NEW YORK--Move over, “Dancing With the Stars”--there are some new high-flying heroes in town.
On Tuesday, ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee announced a fall prime-time schedule that would see the much anticipated Joss Whedon series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” take the Tuesday 8 p.m. slot previously given to “DWTS, with the long-running twinkle-toed series condensing its competition and results programs to a two-hour episode on Monday nights.
In a conference call with reporters, Lee explained the ”DWTS” decision as motivated by a desire to create an “occasion” on the one hand and a belief in the new Marvel series on the other.
VIDEO: New fall TV shows
“It tested so well in all four quadrants [young, old, men and women]," Lee said of "Agents." "Of course it’s Joss Whedon; he knows how to create not just great television but great relationships,” adding that, despite the superhero aspects, “we think it’s a four-quadrant show...[that's] going to bring a wider audience to us.”
In a schedule he said was characterized by both “stability” and “ambition,” Lee laid out a Tuesday prime-time lineup that would see a block of four new shows. Following the hour-long “S.H.I.E.L.D” will be retro '80s comedy “The Goldbergs” from actor-filmmaker Adam Goldberg, the Malin Akerman-toplined “Trophy Wife” about, well just that, and the DreamWorks Television lottery drama “Lucky 7.”
Of the last one, Lee said it was “a show about the 99%. It’s aspirational but we’ve gone out of our way to make it feel authentic.”
On Wednesday, the network hopes to boost the Rebel Wilson ladies-on-the-town series “Super Fun Night” by handing it the coveted slot behind “Modern Family,” with the James Caan intergenerational family comedy “Back in the Game” occupying the hammock slot between “The Middle” and “Modern Family.”
The network will also give pride of place to its “Once Upon a Time” spinoff “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” with an 8 p.m. Thursday slot; it will be the only change in prime-time that day, as long-running “Grey’s Anatomy” and newer hit “Scandal” follow. Also staying put is “Nashville” in the 10 p.m. slot; in its first year, the Connie Britton country-music series attracted critical plaudits but drew mixed ratings numbers.
Among the shows that ABC is to air with no definite premiere date are new comedy “Mixology,” about a group of New York singles, Kyle Killen’s psychological-themed “Mind Games” starring Steve Zahn, and returning precocious-teen comedy “Suburgatory” starring Jane Levy.
Lee also described a seasonal structure in which limited-run series would be sandwiched between two batches of 12 episodes in fall and spring. The logic, he said, was to avoid the patchwork of repeats and originals that confuse viewers. Among the limited-run shows the network will air is non-scripted series “The Quest,” a kind of globetrotting reality show that takes place in a “Lord of the Rings” environment.
ABC is coming off a solid year of returning hits in several genres with “Once Upon a Time,” “Modern Family,” “The Middle” and “Scandal.” But it has also seen its share of disappointments, with freshman series “Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue” canceled after low numbers. Overall, "DWTS" viewership remains solid, though the show tends to skew older. It will continue to be followed by "Castle" at 10 p.m. on Monday nights.
Polarizing alien comedy “The Neighbors” stays on the ABC schedule but moves to Friday night, where it will play at 8:30 behind returning family comedy “Last Man Standing.” Lee described “Neighbors” as “gloriously inventive.”
Off the network, to the chagrin of hard-core fans, is the Damon Wayans Jr. single-camera comedy “Happy Endings,” which was shuffled around this season before being canceled last week. “It was on-brand; it was just too narrow,” Lee said, adding, “I love that show and found it hard to make that decision.”