You know a TV network's in trouble when the big announcement of its fall schedule begins with a long speech on revaluing ratings figures.
But that's how ABC kicked off its news conference Tuesday announcing its slate of shows for the 2008-09 season. Perhaps the anticlimactic vibe emerged because ABC has just two new shows coming this fall and three planned for midseason, including a much-rumored import from NBC, Scrubs.
The new shows:
• Opportunity Knocks is a so-called alternative game show developed by Ashton Kutcher (is this guy the new Aaron Spelling or what?) featuring a truck full of prizes that rolls up to a home and the producers quizzing the inhabitants about their family.
• Life on Mars is an Americanized version of a British series of the same name about a cop who finds himself mysteriously transported back to 1973 after a car crash. The minds behind this adaptation, years in the making, include Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley and West Wing executive producer/director Tommy Schlamme.
• Scrubs, the NBC show saved from cancellation because of ABC corporate synergy (Disney-owned studio Touchstone Television makes it), will appear in midseason, along with a new animated comedy, The Goode Family, from King of the Hill mastermind Mike Judge, and an untitled beauty pageant from Kutcher and America's Next Top Model's Tyra Banks (who is on track to be the next Oprah).
Among the shows fully and finally dead: Miss Guided (sniff!), Women's Murder Club, Cavemen (yay!), Carpoolers, Big Shots, October Road (another yay!), Men In Trees, Cashmere Mafia and Notes from the Underbelly.
A few tidbits: Scrubs is expected to finish its run with 18 episodes on ABC. The network won't reprise the reality series Oprah's Big Give; its stated reason: Oprah doesn't want to do another installment. Kelley is expected to move over to Boston Legal and write nearly all of that show's 13 episodes next season, which likely will be its last. And Lost will be back in midseason, along with According to Jim.
The tiny network, trying not to get lost in a crowded media world, is banking on viewers' interest in even more spoiled, wealthy kids. It's launching a successor to Beverly Hills 90210 in the fall, with original cast member Jennie Garth appearing occasionally as a guidance counselor. New series Surviving the Filthy Rich is about a 23-year-old woman (Tampa native JoAnna Garcia) hired to tutor twin rich kids from Palm Springs. The two series will air Tuesday and are reminiscent of the network's most buzzed-about show, Gossip Girl, about privileged Manhattan prep schoolers.
Sunday will be programmed by a group of advertisers, Media Rights Capital, with whom the network has made a deal. The shows will be announced later.
The CW renewed fan favorite Reaper and will bring it back midseason. Gone are CW Now, Online Nation, Life is Wild, Crowned: The Mother of All Beauty Pageants, Pussycat Dolls, WWE Friday Night Smackdown!, Beauty and the Geek and Farmer Wants a Wife.
Eric Deggans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8521. See his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media. The Associated Press contributed to this report.