actually, Scrubs is midseason, so the fall-comedy count remains 0.]

Every broadcast network has had to deal with the fact that it did not have time, after the writers’ strike, for a traditional pilot season. NBC’s Ben Silverman used this as an opportunity to remake the development process into a from-the-gut affair, picking up new shows on the basis of a script, a star or a concept, without shooting pilots at all. ABC’s Steve McPherson, on the other hand—though he’s known to have a decent programming gut himself—said this morning that “we don’t really feel comfortable picking up stuff” without a conventional pilot. So while ABC reloads, it’s main strategy for next fall is essentially a do-over of last fall as the network relaunches many of its decent but not-commercially-overwhelming fall 2007 debuts for a second time.

Good luck with that, I say.

To be fair, McPherson acknowledges that the networks are all in uncharted territory this year, not just because of the strike disruption, but also because of the dramatic audience loss this spring and the fact that no one really knows how much of it is a temporary side effect of the strike and how much is permanent. “I think the fall is a big challenge for all the networks,” he said. “We have to come back and relaunch in a big way.” And for all I know, maybe a relaunch that’s not much different from last year’s launch is as good a strategy as any.

Meanwhile, ABC is developing other new shows—eventually. The animated sitcom The Goode Family is coming in January (because animation takes a long time to produce); so far it’s the new show I’m most excited about, simply because it’s from Mike Judge, who has consistently produced one underrated project after another—King of the Hill, Office Space, Idiocracy—that has turned out to be awesome. There’s an upcoming beauty pageant reality show from Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks. And there is a whole slew of pilots—17, by this morning’s count—that may or may not make air, among them the remake of Cupid by Rob Thomas.

Not returning: October Road, Men in Trees, Big Shots, Cavemen, Miss Guided and Carpoolers. Returning for a final season is Boston Legal, after which someone besides James Spader will finally be allowed to win a Best Actor Emmy again.

McPherson promised some preview clips at this afternoon’s presentation to advertisers; this morning, he played a trailer for Life on Mars on the conference call, and let me tell you, I plan to do all my TV-watching over a staticy landline connection from now on! I’ll let you know if anything looks promising at ABC’s event this afternoon.

In the meantime, here’s my cut-and-paste of the fall schedule:

MONDAY: 8:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars”
9:30 p.m. “Samantha Who?”
10:00 p.m. “Boston Legal”

TUESDAY: 8:00 p.m. “Opportunity Knocks”
9:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars the Results Show”
10:00 p.m. “Eli Stone”

WEDNESDAY: 8:00 p.m. “Pushing Daisies”
9:00 p.m. “Private Practice”
10:00 p.m. “Dirty Sexy Money”

THURSDAY: 8:00 p.m. “Ugly Betty”
9:00 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy”
10:00 p.m. “Life on Mars”

FRIDAY: 8:00 p.m. “Wife Swap”
9:00 p.m. “Supernanny”
10:00 p.m. “20/20”

SATURDAY: 8:00 p.m. “Saturday Night College Football”

SUNDAY: 7:00 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8:00 p.m. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
9:00 p.m. “Desperate Housewives”
10:00 p.m. “Brothers & Sisters”

Note: It’s a fall schedule, so don’t freak out that Life on Mars is in Lost’s time slot.