Last year, ABC switched programming heads from Paul Lee over to Channing Dungey, and based on some of the earliest of returns, we cannot say that too much has changed in terms of turning around the fate of a struggling network.
Earlier today, the network more or less canceled Time After Time, a show that was virtually dead on arrival. This past fall, Conviction failed almost from the jump. Beyond these two shows, it’s fair to say that Notorious is a goner (it didn’t get a pickup for additional episodes), The Real O’Neals seems to be over based on castings elsewhere, American Crime is posting woeful ratings, and Secrets and Lies did not perform like a contributor would. We don’t blame Dungey for much of this, given that several of these shows were ones fully developed by Paul Lee … most of them had his input. Still, the only new series that have some momentum for the future are Speechless, American Housewife, and Designated Survivor.
With some of the ratings woes elsewhere and the Time After Time cancellation, there are some caveats that could make some TV fans out there excited. For example, we’re now suddenly feeling cautiously optimistic about the future of Once Upon a Time, a show that hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire through most of season 6 to date. Meanwhile, Agents of SHIELD may have a small chance of coming back just because the majority of the other network shows are struggling. At least it attracts a male audience (a rarity for ABC) and it has a built-in Marvel following. While The Catch isn’t a huge hit on Thursday nights, and the Shonda Rhimes connection makes it a likely renewal.
Following this bloodbath, as of right now we’re willing to say that Quantico, Once Upon a Time, Designated Survivor, Agents of SHIELD, and The Catch are the bubble shows getting renewed alongside the already-renewed fall #TGIT lineup. That leaves ABC a good many holes that need to be filled, and they’ve got a lot of work to do in order to fill those spots. (For the record, of these shows we’re the most worried about SHIELD just because its ratings, based on pure numbers alone, are not worthy of coming back.)
Here’s the unfortunate news — unless your show is executive-produced by Rhimes, you’re not down that well if you’re an ABC drama. Dungey and her team better hope that they have a few hits in pilot season to start to turn things around.