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Disney In Depth: Predicting The Success Of ABC’s Fall 2016 Schedule
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Brett Nachman   |  @   |  
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ABC begins this fall season with a new president in charge (Channing Dungey) and a handful of popular shows (long-running Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family), but with a lot of sore spots. Last season saw several renewals, but none of them were breakout hits. Expect ABC to come back swinging with a few surefire contenders for most buzz-worthy, and hopefully, with solid ratings that actually sustain the series.

This edition of Disney In Depth previews the potential success – and failure, unfortunately, in a few cases – of ABC’s Fall 2016 Schedule, both new and returning shows.

SUNDAYS

America’s Funniest Home Videos
Indeed, this show is still on the air, despite the “home videos” terminology being nearly as antiquated as the program itself. However, thanks to YouTube and individuals’ desire for watching silly cat videos and pranking parents, this trend has actually helped the ABC series. A moderate 7pm performer, anticipate a renewal no matter what.

Once Upon a Time
At one point it was a ratings juggernaut, but its ratings have slipped. As Once enters its sixth season, now competing with NCIS: Los Angeles, which has also dramatically dropped in its performance, plan on reveling in each episode. Although Disney loves the show for apparent reasons, through enlivening the fairy-tale series with new characters from its endless catalogue, a “happily ever after” may be coming sooner than later.

Once Upon A Time 521-24

Secrets and Lies
The surprise minor hit from spring 2015 returns after a long absence. Juliette Lewis returns, now accompanied by Michael Ealy. Whether or not folks are still interested in this anthology series will be reflective of its ratings. I suspect the serious, more mature tone following Once will compromise it to some degree, and it certainly does not help that Sunday Night Football on NBC will destroy most everything in its tracks. Whereas Madam Secretary on CBS is good counter programming from football, Secrets and Lies is not. A renewal is only possible if it does not lose viewership from Once.

Quantico
The Priyanka Chopra series begins season two after a fair performance during its freshman season. It’s not an awards contender nor a huge draw for younger viewers, but ABC knew it had to renew a drama from last year, and halfway into the previous season, this seemed like its only choice. Quantico has to step up its game in its very serialized storytelling and ability to attract new viewers for the network to consider the possibility of a third season.

MONDAYS

Dancing with the Stars
A decade later, and viewers – most of them older ones – continue to watch D-list celebrities perform with some truly talented artists. It’s still one of ABC’s biggest series, which shows its efficacy, but would very much benefit from enlisting more recognizable and likable stars. The timing of Ryan Lochte is so unfortunate, but perhaps he can win over Americans once again, albeit with a dancing routine. It can hold its own against The Voice to an extent, but needs some “wow” casting choices for future seasons. May I suggest Bernie Sanders? Now that would be progressive.

Conviction
After Agent Carter got the cut, ABC knew it had to keep Hayley Atwell in the fold. Smart choice. This legal drama follows a lawyer (Atwell) overseeing a unit investigating wrongful conviction cases. The crime drama element, much in the vein of Castle, which previously held this slot, may work to its favor.

TUESDAYS

The Middle
Comedy prevails. Now taking two hours on Tuesday, the night begins with a heck of a show. The ABC Patricia Heaton show is a rarity on TV these days. For seven seasons it has never been a huge performer, but has shown steadiness in almost always averaging around eight million viewers. It has a fanbase and will likely provide a good foundation for the rest of the night, despite its move from Wednesdays.

American Housewife
Following The Middle is a new comedy about the trials of privileged people, centering on an ordinary Connecticut mom aiming to be included among the vein and rotten. It could be a good comedic set-up, but will it actually last and be worth watching? I’m not convinced yet, but it’s worth noting that it also faces major competition from shows like NCIS and The Voice. Losing 40% or more of viewers from The Middle may signal this housewife’s fate.

Fresh Off The Boat
Critics love it, and so do its small but loyal legion of viewers. Fresh is also one of only a few mainstream network shows with all Asian-American characters, which speaks to the network’s commitment to portraying a wide variety of individuals on television. It sunk somewhat in its viewership during its second season, but luckily it need not start the night, much like a good majority of episodes aired to date. ABC sees promise in this series, especially as Middle and Modern Family age, so a fourth season may not be impossible.

