May 14, 2019

NIELSENWAR: The Fall 2019 ABC Schedule & Analysis

We’ve reached the broadcast networks’ Upfront Week… which used to be a lot more central to our television lives than it is now.  Ratings everywhere are down, and there’s no reason to think they’ve hit bottom, which has caused seismic changes in the ways networks make scheduling decisions.  Among other things, with revenues from on-air linear advertising shrinking, distribution rights are key, and the desire for flexibility often means shorter orders than the traditional 13 + 9.  We’ll take a look at each network’s new slate as it’s announced.

ABC, which now includes both 20th Century Fox Television and Disney among its in-house studios, has announced a conservative line-up for fall:

LAST SEASON:  Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris left Disney, two big blows to the network.  Spinoffs The Conners and Schooled showed some life, but otherwise the “good news” was that A Million Little Things stopped being a disaster when it had Grey’s Anatomy as its lead-in, and that Bless This Mess was marginally more promising than Splitting Up Together.  With no new breakout hits, and a continued decline overall, one might have expected some some drastic changes next season.  .

FALL:  The network brass thought otherwise.  The Fall 2019 schedule looks very much like Fall 2018, as Disney seems prepared to concentrate its real programming efforts in the streaming world of Disney+ and the newly-Disney-controlled Hulu.

Monday:  Dancing With the Stars and The Good Doctor return, which makes sense, although the network’s hope that Good Doctor would sustain as a bigtime hit were unrealized.

Tuesday:  ABC’s most interesting moves are here.  The Conners returns but with Bless This Mess slotted at 8:30PM, a sign of the network’s confidence in the sitcom.  Unusually, the spin-off  MIXED-ISH will air before its forebear Black-ish.  The theory seems to be that MIXED-ISH will be aimed at a younger audience and benefit from the earlier airtime, but it also may betray doubts about how much more gas Black-ish has in its tank.  At 10PM, the new mystery box series EMERGENCE airs, after having been developed and piloted for NBC.  Its creators are the veterans Tara Butters & Michele Fazekas, but without much star power (the fine actress Allison Tolman has the lead) and a premise (a sheriff takes in an amnesiac child) that doesn’t lend itself to quick marketing, this may be a tough sell.

Wednesday:  The Goldbergs, Schooled, Modern Family (in its final season) and Single Parents stay where they are.  The new 10PM drama is detective thriller STUMPTOWN, with Cobie Smulders and created by Jason Richman, who last gave ABC the short-lived cop show Detroit 1-8-7.   The new show will likely be facing procedurals on both NBC and CBS, which may make it tough to get much of a sampling from viewers.

Thursday:  The late winter line-up returns with the unstoppable Grey’s Anatomy (beginning a 2-year pick-up that will take it through Season 17), A Million Little Things and the declining How To Get Away With Murder.

Friday:  American Housewife relocates, and will hope to prop up the network’s sitcoms now that FOX will be airing wrestling on Fridays.  It’s followed by Fresh Off The Boat, much to Constance Wu’s apparent despair, and 2 hours of 20/20..

Sunday:  3 unscripted hours with America’s Funniest Home Videos, the new KIDS SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS and Shark Tank.  They’re followed by The Rookie, which didn’t make much of an impression on Tuesdays and will have to face Sunday Night Football here.

MIDSEASON:  Unlike NBC and FOX, there aren’t a ton of shows being held for later.  The network has comedy UNITED WE FALL, dramas THE BAKER & THE BEAUTY and FOR LIFE, and the returning Station 19.

FORECAST:  There are no big swings here, and unless one of the new shows is lucky enough to catch on, ABC seems prepared to grind itself through another medium season.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."