ABC is hitting the "reset" button with its entire Wednesday lineup, all the while hoping that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Pushing Daisies, Private Practice and Dirty Sexy Money — remember them? — return after being packed away in cold storage since last December. That's when the freshman dramas, along with a lot of other shows, left the air because of the writers' strike.
But unlike most of those other shows, this trio did not bounce back to life after the writers put down their picket signs. ABC instead decided to take a TV timeout and hold them in check until the fall, when they could be re-launched with plenty of promotional oomph behind them.
Now the shows, two of which had only modest ratings to start, face the challenge of essentially starting from scratch.
Of the three, Pushing Daisies has received more critical adoration and industry accolades (a dozen Emmy nominations). But with its fantastical plots and quirky vibe, it figures to have difficulty cultivating a mass audience over the long haul (Ratings were tapering near the end of its nine-episode run).
Even some diehard devotees could grow impatient with Wednesday's opener, which spends a lot of time reintroducing its characters and kooky premise — a lonely pie-maker (Lee Pace) who has the power to give or take life with a single touch. But it's something the show needs to do to recruit the neophytes.
"There were fans watching the show last season who will carry over," says Shonda Rhimes, creator of Private Practice. "And hopefully, new people will join in."
Private Practice, a Grey's Anatomy spin-off pegged to love-starved obstetrician Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), entered last fall with loads of buzz. And, actually, it did turn out to be the second-highest rated new drama of the season with an average audience of 10.8 million Not bad, but not great either. Both critics and fans bashed Practice for its uneven plotlines that careered awkwardly from serious to silly, and for turning the formerly feisty Addison into a somewhat ditzy character we barely recognized.
To her credit, Rhimes recognized that things weren't clicking and used the hiatus to regroup and reassess. Now she's promising a "stronger" Addison and more high-stakes storytelling teeming with "ethical dilemmas and conflict" among the characters.
The folks behind Dirty Sexy Money, a satirical drama about an ultra-wealthy New York family, also used the hiatus to find their footing. Dropped from the regular cast was Samaire Armstrong, who played pampered twin Juliet Darling. Meanwhile, Lucy Liu was brought in to play a bad-girl type who creates a lot of chaos (Liu has described her as a "wrecking ball").
Mostly, though, creator Craig Wright felt the show — especially early in the season — got away from the soapy fun and became much too "serious." Now, he's eager to push the pedal to the metal.
"We're making this a glitzy, glossy, messy, dirty, sexy soap opera this year," he says. "We're sort of taking the gloves off and going for it."