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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

ABC selling optimism with Kelsey Grammer, Courteney Cox, six dramas and four comedies on 2009-10 schedule

Courteneycox If there's a crisis in network television, somebody forgot to tell ABC.

Despite a brutal current season which laid waste to promising new shows (Cupid, The Unusuals, Life on Mars) and hopeful sophomores (Samantha Who?, Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies), the alphabet network announced a fall schedule this morning featuring six new dramas, four new comedies and a new reality show.

There's big stars such as Courteney Cox as a new-school Mrs. Robinson (Cougar Town), Kelsey Grammer as a laid off corporate executive (Hank), Patricia Heaton as a middle-class Indiana mom (The Middle) and Billy Zane as the head of a cutthroat Los Angeles law firm (The Deep End). There's remakes of old movie and TV shows (Eastwick reworks The Witches of Eastwick, while V retells the old '80s-era miniseries about an alien invasion of the same name.) St. Petersburg Times book editor Colette Bancroft weighs in on Eastwick, vis-a-vis John Updike.

There's even a full night of new shows lined up on Wednesday nights, as if audiences had never heard of Criminal Minds or American Idol's results show.

It's all ABC's attempt to sell advertisers on the notion that, more than a year after the Hollywood writers strike has ended, it's business as usual in the network TV business. Nevermind all the technology and changing audience tastes that are disintegrating the industry.

Themiddle-cast "It's been about two years since we had a normal pilot season, and it's great to be back to doing TV with a full slate of pilots," said Steve McPherson, president of ABC entertainment group, on a conference call with reporters this morning. "I think there's going to be an optimistic mood out there -- much more optimistic than is being written about."

Of course, one reason ABC has a full slate of pilots, is because so many new and returning shows failed this season. And even some of the shows renewed for next season, including the quirky comedy Scrubs, returning for a ninth season, and equally eccentric corporate comedy Better Off Ted, performed badly enough to be cancellation candidates right down to the wire.

Some highlights from McPherson's talk:

-- Jim Belushi is finally out of a job. According to Jim, the mediocre zombie spawn of a show that never seems to die, draws its last breath June 2 after eight (?!) seasons. We think.

-- ABC will not confirm whether actors T.R. Knight or Katherine Heigl are returning to Grey's Anatomy; the finale left both characters' fates in the air.

V-cast -- Star Zach Braff is expected to appear in six of the first 13 episodes of Scrubs' next season. Despite the fact that executive producer/creator Bill Lawrence is also working on Cox's Cougar Town, he's trying to decide if he will totally reinvent Scrubs or just introduce a new cast to the hospital.

-- Lost star Elizabeth Mitchell may appear on that show and the V remake (left), even though her character appeared to die in the Lost season finale.

-- Ugly Betty moves to Fridays,  which may be a disastrous move for the show.

-- True Beauty, that awful reality show about inner and outer beauty, was actually renewed.

-- Scrubs, Better Off Ted, Lost and True Beauty are all held over until midseason.

Click below to read capsule descriptions of all ABC's new shows.

*

“THE DEEP END”
Each year one of LA’s most prestigious law firms recruits four young lawyers from the finest law schools worldwide. The only way for these first-years to survive is to support each other…even as they compete against one another in the cutthroat arena of high-end law. Sex, greed, romance, betrayal – it’s all part of being a first year associate at Sterling Law.

“The Deep End” stars Matt Long as Dylan Hewitt, Ben Lawson as Liam Priory, Tina Majorino as Addy Fisher, Norbert Leo Butz as Rowdy Kaiser, Leah Pipes as Beth Bancroft, Billy Zane as Cliff Huddle, Sherri Saum as Susan Oppenheim and Clancy Brown as Hart Sterling.

The series is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television. David Hemingson is executive producer/writer. The pilot was directed by Michael Fresco.


Eastwick “EASTWICK”
Three very different women find themselves drawn together by a mysterious man who unleashes unique powers in each of them, and this small New England town will never be the same. The series is based on the popular movie “The Witches of Eastwick” and on the novel of the same title by John Updike.

“Eastwick” stars Rebecca Romijn as Roxie Torcoletti, Lindsay Price as Joanna Frankel, Jamie Ray Newman as Kat Gardener, Paul Gross as Darryl Van Horne, Sara Rue as Penny, Veronica Cartwright as Bun, Johann Urb as Will, Jon Bernthal as Raymond and Ashley Benson as Mia.

