ABC Takes More Medicine

Like CBS and its crime procedurals, ABC has latched on to medical dramas as its go-to theme, and it’s not letting go. Case in point: the medical examiner-based series Body of Proof, premiering tomorrow at 10 p.m.

Critics may charge “more of the same.” But the Disney-owned network is, at the very least, trying to expand its brand. ABC’s other three medical shows—Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Off the Map—are all sudsy ensemble soaps executive produced by the prolific Shonda Rhimes. Body of Proof, however, centers on one major character—Dana Delaney as a neurosurgeon who can no longer operate and finds works as an M.E. And Rhimes has no connection to the series.

In Hollywood, where imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, original ideas often are less prized than a good tweak of a tried-and-true format—which is precisely what first-time TV writer Christopher Murphey and executive producer Matthew Gross pitched to ABC.

“Everyone was looking to do their version of House,” Murphey told Adweek. “But how do you do it without just being another diagnostician who’s cranky? That’s where the neurosurgery idea came from.”

Murphey added that while the network was searching for a medical mystery, it also wanted a procedural. No surprise there, since open-ended serialized dramas have fallen out of favor with viewers, and ABC’s close-ended crime procedurals haven’t been very successful. Castle may come closest, but that’s only averaging averaging 10.7 million viewers and a 2.8/7 in adults 18-49.

Still, Murphey sees Body of Proof more as a hybrid—what he refers to as a character-cedural.

“As much as I’m a fan of strict procedurals, they’re a little dry,” said Murphey, who also is an executive producer on the series. “I couldn’t write for one of those shows. For me, what made this show sing was Megan. The case of the week is just an excuse to hang out with her and her colleagues over the course of an hour.”

It’s been a tough season for drama on ABC. The network already has canceled The Whole Truth, from Jerry Bruckheimer, and My Generation, from Warren Littlefield. Several others remain on the bubble, including Detroit 1-8-7, No Ordinary Family, Off the Map and V.

Premiering this late in the season doesn’t give Body of Proof that much time to build an audience. But even if the show doesn’t make it to renewal, Murphey said he’s gotten a crash course in TV production.

“Making TV is not easy,” he noted. “There’s a lot that goes on, and you’re on a treadmill that you can never get off of. It’s a shock to the system.”