TCA 2009: Exclusive Video From ABC

Marc Berman and Alan Frutkin weigh in on ABC’s portion of the TCA below:

Shark Tank
Tuesday 8 p.m.
-The Premise:
Budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists in this new reality/competition from Survivor/The Apprentice creator Mark Burnett.
-Competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), 90210 (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Kevin Harrington, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec and executive producer Clay Newbill.
-The Scoop:
Feisty is the word to describe the Shark Tank panel as the well-dressed entrepreneurs bitched and bickered, which no doubt it the appeal behind the reality/competition. Already successful as Dragon’s Den in other countries, the name change was made to emphasize the business sharks.
“The show originated in Japan, and dragons are big in the culture there. But in the Western culture, sharks, we’ve all heard of business sharks,” said Clay Newbill. “It’s a perfect description of what actually happens in the tank because if the sharks hear something that they like, it’s unpredictable what will happen. They act just like a pool of sharks in that they may take a piece of an entrepreneur or they may fight each other and take a bite out of each other at the same time. So it’s a perfect analogy.”
-The Reality:
Since Shark Tank launched on Sunday, August 9 (out of the return of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire), I consider this more like summer filler than an aggressive programming move this fall.  Plus, ABC has confirmed that the upcoming remake of V will step into the Tuesday 8 p.m. hour on November 3. So, consider Shark Tank a “Band Aid” maneuver until V begins.
-Chance of Survival for Shark Tank (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 9-1
-Did You Know?:
Last fall, ABC aired non-scripted Opportunity Knocks in the Tuesday 8 p.m. hour and it came and went after just two episodes.

The Middle
Wednesday 8:30 p.m.
-The Premise:
Former Everybody Loves Raymond and recent Back to You star Patricia Heaton plays the loving wife, mother of three who lives in Jasper, Indiana and is employed as a used car salesman. The cast also includes Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Atticus Shafer and Eden Sher.  
-Lead-In: Hank
-Competition: Gary Unmarried (CBS), Mercy (NBC), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), America’s Next Top Model (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Atticus Shaffer, Eden Sher, Charlie McDermott, Chris Kattan; and creator and executive producers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline.
-The Scoop:
Patricia Heaton on her new role:
“I relate to every single thing.  I grew up in Ohio, and since I didn’t really get a regular start in this industry until much later in life, I feel that the Midwestern roots are still really within me, and I feel that’s where I’m most comfortable. So this is a very comfortable character for me to be in.”
And Heaton now versus when she was on Everybody Loves Raymond:
“The difference for me, when I did Raymond, was I had kids, and so my acting style got very efficient because I had no time to work when I was at home to work on the stuff, and we worked very fast and rehearsed. For me, and one of the reasons that I felt okay about doing a show where again I’m playing a mom in the Midwest, is this is single-camera and it’s a completely different animal. And for me to stretch myself as an actor, it’s very difficult. I didn’t know at all how to prepare to shoot this show because there’s really no rehearsal. And I always memorize my lines as I connect them to the blocking and to the rehearsal.”
-The Reality:
Since workplace comedy Back to You on Fox (opposite Kelsey Grammer) did not succeed, it makes sense to see Patricia Heaton back in a role similar to the one that snagged her two Emmys on Everybody Loves Raymond: harried wife and mother. While the lead-in support from Hank may not be all that bountiful, larger HUT levels at 8:30 p.m. could be beneficial.  And the competition is not all that strong.
-Chance of Survival for The Middle (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 5-1 (Right in the middle!)
-Did You Know?:
Prior to Everybody Loves Raymond, Patricia Heaton appeared in two short-lived sitcoms: Room For Two (ABC, 1992) and Women of the House (ABC, 1995). Women of the House was a spin-off of Designing Women headlined by Delta Burke.  

