ABC had a mixed fall, with a fledgling hit in Quantico, as well as the season's first canceled series in Wicked City. But ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee said today that the best is yet to come this season for the network.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, Lee touted "four incredibly powerful shows" that are coming to the network in midseason: dramas The Family (which we think is the best broadcast pilot this season; it premieres March 3), Of Kings and Prophets (March 8) and The Catch (March 24), along with comedy The Real O'Neals (which Lee said is "absolutely on brand for what an ABC comedy is" and debuts March 8).
For a network to keep its momentum building, "you have to add a couple of assets" each year, said Lee, pointing to freshman hit Quantico, which is "a real asset for ABC," especially given its strong delayed viewing growth. Lead Priyanka Chopra "is a quintessential ABC star," he said.
Two of those four midseason shows, The Catch and Of Kings and Prophets, have undergone significant recasting and retooling since ABC ordered them last spring. Lee won't see the revised pilot for The Catch, which is executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, until next week, but said, "If you like TGIT, you'll like The Catch." He explained that The Catch wasn't a "fully formed" pilot like How to Get Away With Murder, but its retooling "certainly has paid off in terms of the scripts I've seen."
Also returning at midseason is Season 2 of anthology series American Crime, which debuted earlier this week and "is becoming a distinct and powerful brand," said Lee. He added that he wasn't concerned about FX's similarly named "American Crime Story" anthology series, which will focus on O.J. Simpson's murder trial during its first season. Lee said American Crime "stands on its own, but there's probably room for both, to be honest."
There wasn't room on ABC for the quickly canceled Wicked City, which might have been off-brand for the network, admitted Lee. "I love taking big swings, and that was a big swing. … It didn't work, but I was proud to have done it."
Wicked City was yet another Tuesday 10 p.m. failure for Lee, who will try and reverse his time slot problems with Of King and Prophets, which he called "a muscular, theatrical, fascinating piece."
In addition to reworking Of Kings and Prophets and The Catch, Lee is also making changes to The Muppets, which arrived to great fanfare last fall, yet disappointed audiences. "The expectations were very high; we ran a great campaign for that," he said. While "it's a solid comedy, we didn't quite feel it had the joy, the laughter and the heart we were looking for." He brought in a new showrunner, Kristin Newman, and said he has "very high hopes" for the season's final six episodes.
The network solidified its summer plans, announcing that it has renewed last summer's surprise hit, Celebrity Family Feud, which will again be hosted by Steve Harvey. It will presumably be paired with another classic game show revival, $100,000 Pyramid, which the network also ordered for summer. That show will be hosted by Michael Strahan, the former NFL star and co-host of Live! With Kelly and Michael.
Looking ahead, Lee confirmed that ABC has ordered a pilot for Marvel's Most Wanted, an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff starring Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood. Among S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter and Most Wanted, "we feel very good about our Marvel franchises," Lee said.