ABC’s strategy for developing new shows seems to be about finding a yin-and-yang balance between ambitious high-concept dramas (Once Upon A Time, Pan Am, The River, Jekyll), and rote comedies that already feel as though they’ve been on the air for decades (Man Up, Work It, its upcoming projects with Kirstie Alley and Jim Belushi). Sometimes, it seems as though they’ve even begun working to combine the two—as in the just-purchased The Lockharts, a 1970s-set series about the backstage dramas of a Partridge Family/Osmonds-type clan with its own variety show, but oddly framed by a mystery set in the present day that involves the “scandalous disappearance of the family’s matriarch.” Surely this is but one of the many offspring to come from ABC’s shadowy genre crossbreeding program.
But far more familiar is something like Haunted, a supernatural procedural from Priest and Apollo 18 writer Cory Goodman and National Treasure director John Turtletaub, which concerns “Jessica Garrity, a paranormal investigator who each week helps the living move on from a spirit that can’t let go.” Like the proposed Rachel Bilson-starring Ghost Angeles was expected to do last year, Haunted should help to fill the vacuum of departed shows such as Tru Calling, The Ghost Whisperer, and Medium, thus meeting TV’s mandatory quota of shows in which ghosts talk to pretty ladies, who are, as always, the only people who can help them finish their ghost business. And as a bonus, it bears the title Haunted, which is so generic and utilitarian that it already sounds like it’s been around forever, even absorbing the legacy of those previous shows and making their memories its own, until it seems as though Haunted has always been here. (Remember that one episode of Haunted where the lady helped the ghost? That was a good one.)
Similarly, Reba McEntire is expected to return to the multi-camera sitcom format in which your aunt says she excelled with Malibu Country, which stars McEntire as a woman who divorces her cheatin’, “good ol’ boy rock star husband,” relocates from Nashville to Malibu, and attempts to rekindle her singing career, all while keeping her kids from being corrupted by California rich-folk things. Outside of the culture clash angle, it’s very nearly the exact same premise as her WB sitcom, Reba, and indeed it features the exact same creative team from that show, with one strange addition: Eurhythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, who will act as executive producer. “Imagine Reba but in California, and also that guy from the Eurhythmics is at the table-reads,” the pitch no doubt went. “Could she perhaps also track a serial killer?” ABC said, before resigning themselves to save that idea for next pilot season.