The series is produced by Warner Bros. Television. Maggie Friedman is executive producer/writer. The pilot was directed by David Nutter.

“FLASH FORWARD
When a mysterious event causes the entire world to black out, humanity is given a glimpse into its near future, and every man, woman and child is forced to come to grips with whether their destinies can be avoided or fulfilled.

Adapting award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer’s revolutionary novel, executive producers David S. Goyer (visionary co-writer of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”) and Brannon Braga (“24,” “Star Trek: Enterprise”) invite you to embark on a journey to answer the question, “if you knew what your future held, what would you do?”

“Flash Forward” stars Joseph Fiennes as Mark Benford, John Cho as Demetri Noh, Jack Davenport as Lloyd Simcoe, Sonya Walger as Olivia Benford, Courtney B. Vance as Stan Wedeck, Brian O’Byrne as Aaron Stark, Christine Woods as Janis Hawk, Zachary Knighton as Bryce Varley and Peyton List as Nicole.

The series is from ABC Studios. David S. Goyer is executive producer/writer/director. Brannon Braga is executive producer and co-wrote the pilot. Other executive producers are Marc Guggenheim, Jessika Goyer, Vince Gerardis and Ralph Vicinanza. Guggenheim will be the showrunner, along with Goyer.

“THE FORGOTTEN”
From executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer comes a crime show in which a team of dedicated amateurs work on cases involving unidentified victims. After the police have given up, this group must first solve the puzzle of the victim's identity in order to then help catch the killer. They work to give the deceased back their names, lest they become -- The Forgotten.

“The Forgotten” stars Rupert Penry-Jones as Alex, Reiko Aylesworth as Linda, Michelle Borth as Candace, Bob Stephenson as Walter, Anthony Carrigan as Tyler and Rochelle Aytes as Detective Grace Russell.

The series is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Television and Warner Bros. Television. Mark Friedman is executive producer/writer, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman are executive producers, KristieAnne Reed is co-executive producer and Danny Cannon is executive producer/director.

“HAPPY TOWN
Haplin, Minnesota, “Happy Town,” is approaching almost a decade of peace after being riddled for years by unsolved kidnappings. But in the wake of this small town’s first crime in seven years, some dark truths are being revealed about some familiar faces. They say every town has its secrets… that doesn’t even begin to describe Happy Town.

“Happy Town” stars Geoff Stults as Tommy Conroy, Lauren German as Henley, Amy Acker as Rachel Conroy, Dean Winters as John Haplin, John Patrick Amedori as Andrew Haplin, Sarah Gadon as Georgia Bravin, Jay Paulson as Larry ‘Root Beer’ Rogers, Robert Wisdom as Roger Hobbes and Sam Neill as Merritt Grieves.

The series is from ABC Studios. Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg are executive producers and co-writers. The pilot was directed by Gary Fleder, who is also an executive producer.

“V”
“V” is a re-imagining of the 1980’s miniseries about the world’s first encounter with an alien race in which the aliens call themselves The Visitors, and have a seemingly friendly agenda that may or may not be a cover for something more malevolent.

“V” stars Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans, Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nichols, Joel Gretsch as Father Jack Landry, Lourdes Benedicto as Valerie Stevens, Logan Huffman as Tyler Evans, Laura Vandervoort as Lisa, with Morena Baccarin as Anna and Scott Wolf as Chad Decker.

The series is produced by HDFilms in association with Warner Bros. Television. Scott Peters is executive producer/writer and Steve Pearlman and Jace Hall are executive producers. The pilot was directed and executive produced by Yves Simoneau.

COMEDY

“COUGAR TOWN”

Courteney Cox stars as a recently divorced single mother exploring the honest truths about dating and aging in our beauty and youth obsessed culture.

“Cougar Town” stars Courteney Cox as Jules, Christa Miller as Elle, Busy Philipps as Laurie, Dan Byrd as Travis, Brian Van Holt as Bobby, Josh Hopkins as Grayson and Ian Gomez as Andy.

The series is from ABC Studios. Bill Lawrence is executive producer/writer/director, Kevin Biegel is writer/co-executive producer, and Courteney Cox and David Arquette are executive producers.

