ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee might have the last laugh after all. There was a time when ABC’s comedy division was in deep trouble. That time was last year. The network had failed to launch a comedy hit since Modern Family, and it was whiffing badly. Anyone remember Work It? Probably better if you don’t.
But Lee and company changed tack last year during development season. They had a strong focus on one particular type of show: family comedies featuring diverse ethic groups. Not only would these comedies more accurately represent Nielsen families, they would also provide a companion comedy for Modern Family, whose high ratings were being wasted on tonally incompatible lead-outs like Super Fun Night.
So what did they end up with as a result? Two solid hits (Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat), plus one decent Friday comedy (Cristela). Paul Lee can certainly breathe a little easier now. But he’ll still face some difficult questions going into pilot season.
First off, how many slots will there be for comedy? Selfie and Manhattan Love Story are definitely gone, and Galavant likely won’t be coming back. Only Cristela is really on the bubble (I personally think it survives because it’s critically well regarded and cheap to produce). So does that mean only 4-5 new comedies going to series? Or possibly less if drama nabs a spot on Tuesday to launch a show?
Secondly, what kind of shows will get picked up to series? Only diverse family comedies succeeded last year for ABC. Outside of the box comedies like Galavant and Manhattan Love Story — which Paul Lee clearly has an affinity for — really failed to register in the ratings. Should he double down with diversity? Should he mix in some workplace comedies? Or should he just pick shows based on cast and writing?
So with those things in mind, let’s take a quick tour of the pilot scripts ABC has picked up so far…
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Andrew Woodberry | Contributor