TCA: ABC stuck in reverse

abc_banner_bgrndABC continues to lag others thanks to lackluster lineup – but Paul Lee is standing pat

You’d think ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee has been hanging around and taking advice from Cubs GM Theo Epstein – twiddling their thumbs while waiting for something to hit.

Keep twiddling.

ABC – in fourth place with perhaps the worst programs on any schedule, took to the stage at the TCA Winter Press Tour last Thursday with four new series.

– Executive session: Paul Lee – by far the worst of the five network entertainment chiefs, met with critics and reporters and voiced his support for the pilot process – but he also greenlighted two projects without committing to a pilot: The Black Box and Secrets and Lies.

Lee gave a vote if confidence to Marvel’s Agents Of Shield and 1980’s throwcrap sitcom The Goldbergs – both now likely to return for a second season despite lower-than-predicted ratings. Lee also acknowledged mistakes with the scheduling of the Once Upon A Time spinoff Wonderland, which went up against The Big Bang Theory. Lee also called Lucky 7 “an excellent piece of television”, more proof they have a moron running the network. The only shows holding up ABC right now is The Middle, Modern Family, Shark Tank, Scandal (which can’t stay hot forever) and Grey’s Anatomy (which can’t last forever.)

And now, Lee is set to introduce another singing-competition series called Rising Star, a cross between a “massive” talent show and The Gong Show. Wait, those aren’t the same thing?

Judging by the lackluster results for The Assets, Killer Women, and other loads of crap, Paul Lee is more suited to run Fox’s woeful WFLD-TV’s news operation than a major network. He’ll fit right in.

– Perhaps the most interesting concept at the ABC presentation was new limited-series Resurrection. The series is set in a small Missouri town where the dead come to life – and they don’t look like zombies! Many in the press confused the series with The Returned, a somewhat similar show announced days earlier at the Sundance Channel’s presentation. Producers of the show swore they’ve never seen Returned, but one of the co-stars of Resurrection (Kurtwood Smith of That 70’s Show and Medium fame) – has.

Resurrection premieres March 9.

– While not giving critics the same kind of fits Friends With Better Lives did, new drama Mind Games did have them scratching their heads a bit. The premise: two brothers – a con man (Christian Slater) and a bipolar expert (Steve Zahn) form a problem-solving firm – using psychological manipulation.

Mind Games premieres Feb. 25 – two weeks earlier than planned due to the cancellation of Killer Women.

– Another new series featured at ABC’s presentation was The Black Box – one of two series ordered straight-to-series. It’s about a neuroscientist who opts to forgo her medication in order to get the creative highs of her disorder (wow, there’s a winner.) As for the pilot approach, co-exec producer Ilene Chulken said (via Deadline) it “can make a creative team feel constrained and competitive” and said going straight to series “a much more free way to make television. We are really being given wide berth to tell a story that’s outside of the box.”

With production on the first episode only halfway done at press time, critics at TCA were handed scripts. When the series premieres on April 24, in lieu of episodes, maybe the audience at home could get written scripts.

– Then there’s Mixology, with Ryan Seacrest as producer. The premise: the series takes place over the entire span of thirteen episodes over a course of an evening at a Manhattan bar called Mix, where six women and five men are looking for love. Each episode will feature two of those characters, and the outcome would be determined in the season finale.

In other words, this is another one of those “beautiful people who wine and dine shows in New York City.” – one after another like its coming off an assembly line. One minute you think you’re watching Sex in the City; the next minute you think you’re watching Gossip Girl. It’s like eating tub after tub of vanilla ice cream.