Hank “HANK”
Kelsey Grammer stars in this timely comedy as Hank Pryor, a titan of industry who suddenly finds himself out of work, almost out of money and around a wife and kids for whom he's never made much time. Despite his recent setbacks, however, Hank is confident he's on the road back to the top. He knows he is destined to return to greatness. And he is — just not the greatness he imagines.

“Hank” stars Kelsey Grammer as Hank, Melinda McGraw as Tilly, David Koechner as Grady, Macey Cruthird as Maddie and Ryan Wynott as Henry.

The series is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with McMonkey Inc., Grammnet Productions, Werner Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television. It is written by Tucker Cawley. Tom Werner, Tucker Cawley, Kelsey Grammer and Mike Clements serve as executive producers. The pilot was directed by James Burrows.

“THE MIDDLE
The Hecks are a middle class family living in the middle of Indiana, just trying to keep their heads above water. Emmy-winner Patricia Heaton stars as a wife and mother of three in a comedy about raising a family and lowering your expectations.

“The Middle” stars Patricia Heaton as Frankie, Neil Flynn as Mike, Eden Sher as Sue, Atticus Shaffer as Brick and Charlie McDermott as Axel.


The series is produced by Warner Bros. Tele vision. Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline are executive producers/writers and Werner Walian is producer. The pilot was directed by Julie Anne Robinson.

Modernfamily “MODERN FAMILY”
Today’s American families come in all shapes and sizes. Shot from the perspective of an unseen documentary filmmaker, this comedy takes a modern look at the complications that come with being a family in 2009.

“Modern Family” stars Ed O’Neill as Jay, Sofía Vergara as Gloria, Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell, Eric Stonestreet as Cameron, Ty Burrell as Phil, Julie Bowen as Claire, Sarah Hyland as Haley, Rico Rodriguez as Manny, Nolan Gould as Luke and Ariel Winter as Alex.

The series is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television. Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd are executive producers. The pilot was directed by Jason Winer.

ALTERNATIVE SERIES

“SHARK TANK”

From Mark Burnett, executive producer of “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” and Sony Pictures Television comes “Shark Tank,” an exciting new reality show that gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to make their dreams come true and become successful – and possibly wealthy – business people. But the entrepreneurs must first try to convince five tough, multi-millionaire tycoons to part with their own hard-earned cash and give them the funding they need to jumpstart their ideas.

In these trying economic times, it’s difficult for an individual possessing a dream or even a working small business poised for growth to get a loan for a risky venture. Whether it be an imaginative enhancement for an existing product, a family recipe that has all the ingredients to become a profitable culinary treat, or the latest technological gadget that could take the world by storm, most of these dreams die an early death because no one dared take a financial chance on someone with an unproven and oftentimes outrageous proposal. Many of these people now see “Shark Tank” as their last chance at success. Some have been laboring on their ideas for years or even decades, have invested large amounts of money, and are being pressured to throw in the towel by friends and family. Others have simply never had access to the means to live out their dreams, until now.

Enter the Sharks of “Shark Tank” – Barbara Corcoran (Manhattan real estate titan), Kevin Harrington (king of infomercials), Robert Herjavec (technology tycoon), Daymond John (fashion mogul) and Kevin O'Leary (venture capitalist) – five multi-millionaires who lifted themselves up by their bootstraps to make their own entrepreneurial dreams come true and turned their ideas into empires.

Each week ambitious entrepreneurs from across the country will present their breakthrough business concepts, products, properties and services to the panel of ruthless investors. Their goal is to convince these merciless moguls to invest their own dollars in the concept. Convincing real-life millionaires to part with their own money is no easy task, because when the idea is poor, the Sharks will tear into the ill-prepared presenters and pass on the idea with a simple, “I’m out!” -- sending them running for the exit.

But these Sharks aren’t just out for blood, they too have a goal: to own a piece of the next big idea. Entrepreneurs will be asked to give up a percentage of their companies’ equity to the Sharks in order to get the investment they need. But when the Sharks hear a really top-notch idea, and more than one of them wants to sink their teeth into it, a war between them will erupt. Then the once-desperate entrepreneur can rejoice when the Sharks reveal their true interest in the product and bid up the price of the investment.

       

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:58pm]

    

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