The Real O’Neals
It fared fairly during a brief first season and achieved some press for its portrayal of an openly gay teenage character on television. On the other hand, the young, lead actor also got some negative attention for some off-color social media remarks. At the very least the show has to maintain its ratings from last season, which hovered around four million viewer.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The show with the long acronym returns for its fourth season. Ratings have declined sharply, even with some notable improvements in the minds of longtime fans. Its ability to survive past the fourth season, often the finish line for shows that squeaked by with getting that third season, will be contingent on Disney’s investment in having a network Marvel show. Starting anew with another property would not be a simple endeavor.

Chloe Bennet as Daisy "Skye" Johnson in Agents of SHIELD

WEDNESDAYS

The Goldbergs
The ’80s-themed comedy returns with a fourth season. Like The Middle, it has also been steady with ratings, which make the network happy. Faithful enough to have it launch the night. A good task and a major responsibility. Goldbergs should not have any issue with that whatsoever. Season 5 may very well be on the horizon.

Speechless
Minnie Driver returns to television – RIP the TV adaptation of About a Boy – with one of the most talked-about new shows, “about a boy” with cerebral palsy. Kudos for ABC taking on a show featuring a character who has a disability. The trailer is funny and it’s already earning a lot of advanced praise. That should make it an ideal fit for Wednesday nights.

Modern Family
The show that won five consecutive Emmys for Best Comedy Series was upended by Veep, which attained one for its fourth season. Will Modern Family redeem the enviable honor? Last season it experienced another ratings dip. This season should be no different, especially having to compete with Empire once again. Assuming ABC can lock onto its cast for another year, Season 8 will likely not be the last of this hilarious gang.

Black-ish
Ratings and critical acclaim have been kind for this comedy, which often incorporates important social commentary. The third season once again follows Modern Family‘s lead, which is positive, but then again, Family is not the network star it was when it first premiered. Odds are Black-ish should have no trouble getting a fourth season, assuming ratings do not dramatically drop.

Designated Survivor
Perhaps ABC’s best bet for a small is this Kiefer Sutherland drama about a man who assumes the presidency after an explosion sees the end of the highest political players in office. It has the makings of a hit with an A-list lead, intriguing premise and a timeslot with no major opponents.

Here’s a trailer from the ABC Television Network YouTube channel.

THURSDAYS

Grey’s Anatomy
Thirteen seasons in and the Ellen Pompeo medical show still draws healthy viewership each week, remaining in the top 10 of most-watched shows in the coveted 18-49 demographic. The cast has changed and so have the storylines, but viewers’ commitment to the series is ongoing. Season 14 is very viable. ABC has to appreciate its longest-running drama currently airing, right?

Notorious
Shondaland is not responsible for this one, but should easily capture the viewership of Anatomy. Who wouldn’t want to watch a show about the challenges folks in the media and politics face? Piper Perabo is the star here, and ABC positioning the show after Grey’s should work to its advantage. Scandal, the typical show that follows Grey’s, will return in the spring.

How To Get Away With Murder
Viola Davis is a brilliant actress in every way. Thanks to this show, her profile has only risen and improved. But its second season dropped quite a lot in overall ratings. Murder has to hold onto what its ratings resembled last year. Otherwise, it might see the axe.

FRIDAYS

Last Man Standing
ABC knows the value of Tim Allen. His salary reflects it, and so does the fact that the network committed to a sixth season for this Friday night comedy, now a staple. It need not do marvelously in the ratings. Viewers, though small, have not wavered over the years. Once again, ABC, like any other network, would want to hold onto that.

Dr. Ken
Widely panned, yet somehow not losing much of Standing‘s viewership, Ken Jeong can count on another season of his show, which is loosely based on the fact that he was a medical professional. ABC has long struggled in this time slot, so sticking with Ken was probably a smart move. Whether or not people want to visit this doctor for another season is another story.

Shark Tank
Taking a bite out of Friday night is this reality show that has made household names of moguls like Robert Herjavec and Lori Grenier. The products shown on the show often become big successes, and it’s one of those few “feel good shows,” despite the fact that the sharks are sometimes kind of vicious toward one another. Ratings are good and so is the social media that comes with it. Viewers like supporting the products they see on TV. These sharks should survive for another year, no question about that.

20/20
David Muir and Elizabeth Vargas continue to anchor the news magazine that dates back nearly four decades. It will stay on the air so long as ABC wants to have the presence of ABC News during primetime.

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.

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