Either acknowledging that this past year hasn’t been as rosy as it would like you to think or continuing to bury its head in the sand (and, honestly, we don’t know what to think), ABC renewed most of its no-brainers, picked up a whole bunch of new series that felt like throwing things at the wall (again), and mostly canceled stuff by omission yesterday, in a few hours of frenzied activity. It’s like network president Paul Lee takes as his inspiration in scheduling decisions the Tasmanian Devil, except we all know that’s not the case, because that’s a Warner Brothers property.
The shows the network renewed were all fairly obvious calls, though it left The Middle hanging for a while, as if trying to suggest it was going to start blowing up its entire schedule for no earthly reason. (If it was going to do that, it should start with Modern Family.) In addition to The Middle, the network will be bringing back Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Modern Family, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Castle, Revenge, The Goldbergs, and Resurrection. The only renewal here that’s even mildly surprising is Revenge, whose ratings have dramatically plummeted, but with a fourth season, it should make a nice cable rerun package for someone, and ABC would like some money, please.
This being ABC, where almost every night has a disaster zone (or two), there are still a huge number of shows whose fate is up in the air, including Suburgatory, Nashville, The Neighbors, and Super Fun Night. Cast members of the beleaguered sitcom Trophy Wife have been tweeting to say the show is canceled, with a few journalists backing them up, but ABC has yet to confirm anything. So it’s probably canceled, but who knows what wacky things Lee might get up to when he tries to turn it into Marvel’s Trophy Wife? While we were writing this, the Mixology cast also started saying they were canceled. We are less upset about this. Also probably canceled: Everything else? Maybe? Also probably not canceled but not yet renewed: Last Man Standing. Lasties never say die! Also, also probably not canceled because it’s casting for a sixth season but also not yet officially renewed: Shark Tank. (If you just want to see all of this in list form, Buzzfeed has just that.)
Rather than fill its entire schedule with Goldbergs reruns next year (certainly an option), ABC also picked up a bunch of shows, which we will lead, in true A.V. Club upfronts reporting fashion, with the comic book show. ABC has picked up Marvel Captain America spinoff Agent Carter, which will feature Reaper creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters as showrunners and star Hayley Atwell, straight to series. It’s expected to air as a “bridge” between two halves of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. second season and then tie into whatever the second half of Agents’ season is. This is a plan that makes so much sense that Lee will inevitably decide to air Agent Carter as part of the network’s late-night bloc.
Perhaps realizing that it was Thursday and he has to make an upfront presentation to advertisers next week, Lee then started ordering new series at random. First, he turned to his good pal Shonda Rhimes, who obliged him by having a series starring Viola Davis called How To Get Away With Murder. Even if the series is just Davis staring straight at the camera and saying, “MURRRRRDERRRRR,” that could still be pretty good, right? Next, Lee was, like, “Who’s won an Oscar recently?” and 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley just happened to be right there with a script called American Crime, which was apparently good enough to attract Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman. (Together, they form Felimothy Huffon.) The legal drama examines things like the racial and class divide in American society and other stuff, so you will probably always say you’ll get around to watching it when the reviews are kind, then never do so.
Also on the drama side, ABC picked up a couple of genre thingies. First and foremost is The Whispers, based on an old Ray Bradbury short story about aliens invading the planet by taking over kids. It stars Lily Rabe, who already has some experience with aliens, so we’re cautiously optimistic. Then there’s Forever, just the latest instance of somebody pitching to a network, “I’ve got it! An immortal crime solver!” Only in this case, he’s a doctor, who wants to find out why he’s immortal by examining strange medical mysteries that will also point the way to criminals or some such bullshit. Can’t win ‘em all, ABC.
The network also ordered some comedies, but this article is long, and we’re tired. So bullet points. Leading off was Black-ish, which features impressive names both in front of (Anthony Anderson! Laurence Fishburne!) and behind (Kenya Barris! Larry Wilmore!) the camera. The comedy actually seems to have beat out the much more heavily favored Kevin Hart project, so maybe it’s really that good? And we’re taking the fact that Fishburne is now “recurring” instead of “regular” in ABC’s press release as a potential acknowledgement of Hannibal’s renewal, even though that’s the kind of tea leaf reading only a crazy person would do. Also, there’s Selfie, which has kind of a ridiculous premise (My Fair Lady updated for social media), but also features a bunch of people we love both in front of (Karen Gillan! John Cho!) and behind (Emily Kapnek!) the camera. And then there’s Galavant, a musical comedy about a knight from Dan Fogelman (The Neighbors) and Alan Menken, which, at the very least, should be really fucking weird. As the fourth-place network, ABC could stand to be really fucking weird more often.
Also, there’s Manhattan Love Story, a comedy about being able to hear what men and women really think about each other, which, ugh. ABC also has Astronaut Wives and The Club, both of which were picked up to series a while ago, though there’s some concern over at Deadline about whether The Club will actually go forward. That Deadline link also says most of ABC’s other pilots are likely dead, though it has yet to decide on 20th Century Fox’s Cristela and Fresh Off The Boat, which would square with how another Fox project, Last Man Standing, hasn’t been renewed yet. Also alive is drama pilot Secrets & Lies, because ABC would have to pay money if it didn’t go to series, basically, and it’s dragging its feet about that. (For more on all of these shows, including pretty pictures, Buzzfeed has that as well.)
It’s worth noting in all of the above that ABC is taking some big swings and making the strongest possible commitment to diversity of any network so far. Whether that will pay off for the network that sometimes seems as if it schedules programs to win bets at which timeslot it can tank the fastest remains to be seen, but it’s still nice to see a network that isn’t just ordering 500 versions of cable shows made “more palatable” for the broadcast audience. Next year, ABC is going to have malicious alien children and singing knights on its schedule. That’s not nothing.
Do you need to see all of our upfronts coverage in one place? Well, you can right here. And stay tuned throughout the day. It’s incredibly likely absolutely everything you care about is going to get canceled and/or renewed today, and won’t that be fun?
UPDATE: Deadline is reporting that The Middle has been renewed for a sixth season, while Last Man Standing is “expected” to come back. Meanwhile, many reliable sources are saying that Trophy Wife and Mixology are definitely canceled. Also widely reported as canceled: The Neighbors. ABC has still yet to offer any official comment.