ABC unveils 2012-13 schedule

ABC’s 2012-13 campaign has changes on four nights in a schedule released Tuesday morning before its upfront presentation later in the afternoon.

(In addition, fellow Disney property ESPN also held an upfront on Tuesday. Information is at the end of the ABC analysis.)

ABC plans to debut five new series this fall, with another five scheduled for midseason. Like Fox and NBC, ABC is investing more in comedy by returning sitcom blocks to Tuesdays and Fridays, nights where ABC had past success.

Since Mondays are unchanged (with Dancing With The Stars/Castle), lets start with Sunday. America’s Funniest Home Videos and Once Upon A Time fill the first two hours, and leads into a relocated Revenge, which replaces longtime stalwart Desperate Housewives. Leading out of Revenge is new supernatural drama 666 Park Avenue (starring Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams), set in New York City.

Tuesdays has Dancing With The Stars results show moving to the lead-off position on Tuesday night, making room for comedies Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B___ in Apartment 23. Private Practice closes out the night with a shortened, thirteen-episode final season (no word yet on a midseason replacement.)

Wednesday nights has The Middle, Subrgatory, and Modern Family intact, but leading out of Modern Family is new sitcom The Neighbors, which features aliens as the family next door, followed by new drama Nashville with Friday Night Lights alum Connie Britton as a struggling country star. While Thursday has Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal remain in their respective slots, the night leads off with nuclear submarine drama Last Resort.

Friday’s first two hours are split: the first two months of the season, ABC has Shark Tank and What Would You Do; beginning in November, Shark Tank moves to 8 pm (CT) to make room for Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing and new sitcom Malibu Country, in a revival of TGIF, of sorts.

Saturday remains unchanged with college football (going head-to-head with Fox some weeks) and movies from December onward.

Series scheduled for midseason include Body of Proof, Family Tools, How To Live With Your Parents (the latter two to air Tuesdays between Dancing With The Stars cycles), Mistresses, Red Widow, Wife Swap and Zero Hour. A notable omission: Marc Cherry’s talked-about pilot Deviant Maids was surprisingly not picked up.

In addition to Desperate Housewives retiring, programs not returning include Missing, GCB, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which was canceled earlier this season.

For the complete 2012 ABC schedule, click here. For a complete, detailed description of all new drama and comedy series, click here and here respectively.

Thought: ABC’s schedule received some mixed reviews – many thought it was good; others thought it wasn’t aggressive enough. ABC may finish fourth in the adult 18-49 demo for the first time in eight years, and one of the reasons may actually be Dancing With The Stars – the show that once was an asset to its schedule now is a liability thanks to its low adult demo number. The all-star cast they’re planning this fall better be good…

Happy Endings and Apt 23 now competes with similar single-cam shows on Fox and NBC. Who will win? Who knows. Similar to what I said about Bob’s Burgers, I’m glad Apt. 23 is back as yours truly is a fan – but its demo rating must rise if Chloe and James Van Der Beek want to stick around – especially in a tough time slot.

The Neighbors on Wednesday is clearly more compatible with Modern Family than Apt. 23. But can a sci-fi comedy work? This is basically Alien Nation played for laughs. Nashville on the other hand, could click with the female audience (and at least it’ll fare better than the Fox reality show of the same name, which lasted only two episodes in 2007.)

In ABC’s Thursday night death slot, look for The Last Resort not to last long – it’ll meet the same fate as previous occupants Missing and Charlie’s Angels. What, are they trying to bring back Voyage Of The Bottom Of The Sea, or something? Grey’s Anatomy faces off against Glee at 8 (CT), but look for Grey’s to have the edge since the medical sudser continues to do well with the upper echelons of the female 18-49 audience as Glee continues to fade among its core young audience (and besides, older women are not interested in seeing Sue Sylvester clobbering someone with a megaphone.) As for Scandal, the jury is still out on this show.

Low-HUT level Fridays could be interesting as ABC’s and NBC’s comedy blocks face each other in the first hour of prime time beginning in November. But this battle will be like watching a Pittsburgh Pirates-Houston Astros game. Last Man Standing probably should have been canceled, and you can forget about Malibu Country – not even worth talking about. But Shark Tank is – a full 22-episode order and modest success on Friday means its sticking around.

All in all, ABC’s 2012-13 is a little better than NBC’s crummy schedule and Fox’s complacent one. But in reality, ABC’s ratings are descending faster than NBC’s. And that means a fourth place finish looks inevitable.

ESPN Upfronts: Earlier in the day, sister network ESPN held its upfront at a separate venue from ABC’s and announced new programming initiatives: ESPN is creating a YouTube channel for Bill Simmons’ Grantland channel; and adding more podcasts launching a new docu film series Nine for IX, which features women in sports and directed by prominent female film makers; and a return of the 30 for 30 film series, along with a new 30 for 30 shorts, which is a 30-part digital film series, which will debut one short feature each month on Grantland.com.

For more on ESPN’s plans – which includes an expanded web and social media presence, click here.

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