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Wednesday, August 3, 2010

 

LIVE FROM THE SUMMER TELEVISION CRITICS ASSOCIATION PRESS TOUR IN LOS ANGELES, CA

 
ABC
 
ABC Executive Session:
Paul Lee
 
On the ABC Panel Front:

Detroit 1-8-7, Mr. Sunshine, Body of Proof, My Generation, No Ordinary Family, The Whole Truth, Better With You, Secret Millionaire and Happy Endings

 

Press Tour Tidbits:

Notes of Interest

 

On the Air Tonight:
Prime-Time Programming Options

 
______________________________________________________________________
 ABC
 
Paul Lee
 

Yes, we were all waiting and wondering: would ABC address the sudden departure of Steve McPherson. And, no, they did not. Said ABC communications head Kevin Brockman, who opened ABC Day at TCA:

 

“I want to start out by addressing the elephant in the room. On Tuesday we issued a statement announcing Steve McPherson’s resignation from ABC Entertainment Group. I realize you all may have questions, obviously. That is what you do for a living. But to save us some time and hopefully make this as productive as possible, I just want to say that Tuesday’s statement still holds. It is literally all we are going to say on the subject. So you may ask, but you will get the same answer. We will give it again if we need to. But in the spirit of trying to make things as productive today, just realize that that’s where we are. We really have nothing more to add.”

 

Less than 36 hours into his new role as ABC Entertainment President, former ABC Family head Paul Lee came across as calm, cool and very knowledgeable in front of the hungry members of the press.

 

“What I’ve tried to do in my last two jobs, when I was a show-runner in broadcast in the U.K., is to create brand-defining, network-defining, ground-breaking shows,” said Lee. “Quality storytelling is what it’s all about. I feel very honored to have inherited a network that was defined by the Greys and the Desperates and the Dancings and the Modern Familys and the Losts.   So I think there’s a whole load of brand equity there. I’m certainly going to spend some time over the next month or two getting into the brand and exactly how it lives and breathes. But if I do get the chance here, as we did in the last couple of jobs, to take some risks, make some great shows, have some surprises and still do it to a defined target audience, hopefully it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

 

Spearheading the programming on ABC Family is, of course, not the in the same league as scheduling 22-hours on a broadcast network like ABC. On the differences between the two:

 

“I think there’s no question that this is a more difficult job than running ABC Family because you have more time on cable,” noted Lee. “And that was one of the things that we used to love.  Let’s stick
by a show and go with it. At the same time, I do think whatever the pressures are -- if you think a show is going to make it over time to try and hold it.  But at the same time, we are all slaves to ratings, and sometimes there is a very small, passionate group who love a show that will never find a wider audience on a network.  

 

A lot of this sort of job is figuring out not just what you think is a good idea, but it’s almost like
horse whispering. The network talks to you. It has its own audience. Your audience comes back to you
and talks. In the end, it’s about will the show over time not only grow creatively, match the network, and hopefully, have you got the patience to do that? And they’re very difficult decisions. Even on the smaller cable networks that I’ve lived on, there were shows I was passionate about that we knew would never reach enough of a rating point, and they’re tough. They’re the worst parts of this job, because you’re calling out people you love that you worked with to say, “You know what? I think it would work on Syfy.” They’re tough moments, even on cable.”

 

Inheriting the current ABC line-up is a challenge, no doubt. Dancing With the Stars, fortunately, is in solid shape, as is returning Castle and Modern Family. But anchors Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives continue to erode, there are potential weak spots of six nights of the week (excluding Monday), and seven new series is risky. Paul Lee will, of course, need at least one full year to put his own stamp on the ABC programming brand. Regarding his philosophy on programming:

 

“What I do know is that Kyle XY, which came out of this studio, was critical in kick-starting the ABC Family brand. I believe that Army Wives was critical in rediscovering the Lifetime brand. Criminal Minds is a show that I love. At the same time, you know, we have to focus on making sure that every year we create brand-defining hits for the mother network, which is ABC, so that’s a balance of what we’re talking about.”

