TCA: Despite “SHIELD”, ABC headed for down year

abc_banner_bgrndIf ABC hopes to get out of fourth place in the adult demo, this crappy 2013 fall lineup won’t do it.

That’s the feeling many in attendance had when ABC held its presentation at the recent TCA press tour.

In fact, Chicago native Jeff Garlin (of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame and star of ABC’s new sitcom The Goldbergs) gave a more entertaining performance than network chief Paul Lee did, who many wonder why he still has a job in Hollywood.

Bottom line is, ABC has the worst 2013-14 lineup of all the five networks – even The CW. With the exception of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, ABC’s new shows are nothing but unwatchable dreck.

Lee addressed the troops, but he seemed more passive than other network chiefs. He didn’t address the CBS-Time Warner Cable spat (probably smart given Disney has it own possible tumultuous negotiations with Dish coming up); nor did he passionately defend broadcasting vs. cable, or take a swipe at Netflix. But he did talk about stripping Shark Tank repeats during the first week of September (yours truly likes the show, but who cares?) to “Empowering Women” on Thursday nights, whatever that means.

A Deadline article on Lee’s appearance was titled “ABC Programming Chief Paul Lee Jumps The Sharks“. No kidding.

In the words of Steve Rosenbloom…. Lee, your plane is boarding – and was long overdue to take off.

The big attraction of course was S.H.I.E.L.D. – but this wasn’t your usual TCA panel – the show’s pilot was screened for critics, but only at a luncheon (which the show did not sponsor.) A big deal about the secrecy of the show was made at a panel, with creator/exec producer Joss Whedon, Marvel exec Jeph Loeb, and the cast insisted all of this was necessary to protect the show (but they did screen the pilot at Comic-Con.)

As for notes from ABC execs, Whedon said the network has been supportive of their vision, and on the same page – which has not often been the case with Whedon on his previous shows. After the panel concluded, ABC unveiled the new poster for S.H.I.E.L.D.

– ABC unveiled Super Fun Night with executive producer Conan O’Brien and star Rebel Wilson on the panel. Wilson (and for the last time, she did not sing in the group Wilson Phillips) plays Kimmie, a woman who sets aside Friday night as “Friday Fun Night” with two other single women and decides to kick it up a notch (this is really the synopsis, according to Wikipedia.) Even though she’s Australian, Wilson uses an American accent on this show, because her character is a Manhattan native. Critics at the tour salvaged the show, though not as badly as Dads.

Super would actually work better as a movie – not a TV show, where it would be difficult to stretch out 100 episodes (let alone 22) with a very thin plot. If it weren’t for Dads, this would be the worst new show of the fall season. See you in the T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame, Rebel.

If there was anything interesting about The Goldbergs panel, it was Jeff Garlin, who had some fun with the critics and reporters at their expense – though they took it in stride (not acting like Michael Patrick King or anyone associated with Dads helped.) Some of them took issue with a lot of yelling on the show, to which Garlin responded sarcastically: “When it becomes annoying I’ll stop – and I’ll be the first to notice.”

Sadly, Garlin is the only thing going for Goldbergs. Often compared to the far superior Wonder Years, there is nothing original about Goldbergs, even down to its name. We’ve had shows set in the ’80’s before, both good (Freeks and Geeks); and bad (That ’80’s Show.) Why do we need another one?

And here comes another unoriginal ABC comedy – Back In The Game. This one is about a baseball team of young misfits who lose games all the time. Both Rob and Mark Cullen talked about the show at the TCA panel.

Sounds familiar? It should be: This premise is similar to 1976 theatrical The Bad News Bears, which spawned two sequels, a short-lived TV series for CBS in 1979, and a big screen remake in 2005. While its chances actually look decent to succeed given its time slot between The Middle and Modern Family, Back In The Game lacks creativity and has the stigma of “been there, done that.”

And besides, if viewers want to watch a bad baseball team, they can tune in to the Cubs or White Sox.

Another unoriginal series on ABC’s panel is Lucky 7, about a working class group of friends who win the lottery. The pilot shown to critics opens with a flashforward: characters of the show facing the consequences after becoming rich. Producer David Zabel notes the plot device was used to hook and tease viewers on how things progressed to that point.

Even though Lucky 7 is based on the British TV series The Syndicate, the series is reminiscent of short-lived dramas Lottery and Sweepstakes. Enough said.

And here’s another ABC show heavily scrutinized by critics at the tour: Betrayal, which is being filmed right here in Chicago. The producers and cast defended a storyline featuring an affair with two married characters – quite a hard sell to the viewing audience, producer David Zabel (who’s also producing Lucky 7) admitted at the panel.

Don’t get too used to Betrayal – the series is scheduled for a thirteen-episode limited series run. But keep in mind ratings do dictate a lot of decisions… we might see a second season of Betrayal if it does well.

There was a panel for Once Upon A Time: Wonderland, but much of what was said at TCA was also covered at Comic-Con. To watch the Comic-Con panel, click here and scroll down a bit.


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