Wednesday 8 p.m.
-The Premise:
Former Frasier and recent Back to You star Kelsey Grammer plays a fallen Wall Street executive who returns to his hometown with his wife and kids for a fresh start. Macey Cruthird, David Koechner, Melinda McGraw and Ryan Wynott also star.  
-Competition: The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), Mercy (NBC), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), America’s Next Top Model (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Kelsey Grammer, Melinda McGraw, Nathan Gamble, Sasha Pieterse, David Koechner; and executive producers Tucker Cawley and Mike Clements.   
-The Scoop:
Kelsey Grammer on his new role:
“The premise really has more to do with the emotional growth of the character, and that’s what I find opportunistic in the fact that he has to.  He’s forced into a situation where he has to grow up. That was a similar quality in the previous show, Back to You, with Chuck.  But it wasn’t quite the same thing because he was a lothario. This is a guy who’s just been sort of blissfully ignorant about some of the basic tasks of human existence. And that’s what he’s going to learn to do here. But basically it’s the opportunity to grow up, for a man to actually become a fully realized man.
He has far less equipment in terms of his life. Frasier loved clutter and conflict. This guy is not that comfortable with all that stuff. He is a simpler man. I mean, he made his living in sports basically. He loves sports. He loves competition. He loves the American dream. He loves the idea of somebody working their way up from the bottom, and he loves the idea of making something of his life and of his family and of himself by virtue of the sweat of his brow. And so he’s far less complicated than maybe some of the pompous people. And what might be seen as pompous in this character would really be just the fact that he’s out of touch with some things that he’s either forgot about.”
-The Reality:
Given the still sad state of the economy, do we really want to watch a “comedy” about a down-in-his-luck former Wall Street executive?  Don’t we want to escape the reality so many of us have had to face?  
-Chance of Survival for Hank (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 6-1
-Did You Know?:
Kelsey Grammer played the role of Dr. Frasier Crane for 20 years: nine on Cheers and 11 on spin-off Frasier. Comparably, that ties James Arness as Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke as the longest tenure for an actor (or actress) in a regularly scheduled live action role.

Thursday 8 p.m.
-The Premise:
Based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, several wannabe physicians create an experiment where a group of people flash forward 20 years into the future for two minutes and 17 seconds and their lives are never the same again. The physicians struggle to find out if the future is interchangeable or not and whether the experiment needs to be repeated.  Joseph Fiennes leads the ensemble cast.
-Competition: Survivor: Somoa (CBS), SNL Weekend Update/Parks and Recreation (Community at 8 p.m. after six weeks) (NBC), Bones (Fox), The Vampire Diaries (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Monaghan, Courtney B. Vance, John Cho, Sonya Walger; and executive producers David. S. Goyer, Marc Guggenheim and Jessika Borsiczky Goyer.
-The Scoop:
The difference between FlashForward and Lost, according to Dominic Monaghan:
“There are obviously similarities—a large ensemble cast, very ambitious storyline, and a very easy way to sell the show internationally. But there are distinct differences at the same time. I don’t think we’re dealing with something as deeply rooted in a mythology that needs to be solved.  I think this is a show that is probably not as sophisticated in that deeply rich mythology as Lost is.”
The show itself, according to David S. Goyer:
“A third of the characters fear the future, and they are trying to do everything they can to fight it. A third of them, their futures are aspirational, and they are trying to do everything they can to make it happen. And a third of them are kind of agnostic because they just don’t understand what it means, and they are trying to figure it out. Now, maybe fighting it is what causes it to happen, or maybe trying to cause it is what causes it not to happen. That is sort of what the show is about.”
-The Reality:
Facing CBS’ Survivor is no easy feat.  And many members of the press have criticized FlashForward for being scheduled at 8 p.m.  But, once upon a time ABC’s Lost led off the night (on Wednesday).  And CBS’ Survivor is not the force it used to be.  So, there could—and should—be room for FlashForward.
-Chance of Survival for FlashFoward (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 3-1

Cougar Town
Wednesday 9:30 p.m.
-The Premise:
A divorced 40 year-old woman with a teenage son finds her life getting complicated after she starts dating a man 14-years her junior. Courteney Cox stars.
-Lead-In: Modern Family
-Competition: Criminal Minds (CBS), Law & Order: SVU (NBC), Glee (Fox), The Beautiful Life (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Courteney Cox Arquette, Ian Gomez, Christa Miller, Busy Phillips, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Brian Van Holt; executive producer Bill Lawrence; and co-executive producer Kevin Biegel.  
-The Scoop:
Courteney Cox-Arquette on aging in Hollywood:
“Getting older is harder anyway, but living in Hollywood’s exceptionally hard doing it. But what I love about my character is everything’s real. It would be really scary if I wasn’t married and I had to go back out there again. And it is true most men date women that are younger. Or I could go out with someone older and it’s a hard world, and I think that they deal with it beautifully.”
-The Reality:
Although the premise is not exactly unusual, the pilot felt comfortable and it is good to see Arquette back in a prime-time sitcom.  (let’s forget about recent FX drama Dirt). If lead-in Modern Family generates some steam (if ABC is patient, it might), Cougar Town has a shot of succeeding.  Too bad, though, that executive producer Bill Lawrence barely let Arquette, or anyone else, speak at the panel.  
-Chance of Survival for Cougar Town (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 5-1
-Did You Know?:
We all remember Courteney Cox-Arquette for her role as Alex’s girlfriend on Family Ties and, of course, Monica on Friends.  But in 1985, the then young actress appeared on one of the biggest flops in the history of television, Misfits of Science on NBC. I bet it is not on her resume!

