What’s going on with ABC?

Why can’t ABC get its stuff together.

NBC and The CW currently get a lot of flak in the industry for being the fourth and fifth English speaking networks in the country. Something that isn’t paid attention to is that ABC and NBC are currently tied according to tvbythenumbers.com.

ABC has always kind of been a joke network to me. Does anyone else remember when they aired four hours a week of prime time “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

In 2004 everything changed for ABC. In one season they launched juggernauts “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.” Later that season “Grey’s Anatomy” was brought on and became the surprise hit of the decade. Since then they’ve been in a creative lull.

I was thinking of this column when I was watching the premiere of “Body of Evidence.” The Dana Delany vehicle was subpar at best, but has been heralded as ABC’s final chance.

They haven’t launched a successful hour long show in two seasons. Last year’s lone survivor “V” should have been cancelled, but remained for a second season and looks destined for the graveyard once again. Some say it was only renewed for the sake of having one success story.

With “Lost,” there are a lot of holes. Except for “Dancing with the Stars” nothing is shining as bright as it used to. The average age for their successful dramas is over five seasons. This is extremely high. The most recent “success” they’ve had is “Castle” which I can attribute to its time slot after “Dancing with the Stars.”

The biggest advice I can give them is stop trying to create a procedural drama. “The Whole Truth,” “Detroit 187,” “The Unusuals,” The Forgotten,” “Body of Proof,” and more have all failed to capture critical or audience approval.

Sure CBS has made billions from their procedural drama franchises, but the target audience for these types of shows is already watching CBS. ABC is never going to have a “Law & Order,” “NCIS” or even “Bones” because the audience is already taken up. They’re about ten years too late to get this, mostly elderly, demographic.

Target the gays. “Brother’s and Sisters,” and “Desperate Housewives” both have a large gay following, as well as the female demographic nailed down.

By featuring prominently gay characters on these shows they’ve captured the demographic that no one else is targeting. Why not try a gay sitcom after “Cougar Town,” something to attempt to capture this audience that is typically not targeted.

ABC needs to go with more high-concept shows. “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” revolutionized broadcast television. Shows have to be more revolutionary to capture viewers. “Glee” is probably the biggest, buzz wise, show on television right now.

This is disheartening. NBC probably has the most revolutionary network schedule.

With their revolutionary comedy block that struggles to get viewers every week, as ABC falls down this is NBC’s position.

With the very intriguing David E. Kelly “Wonder Woman” pilot and “Playboy Club” creating a lot of buzz and ABC’s pilot season looking extremely weak NBC should be able to slide into third place next year.

Still their ratings will always be eclipsed by the older targeting CBS whose “CSI,” “NCIS,” and now “Criminal Minds” franchises continue to capture an insane number of viewers every week.

ABC, think creatively, come up with concepts that will have everyone talking about them the next week.

“Alias,” “DHW,” and “Lost” all had people invested week to week wanting to watch what happens. Has anyone talked about “Detroit 187” or “My Generation.” Or will ABC just accept “V” as the best they can do. Maybe it is. Maybe in the natural progression of the networks. ABC falls as NBC rises.

Someday maybe we’ll think about how The CW took over the network race. Pigs can fly sometimes.


Stuart Ross can be contacted at sross@keeneequinox.com

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