 

“The reality is we have some really defining brands over the years,” he added. “We have a strong slate coming up. We have a new strong comedy. This job is certainly about creating new, strong, smart, brand-defining hits, and so we do have our work cut out to do a lot. But everybody who sits into these jobs has to do that, and you have to do that every year because every network needs to be replenished to stay fresh and to evolve its identity.”

 
______________________________________________________________________
 

On the ABC Panel Front:

Detroit 1-8-7, Mr. Sunshine, Body of Proof, My Generation, No Ordinary Family, The Whole Truth, Better With You, Secret Millionaire and Happy Endings

 
Detroit 1-8-7
Tuesday 10 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

The homicide division within a Detroit police station is the setting for this new crime drama. Former Sopranos star Michael Imperioli leads the ensemble cast. 

 
-Lead-in: Dancing With the Stars Results Show
-Competition: The Good Wife (CBS), Parenthood (NBC)
 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Michael Imperioli, Jon Michael Hill, James McDaniel, Natalie Martinez, and executive producers David Zabel and Jason Richman.

 
-The Scoop:

Jason Richman on eliminating the documentary style filmmaking in the pilot:

 

“The main reason for us, as producers, was that there was an incident that happened in Detroit about a week before we were there in our initial journey there to set up the show.  A documentary film crew from
another network was following some police around, and a little girl got shot.  And that was pretty real and pretty scary stuff.  And the city was very concerned about that, and they specifically said that no documentary film crews could follow these police around.  So it oddly became the one city in America
where a documentary film crew could not follow police around.”

 
Added David Zabel:
 

“Creatively, at the end of the day, we are all convinced — and this is after going through the pilot and looking at the pilot — we have this tremendous cast. Hopefully, we’re going to have great writing and great directing. We have it so far, and we hope we’re going to keep having it. And in some ways, while the documentary conceit was very interesting and compelling as a pilot, in the ongoing series in the long run we were actually going to feel a little hampered by that. It certainly was going to limit the ability that we had to sort of send characters into different directions and explore different character arcs and emotional lives and what the actors were going to be able to do. So it freed us up as storytellers, writers, directors, and actors to explore a lot more than, I think, in the long run we would have been able to do had we stuck with the conceit of the overt documentary.”

 
-The Reality:

The positive news, of course, is the lead-in support from the live Dancing With the Stars Results Show. It does not get much better than that. And there is every reason to believe Detroit 1-8-7 will outdeliver sophomore CBS returnee The Good Wife in adults 18-49. But older skewing The Good Wife is a lock for dominance in total viewers and NBC’s Parenthood was establishing a demographic foothold in the time period in midseason. Although adequately situated Detroit 1-8-7 has a better chance than most of the new ABC series, facing two returning series will be no easy feat.

 

-Chance of Survival for Detroit 1-8-7 (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

4-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Bad guy gone good: In between The Sopranos and Detroit 1-8-7, Michael Imperioli played Det. Ray Carling on 2008-09 ABC crime drama Life on Mars.

 
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Mr. Sunshine
Midseason
 
-The Premise:

Former Friends star Matthew Perry plays the manager of a local sports stadium in San Diego who realizes on his 40th birthday that he cannot just get by on his charming, funny and noncommittal ways anymore.

 
-Lead-in: Not determined yet
-Competition: Not determined yet
 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Mathew Perry, Allison Janney, Andrea Anders, James Lesure and Nate Torrance; executive producers Alex Barnow, Matthew Carlson and Marc Firek

 
-The Scoop:

Matthew Perry on working against his character of Chandler Bing on Friends:

 

“You know, it’s an interesting dilemma because it’s basically you want to do a lot of some of the old stuff because that was me, too, and you want to just, you know, expand on it somehow. I don’t think people want to see a character that’s night-and-day different than Chandler, but we want to try to do some different things. So you want to take advantage of that something that worked before, but you also want to show something new.”