The Forgotten
Tuesday 10 p.m.
-The Premise:
A group of amateur crime fights who refer to themselves as the “Identity Network” solve cases with unidentified victims. Reiko Aylesworth, Rochelle Aytes, Michelle Borth, Anthony Carrigan, Rupert Perry-Jones, Grace Olivo and Bob Stephenson star.
-Lead-In: Dancing With the Stars Results Show
-Competition: The Good Wife (CBS), The Jay Leno Show (NBC)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Christian Slater, Rochelle Aytes, Michelle Borth, Anthony Carrigan, Bob Stephenson, Heather Stephens; executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman and Lukas Reiter; and director and executive producer Mark Friedman.  
-The Scoop:
Jonathan Littman on the of the typical crime drama:
“It’s pretty much the same on any crime drama. Somebody is going to be dead. The goal at the end here is to not only bring justice, but it’s to bring closure to a family that does not know the whereabouts of someone who is missing or someone who has crossed paths with a criminal. I think the real goal is actually fairly uplifting at the end when you’ll see the whole thing together because there is that sense of closure and peace brought to a family and someone’s going to jail.”
-The Reality:
There are two positives from the get-go: strong lead-in support from the live Dancing With the Stars Results Show and a time period occupied by three new series. In other words: nothing is proven. But (there is always a but!), the pilot felt flat. The show does not seem all that original. And a much better show called Eli Stone could not find an audience in this time period last fall.
-Chance of Survival for The Forgotten (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 7-1
-Did You Know?
Christian Slater, a former kid star, made his theater debut in The Music Man at the age of 9.  Last fall he headlined short-lived drama My Own Worst Enemy on NBC.

Wednesday 10 p.m.
-The Premise:
Based on the John Updike novel and the 1987 feature film, three single women who live in the New England town of Eastwick discover they have supernatural abilities after they meet a devilishly sexy man. Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle), Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect), Rebecca Romijn (Pepper Dennis), Jon Bernthal and Paul Gross star.
-Lead-In: Cougar Town
-Competition: CSI: NY (CBS), The Jay Leno Show (NBC)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Rebecca Romijn, Sara Rue, Lindsay Price, Jamie Ray Newman, Paul Gross and creator and executive producer Maggie Friedman.  
-The Scoop:
Maggie Friedman on Eastwick:
“This is a show about women. It’s a show about empowerment. It’s a show about friendship. But we feel like it’s very different from Desperate Housewives. And we were actually very conscious, and ABC wanted us to be conscious, of not trying to copycat or do things that they had done. We are definitely our own world, our own universe. It’s a very unique show that, hopefully, will appeal to the same people because that’s a good show.
The movie it’s a very iconic movie. It takes place in the ’80s. It’s very much of that time. And we feel like this version is contemporary. It’s about problems that people are dealing with today. And the characters are very different. In the movie, the magic is sort of ephemeral. You don’t really understand where it’s coming from or what it’s about. And in this version, each of the women has a very specific power that she’s dealing with that sort of reflects back on her life’s journey and her problems. And it’s just a very different world but, hopefully, evocative of the same sense of fun and sex and all that good stuff.”
-The Reality:
Eastwick could, of course, be a female alternative opposite male-driven CSI: NY on CBS and potentially older-skewing The Jay Leno Show on NBC. But why was it suddenly necessary to remake a movie (The Witches of Eastwick) that came out in 1987?
-Chance of Survival for Eastwick (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 9-1
-Did You Know?
Certainly not the best actress in the world, wooden Rebecca Romign was nominated for a Razzie Award as Worst Supporting Actress for Rollerball in 2002.