ABC Thinks 7 Will Be Fall’s Lucky Number : Television: Four comedies, two dramas and ‘The ABC Family Movie’ will join the network’s seven returning sophomore series.
ABC, coming off a strong season with seven returning sophomore series, on Monday announced its new prime-time lineup for the fall, bidding to dethrone ratings champion CBS with the help of a one-hour drama from the creators of “thirtysomething” and a program starring Korean American comedian Margaret Cho.
Despite the proliferation of network newsmagazines, one of ABC’s entries in this field, “Day One,” failed to make the fall schedule and was bumped back to midseason. But “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” much praised but with borderline ratings, made the final cut and will return this fall in its same Sunday time slot.
According to ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert, the network’s large number of returning series, plus its broadcasts of the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards, gives the company a good shot at No. 1 in total household ratings next season, a crown that CBS has worn for three consecutive years.
ABC was virtually neck-and-neck for the lead this season until the Winter Olympics, propelled by the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan rivalry and its stain of scandal, enabled CBS to pull away with huge ratings.
Sophomore series returning for ABC include “Grace Under Fire,” “NYPD Blue,” “Turning Point,” “These Friends of Mine” (which will be retitled “Ellen,” after star Ellen Degeneres), “Boy Meets World,” “Thunder Alley” and “Lois & Clark.”
Among the canceled series from this past season’s prime-time schedule were “Thea,” “The Byrds of Paradise,” “Phenom,” “The New America’s Funniest People” and the “ABC Monday Night Movie.” Other ABC series axed this season include “Birdland,” “George,” “Joe’s Life,” “Missing Persons,” “Moon Over Miami,” “The Paula Poundstone Show,” “Where I Live” and “The Critic” (which Fox has picked up for next season).
The seven new fall series include four comedies, two dramas and “The ABC Family Movie,” an 8-10 p.m. Saturday entry that the network experimented with this year and that will include remakes of Disney motion pictures, other made-for-TV movies and feature films, said network spokesman Pete Barrett.
ABC has been notoriously unsuccessful on Saturday nights. But last year’s surprise success of CBS’ “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” indicated there is an audience for traditional entertainment on that night. Although ABC focuses on a younger audience than CBS, aiming chiefly at viewers 18 to 49, Barrett said of the early Saturday movie attempt:
“It is a presentation that parents and their children will be able to enjoy together. We feel that if we put on good movies, we’ll be able to win some viewers over who have been watching videocassettes, renting movies and playing video games. We’re after young families here who have not been watching television.”
One of ABC’s ratings strengths traditionally has been to target young families with its regular weekly series.
ABC finished the 1993-94 season with six of the 10 top-rated series: “Home Improvement,” “Roseanne,” “These Friends of Mine,” “Grace Under Fire,” “Coach” and “NFL Monday Night Football.”
The new drama from “thirtysomething” creators Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz is “My So-Called Life,” which deals with the experiences of a 15-year-old girl as she tries “to figure out who she is and where she belongs in relation to her family, friends and high-school contacts.” The series, which the network will launch in late summer, features Claire Danes as the girl, with Bess Armstrong as her mother.
Cho, a well-known performer in comedy clubs, makes a breakthrough for Asian Americans in her new half-hour series, “All American Girl.” In the sitcom, ABC said, she is “a totally assimilated college graduate whose very traditional Korean-American family provides her with support, but erects a few cultural roadblocks in her quest to be a very American young woman.”
“All American Girl” has been scheduled preceding network television’s No. 1 series, “Home Improvement.”
Other new ABC series:
* “Blue Skies,” a sitcom starring Corey Parker and Matt Roth as two young friends and partners in a “small but thriving back-to-nature mail-order catalogue business” whose relationship is tested when an attractive female Harvard graduate arrives to straighten out their books.
* “On Our Own,” a sitcom in which “the oldest of seven orphaned children concocts an outrageous scheme to impersonate his aunt in order to keep his family from being separated by well-meaning social workers.” Ralph Harris stars as the young impersonator, and six members of a family called the Smolletts are featured.
* “Me and the Boys,” a sitcom with stand-up comedian Steve Harvey as a widower who is bringing up three young sons under the watchful eye of his mother-in-law (Madge Sinclair).
* “McKenna,” a drama starring TV veteran Chad Everett (“Medical Center”) as the head of a family that provides tours for guests who come to their ranch in the Northwest.
A number of the new series--including “My So-Called Life,” “McKenna” and “Me and the Boys"--are owned, wholly or in part, by ABC as the major networks increasingly take steps to assure their financial futures.
In its shifting of shows, ABC has moved the reliable ratings entry “Coach” from its post-"Roseanne” slot to the 8 p.m. position opening the Monday lineup. Switching “Coach,” however, means that the program will be seen here in the West following “Monday Night Football.” Getting the coveted spot following “Roseanne” is “Ellen.”
After football ends, the Monday schedule, which formerly replaced the gridiron contests with movies, will be “Coach,” “Blue Skies,” “The Marshal"--a new, contemporary one-hour drama about a lawman who chases fugitives--and “Day One.”
Also returning at midseason, ABC said, will be the series “Matlock” and “Sister, Sister.”
Here is ABC’s night-by-night lineup for fall:
Sunday: “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “On Our Own,” “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” “ABC Sunday Night Movie.”
Monday: “Monday Night Football,” “Coach,” “Blue Skies.”
Tuesday: “Full House,” “Me and the Boys,” “Roseanne,” “Ellen,” “NYPD Blue.”
Wednesday: “Thunder Alley,” “All American Girl,” “Home Improvement,” “Grace Under Fire,” “Turning Point.”
Thursday: “My So-Called Life,” “McKenna,” “PrimeTime Live.”
Friday: “Family Matters,” “Boy Meets World,” “Step By Step,” “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” “20/20.”
Saturday: “ABC Family Movie,” “The Commish.”