The Runway – ABC Upfronts: What Got Picked Up, What Didn’t, And Why


attends the 2017 ABC Upfront event on May 16, 2017 in New York City.Getty Images

ABC probably had the most interesting pilot season among the networks. Unlike the competition, they filmed a pretty healthy number of pilots and picked up a pretty large percentage to series, granted many will be mid-season premieres. Channing Dungey wasn’t afraid to go against conventional wisdom — passing on buzzy pilots Libby & Malcolm and Unt. Marc Cherry, as well as axing multi-cams Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken.

You can, of course, take more chances when your parent company is the wildly successful Disney. New network presidents need to leave their mark, and Dungey has certainly done that in her first full year in the position. Guaranteed eyeballs for returning series American Idol and Roseanne put ABC in position for a strong year.

ABC looks like it’s leaning on proven television stars in front of the camera to drive interest in their new comedy series. Roseanne, which effectively ended Raised By Wolves‘ chances of getting picked up to series, gives ABC the opportunity to reach the middle America viewers that Dungey suggested might be overlooked by networks.

Alex, Inc. gets Zach Braff on the small screen again, though they’ll have to improve upon the pilot’s very basic storyline. Splitting Up Together, with a pretty bland premise, sees the welcome pairing of two veterans of long running tv series, Jenna Fischer and Oliver Hudson. Both Alex, Inc. and Splitting Up Together feel like safe mid-season shows that can possibly transcend their pilots.

Only The Mayor really endeavors to break in some new talent, and it should pair nicely with Black-ish as a lead-in. There were definitely some flaws in The Mayor‘s pilot script, but the set-up is solid for comedy.

There’s not really a coherent theme to ABC’s drama pick-ups, which make them all the more interesting. Marvel’s The Inhumans, for example, would normally get a prime launching slot, but is instead relegated to 9pm on Friday. Meanwhile, The Good Doctor, with a strong though relatively unknown cast, gets a nice Dancing With the Stars lead-in to generate some sampling.

Ten Days in the Valley, a missing person drama, gets eschewed to a very competitive Sunday 10pm time slot, with a seemingly non-compatible demo lead-in of Shark Tank. The Gospel of Kevin, the closest tonal match for This is Us among new pilots, gets a nice 10pm launch after the Tuesday comedy block.

ABC will have a deep bench of freshmen series to call up for midseason – The Crossing, Deception, and For the People. The Crossing is an ambitious sci-fi premise with shades of modern social commentary and is probably best experienced in a limited run anyway. Deception is the type of fun, undemanding premise that might fill in well in The Gospel of Kevin timeslot, should it underperform, and For the People is a vintage Shondaland show that has a low floor for Nielsen ratings, regardless of time slot, so offers great schedule flexibility.


ABC picked up a lot of solid pilot this year, so it’s not too surprising that led to a lot of new series on the docket. There’s a nice mix of series for Dungey to try out later this year. Are there any This is Us-level breakout hits among this crop of new series? Doubtful. But there are some very strong shows in this group that should lead to a number of renewals.

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