 
-The Reality:

We have to wait, of course, for a time period before I discuss the “reality” of Mr. Sunshine. But assuming season two of returning Cougar Town continues to lose a large chunk of its lead-in support from Modern Family, my personal prediction is for Mr. Sunshine to inherit the Wednesday 9:30 p.m. half-hour in midseason.

 

-Chance of Survival for Mr. Sunshine (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

Cannot be determined without a specific time period.

 
-Did You Know?:

Matthew Perry’s first regularly scheduled primetime series role was in a 1987-88 Fox comedy called Second Chance, which morphed into Boys Will Be Boys. 

 
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Body of Proof
Friday 9 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

After a brilliant neurosurgeon’s (Dana Delany) career is cut short, she uses her medical skills toward solving murders. 

 
-Lead-in: Secret Millionaire

-Competition: CSI: NY (CBS), Dateline (NBC), The Good Guys (Fox), Supernatural (CW)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Dana Delany, Nicholas Bishop, Jeri Ryan; executive producers Matthew Gross and Sunil Naya; and creator/executive producer Chris Murphy. 

 
-The Scoop:
Wondering it this will be the next Quincy? Said Gross:
 

“No. This is not your father’s Quincy. This is, I would say, a new take on the medical examiner, but it always started out with the character first. We set out to do a character-driven procedural, which is what I think separates it from all the other procedurals out there on the air. We started with Megan Hunt, Dana’s character, and then it grew from there. We actually deliberately — in terms of the sets, in terms of the look, it won’t feel anything like Quincy.”

  
-The Reality:

While you have to give ABC credit for introducing a new scripted crime drama on Friday, there are several obstacles standing in the way of Body of Proof including: a) questionable lead-in support from Fox’s former Secret Millionaire; b) CBS’ relocated CSI: NY; and c) the failure of similar ABC entry Women’s Murder Club in the 2007-08 season. After a long week, the only viewers likely embrace Body of Proof are the 50+ crowd, which the networks frown on. Fortunately for Dana Delany, she seems to have left the door to Desperate Housewives open.   

 

-Chance of Survival for Body of Proof (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

9-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Dana Delany turned down the role of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, which of course catapulted Sarah Jessica Parker to stardom. She was also the original choice to play Bree on Desperate Housewives. 

 
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My Generation
Thursday 8 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

Shot documentary style and based on a series from Scandinavia, a group of former high school students in Austin, Texas reunite after 10 years. 

 

-Competition: The Big Bang Theory (CBS) and $#*! My Dad Says (CBS), Community (NBC) and 30 Rock (NBC), Bones (Fox), The Vampire Diaries (CW)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Michael Stahl-David, Jaime King, Keir O’Donnell, Kelli Garner, Mehcad Brooks, Daniella Alonso, Julian Morris, Sebastian Sozzi; executive producer/creator Noah Hawley; and executive producer Warren Littlefield

 
-The Scoop:

Warren Littlefield, the former head of programming at NBC, on airing in a competitive time period:

 

“We respect that it’s a tough period, and I think the only thing we can do is do the best possible show we can. What we felt — how does a network feel about you? If you’re in the movie theater, you see the trailer. If you’re watching ABC, they’re now running a 60-second spot. We feel, each and every day, their love, and I think, ultimately, we just need to find an audience that will embrace us. Hopefully, it’s compatible with Grey’s Anatomy and the night for them, and that’s all we can do — the best possible show we can do and perhaps with your help get the word out so that there’s a connection. That’s harder and harder. It’s a very competitive world, and it’s really not just about network choices. The average household has well over a hundred channel choices. So it’s somehow making that connection with critical mass. We don’t have to ask for a guarantee. We know that there are no guarantees. But we’re pretty excited and feel privileged to be able to make the show.”

 
-The Reality:

One of the more creative new entries of the season, My Generation’s main problem is the show itself. Similar to Friday Night Lights, it may be too unusual looking to attract a mass appeal audience.   And the competitive Thursday 8 p.m. hour will not be beneficial.  While you can’t blame a network for trying something creative, you can’t force the audience to tune-in if it does not feel familiar. And the documentary style filmmaking is likely to kill it.

