TCA: With ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ ABC Expands Beyond One-Word Dramas for Women

TCA: With 'S.H.I.E.L.D.,' ABC Expands Beyond One-Word Dramas for Women

ABC builds on "Scandal," "Revenge," and "Nashville"

ABC has become the most popular network among women 18-49 with a series of juicy dramas with one-word titles like "Scandal," "Revenge," and "Nashville." Sometimes even entertainment president Paul Lee has trouble keeping them straight.

"If I said 'Revenge,' I probably meant 'Betrayal,'" he corrected himself at one point during a Television Critics Association panel on Sunday. (Actually, when he said "Revenge," he actually meant "Resurrection," which is, like "Betrayal," a new limited-run series.)

Despite its success with women, ABC is in fourth in viewers 18-49. Fourth-place networks often take huge risks, but not ABC. Even as its rivals are increasingly investing in big-event limited series to try to get viewers to watch in real time, ABC is sticking to its formula — with a few exceptions.

Among them are "Resurrection" and "Betrayal," two limited-run series that lack the likely built-in audience of some rival networks' event shows. Then there's the comedy "The Goldbergs" and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," easily the splashiest new show on ABC.

Lee said Sunday he hopes "S.H.I.E.L.D." and "The Goldbergs" will be "full quadrant" shows that appeal to all.

Other networks are trying to deal with declining 18-49 ratings with limited-run series like CBS's "Under the Dome" and Fox's "24: Die Another Day." NBC hopes "Dracula" will get buzz, and is also unveiling a round-the-clock game show, "Million Second Quiz," designed to make people not only watch in real time but sit through ads. ABC is trying to counterprogram with "Shark Week" reruns.

ABC's original limited-run series don't have the instant recognition that some rival networks' shows do. The Stephen King book that inspired "Under the Dome" was a bestseller. "24" is "24" and everyone has heard of "Dracula."

"Resurrection," an Omar Epps limited-run series, is based on Jason Mott's novel "The Returned" about a small town haunted by secrets. "Betrayal," though a limited-run series, is another soapy female-centric drama, this one about an affair.

Though neither has the built-in audience of a Stephen King series, "S.H.I.E.L.D." does. You're currently skipping over this sentence, the obligatary one where I needlessly tell you it's a spinoff of the summer blockbuster "The Avengers."

The question is whether viewers will latch onto a small-screen expansion of the Marvel universe.

ABC's other big shows this season include a "Once Upon a Time" spinoff, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland." 

"Trophy Wife," one of its brightest comedy hits, has a setup worthy of one of those one-word dramas: It's about a woman (Malin Akerman) who marries a man with kids and two ex-wives.

But it's not to be confused with the dramas: It's funny, and has two words in its name.