Skip to content
Families swap matriarchs in ABC series
In a renewed bid to resurrect its flagging prime-time ratings, ABC on Tuesday unveiled a new slate of programs for its fall season before a skeptical audience of media buyers and advertisers in New York.
The network announced 11 new shows, including a reality series called "Wife Swap," wherein "families from across the country with radically different values and lifestyles" will trade matriarchs for two weeks. Only Saturday nights will remain unchanged from this season.
The schedule shake-up comes on the heels of an executive one: Just five weeks ago, ABC fired entertainment group Chairman Lloyd Braun and President Susan Lyne, replacing them with Anne Sweeney as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and Stephen McPherson as president of ABC Primetime Entertainment.
McPherson, who is responsible for the schedule, took pains to make it clear that he had been on the job for just 29 days.
ABC ranks fourth in total viewers, behind CBS, NBC and Fox, according to Nielsen Media Research. It is averaging 9.02 million prime-time viewers this season, down 37 percent from the 1999-2000 season, when it was last on top.
"Our priority across the board is to restore ABC prime time to prominence throughout the industry," said Sweeney.
The network is leaning heavily on new dramas next season, including "The Practice: Fleet Street," a spinoff of the now-canceled "The Practice." The new show will star James Spader and William Shatner.
Other new dramas include "Lost," which follows the survivors of a plane crash on a deserted island, and "Desperate Housewives," an intimate look at a group of suburban housewives narrated from beyond the grave.
Five sitcoms--"It's All Relative," "Married to the Kellys," "I'm With Her," "The Big House" and "Life With Bonnie"--will not return next season, the network said.
Aside from "Wife Swap," ABC's new reality slate includes "The Benefactor," in which billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team, gives away $1 million.
The network also announced that Elizabeth Vargas will replace Barbara Walters as co-anchor of "20/20" and that former WGN-Ch. 9 morning anchor Bill Weir will co-anchor a weekend edition of "Good Morning America" slated to launch in September.
The WB also unveiled its fall schedule, including "Jack & Bobby," a drama that follows the childhood life of a future president, and "Commando Nanny," a sitcom based on the life of Mark Burnett, the former British paratrooper and Hollywood nanny who went on to create "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."
The WB also said it is developing a new reality show produced by Burnett.