 

-Chance of Survival for My Generation (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

10-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Classic short-lived high school drama My So-Called Life aired on ABC in the Thursday 8 p.m. hour for part of the 1994-95 season.

 
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No Ordinary Family
Tuesday 8 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

A so-called typical American family (Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett) discover they have extraordinary abilities after their plane crashes in the Amazon jungle.  

 

-Competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), One Tree Hill (CW)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Michael Chiklis, Stephen Collins, Julie Benz, Romany Malco, Autumn Reeser, Kay Panabaker, Jimmy Bennett; and executive producers Greg Berlanti, Jon Feldman and David Semel.

 
-The Scoop:

Why No Ordinary Family is original, according to Greg Berlanti:

 

“This show is a fun throwback to some of the action-adventure series that I used to love and watch as
a kid, blended with, hopefully, a great family show. And I think as audiences get more sophisticated, you look for ways to sort of blend genres. So with this, we tried to sort of blend all the fun of a show, a big action show, with a real fun, intimate family show and see what happens. The distinction, I think, is not something that everybody can find everywhere else on the dial.

 

“In addition to that, there’s a real broad appeal. There’s something for everyone, you know, different ages. These days it seems like shows are structured towards this niche or that niche, the show’s for men or the show’s for women above 30. With this, we wanted to make something that the whole family could watch together.”

 

Adds Michael Chiklis:

 

“I’d make a music analogy. Everything comes from somewhere, from some influence. If you look at any great musician, they have influences throughout their lives growing up. They watch all these — they listen to all these different musicians, and they take and they borrow from all of them, and that sort of amalgam of different influences manifests itself in them being an individual artist. That’s the way I kind of feel about this show. It borrows from a lot of different things that we’ve loved, and because it’s an amalgam of all those things, it ends up being something completely unique and different.”

  
-The Reality:

If you think the competition is steep, keep in mind that American Idol returns to the hour in midseason. Counter-programming with this new drama is an option to lead off Tuesday, but a better idea would have been to move the live Dancing With the Stars Results Show up one hour to 8 p.m. to support No Ordinary Family at 9 p.m. Airing in one of the more difficult hours in primetime without the benefit of a strong lead-in is a steep uphill battle for No Ordinary Family. Even with the super powers, it is unlikely to succeed.

 

-Chance of Survival for No Ordinary Family (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

8-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Michael Chiklis is remembered, of course, for his multi-season stints on crime solvers The Commish on ABC and The Shield on FX. But in between the two, he tried to show his comical side in short lived 2000 NBC sitcom Daddio. No one was laughing…or watching.

 
----------
 
The Whole Truth
Wednesday 10 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

There are two sides to every case as this Jerry Bruckheimer legal drama provides equal time to the prosecution and the defense attorney’s work on the same cases. Maura Tierney (ER) and former Numb3rs star Rob Morrow head the cast. 

 

-Lead-In: Cougar Town

-Competition: The Defenders (CBS), Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC)
 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Rob Morrow, Maura Tierney; and executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Tom Donaghy and Ed Zuckerman.

 
-The Scoop:

The very busy Jerry Bruckheimer on the lessons he learns from the shows he produces that do not succeed:

 

“Sometimes it’s not the show. Sometimes, it’s where it’s positioned. You know, you learn that. You learn you need really strong lead-ins. Sometimes you learn you need casts that the audience is aware of and understands who they are or have seen them in other things. So every time you go out, you find something new that you’re not going to, hopefully, repeat.

 
And Mr. Bruckheimer on The Whole Truth:
 

“This is a great process show. It takes you behind the scenes to what actually goes on prior to the courtroom and in the courtroom. You know, I’ve never seen a show like this, the competition between the defense and the prosecutors and how they build their cases. And the fact that we got such wonderful advisors who were working with us who have been through this many times, and even one of our writers was part of the system. So that makes it exciting for me. You know, CSI was all process. And again, a lot of people are fascinated — after O.J. was on television for so many — almost a year, that whole trial, people became so fascinated with law and how it all worked, how the prosecutors, you know, put together their cases and how the defense tried to make up stories, or whatever they did, to get their client off. So this shows you how they do it and why they do it.

  
-The Reality:

To positive news from the get-go is the competition, CBS’ The Defenders and NBC’s Law & Order: Los Angeles, which are also unproven. That alone gives The Whole Truth a shot to succeed. But lead-in Cougar Town is no Modern Family, Law & Order: Los Angeles could benefit from the built-in recognition, and there seems nothing new or unusual about The Whole Truth.

 

-Chance of Survival for The Whole Truth (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

5-1
 
-Did You Know?:

Three of Jerry Bruckheimer’s series -- Cold Case, The Forgotten and Miami Medical -- were canceled this year. But his other new drama in addition to The Whole Truth is Chase on NBC.

 
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Better With You
Wednesday 8:30 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

Formerly called Better Together, three different couples have very different outlooks on love.  

 
-Lead-In: The Middle

-Competition: Survivor (CBS), Undercovers (NBC), Lie To Me (Fox), America’s Next Top Model (CW)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Jennifer Finnigan, JoAnna Garcia, Jake Lacy, Josh Cooke, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurt Fuller; creator/executive producer Shana Goldberg-Meehan; and executive producer Greg Malins.

 
-The Scoop:

The producers on how Better With You will fit into ABC’s Wednesday comedy block:

 

Shana Goldberg-Meehan: “This is a family show, and it’s going to tell, hopefully, real, relatable stories
the way The Middle and Modern Family does also. And I think the hope is that, funny is funny, and that the audience will relate and identify with these characters.”

 

Greg Malins: “We are a multi-cam, laugh track in front of an audience. The pilot is great. And I’ve
heard that the other shows are talking about switching to our format because it’s done so well. They might. They might not. I think one or two of them will probably by the end of this season.”

 
-----
 

Debra Jo Rupp on this character versus her long-running role on That ‘70s Show:

 

“I think she’s prettier. She’s 10 pounds lighter. She gets to wear — she gets to be in the 2010s, and I guess in the four years since that show has been down, I went back to the East Coast and did a lot of acting that I had not had time to do, and so who I am has changed from that period of time, and I’ve brought it to Vicky Putney. So I think maybe she’s a little more bitter. She’s got more of an edge. It’s New York City, you know, as opposed to Wisconsin. And I’m just so excited to play this side of myself that I think a lot of people have not seen.”

 
-The Reality:

From a scheduling standpoint, Better With You is well protected airing out of The Middle and into Modern Family. Although facing CBS’ relocated Survivor is certainly a challenge, it is now the only comedy in the time period and there is every reason to believe retention out of The Middle in the higher HUT level 8:30 p.m. half-hour will be solid. While nothing new is a sure thing, Better With You has a good chance to succeed.

 

-Chance of Survival for Better With You (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

2-1
 
-Did You Know?:

In between sitcom Reba and Better With You, JoAnna Garcia headlined short-lived CW drama Privileged in the 2008-09 season.

 
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Secret Millionaire
Friday 8 p.m.
 
-The Premise:

Millionaires go incognito into poor communities, live the lifestyle and award needy (and unsuspecting) individuals money at the end of each episode. Based on the UK series, Secret Millionaire briefly aired on Fox in the 2008-09 season.

 

-Competition: Medium (CBS), School Pride (NBC), Human Target (Fox), Smallville (CW)

 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Executive producers Natalka Znak, Leslie Garvin, Claire O’Donohoe; and participants Tony Branch, Gary Heavin, Diane Heavin, John Ferbe and Sister Judy Vaughan.

 
-The Scoop:

Leslie Garvin on the locations for Secret Millionaire:

 

“We just look at different areas. We wanted good diversity. But as we started doing our research, we realized we really could have gone absolutely anywhere. And there’s amazing people all across the country in really tough communities doing amazing things, and they all need help.

 
-----
 

-Natalka Snak on moving to ABC:

 

“As producers, we’re delighted that it’s now on ABC because it feels like a totally natural home for
it. And the show — I mean, it’s been produced on Fox before, but it’s also been produced in the U.K. for a number of series. And I know about those. And I have to say I love the U.K. show. I thought the Fox
show was good. But I think this show is amazing. And it’s impossible not to watch it without getting to the end and, feeling like you need to go and do something, feeling that, you know, something
extraordinary has happened while you’ve watched the show.”

  
-The Reality:

Considering the troubled Friday landscape, it makes perfect sense for ABC for fill the 8 p.m. hour with an inspirational reality series. But given its failure to succeed on Fox and the challenge to get viewers to watch network television on Friday there is no reason to believe Secret Millionaire will attract a mass audience. And that really is a shame because this show is worthy of attention. 

 

-Chance of Survival for Secret Millionaire (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

7-1
 
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Happy Endings
Midseason
 
-The Premise:

A group of close knit friends have to face the fact that the center of their existence, “perfect” couple Dave and Alex, have split.

 
-Lead-in: Not determined yet
-Competition: Not determined yet
 
-Who Was on the Panel:

Damon Wayans, Jr., Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally; executive producer/creator David Caspe; and executive producer Jonathon Groff. 

 
-The Scoop:

David Caspe on the diversity on Happy Endings:

 

“I really just wanted to make a show that’s sort of more representative of a group of friends now, and everyone’s basically based on friends of mine. And I think for a long time, and even still, a lot of these groups of friends are all white and straight on TV or in movies. I don’t really know anyone that has a group of friends like that anymore. To make a more modern version of that, I guess. I based it on my group of friends, and there happens to be an interracial couple, so I did it. I don’t really know. But it does seem like shows, in general, and movies are starting to be less all straight and white, which is good because it’s realer.”

 
-The Reality:

There are three logical time periods for Happy Endings in midseason: Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. depending on how fall occupants Better With You and returning Cougar Town fare, or Monday at 9:30 p.m. if ABC decides to trim Dancing With the Stars to 90 minutes. 

 

-Chance of Survival for Happy Endings (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):

Cannot be determined without a specific time period.

 
-Did You Know?:

Damon Wayans, Jr. made his film debut at the age of 11 in 1994’s Blank Men.

 
_________________________________________________________________________________
 

Press Tour Tidbits:

Notes of Interest
 

-DWTS New Cast Announcement:

ABC will unveil the new cast of mega-hit Dancing With the Stars on Monday, Aug. 30 during Bachelor Pad. Stay tuned.

 

-More Hard Times of RJ Berger on MTV:

MTV has renewed original comedy The Hard Times of RJ Berger for a second season, with an unspecified number of new half-hour episodes.

 
 

On the Air Tonight:
Prime-Time Programming Options

 
Tuesday 8/03/10
 
ABC:
 8:00 p.m. Wipeout
 9:00 p.m. Shaq vs. (season premiere)

10:00 p.m. Primetime: What Would You Do?

 
CBS:
 8:00 p.m. NCIS (R)
 9:00 p.m. NCIS: Los Angeles (R)

10:00 p.m. The Good Wife (R)

           
NBC:
 8:00 p.m. Breakthrough With Tony Robbins
 9:00 p.m. America’s Got Talent (two hours)
 
Fox:
 8:00 p.m. Hell’s Kitchen
 9:00 p.m. Masterchef
 
 CW:
 8:00 p.m. Plain Jane (R)
 9:00 p.m. 18 To Life (series premiere)
 9:30 p.m. 18 To Life
 

New Program Descriptions

 

18 To Life (CW)

It’s Romeo and Juliet small screen style as two 18-year-old neighbors get married on a dare in this Canadian produced comedy.

 
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Coming Up Tomorrow: Fox