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ABC Benches Drama Tentpoles for Summer Rookies

Network replaces ”Desperate,“ ”Grey’s“ and ”B&S“ with newcomers, lots of reality

ABC is giving three of its biggest serialized drama tentpoles the summer off, replacing them with a trio of new hours targeted specifically for summer audiences.

"The Gates" and "Scoundrels" will replace repeats of "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" at 9 and 10 p.m., respectively, starting Sunday, June 20. The same week, on Thursday, June 24, "Rookie Blue" takes over for "Grey’s Anatomy" at 9 p.m.

With unscripted tentpole "Wipeout" returning with its official, previously announced season premiere on June 22, ABC in effect is creating a summer premiere week from June 20-24.

“Our strategy is to use the strength of our May programming to launch a strong summer schedule bolstered by three new scripted series,” Steve McPherson, president, ABC Entertainment Group, said. “We’ve got more than 210 hours of original programming this summer, including the return of our hits ‘Wipeout’ and ‘The Bachelorette.’ ABC will be a summer destination for viewers.”

Attacking on Sunday could prove smart for ABC, since as of now, there’s not a lot of big first-run scripted or unscripted network fare on the night. And CBS’s "Big Brother" usually airs Sundays at 8 p.m.

ABC is also expected to wisely keep its comedy repeats on Wednesday nights, since the network finally has sitcoms that might actually repeat well in summer. It seems logical ABC will find a home for repeats of "Castle," though Monday nights at 10 p.m. — the show’s current timeslot– appears to be taken by reality shows.

While "DH," "Grey’s" and "Brothers & Sisters" remain solid performers, they’ve never done great in repeat mode. In past years, ABC has chosen to stick with repeats anyway, rather than invest in scripted drama replacement series. Now, with the three drama tentpoles showing their age, the network has decided the possible upside of first-run fare beats the cost-savings and profit that comes from repeating scripted series in their regular time periods.

As reported before, ABC’s summer schedule will start before the regular season ends, with "The Bachelorette" bowing May 24, and "True Beauty" returning May 31. ABC has decided to add a special two-hour "Wipeout" preview on June 1, with a blind date theme.

After the summer dramas launch, ABC will turn its attention to another new unscripted show, "Downfall," which will fill the slot currently occupied by "Lost" — Tuesdays at 9 — starting June 29.

ABC News will also chip into the summer initiative, contributing the previously reported "Boston Med" (Thursdays at 10, starting June 24), "Primetime: Mind Games" (Tuesdays at 10, starting July 20); "Head Cases" (Thursdays at 10, beginning Aug. 19) and "Primetime: Crime" (Tuesdays at 10, starting Aug. 24).

A third wave of shows rolls out in August, as sophomore unscripted series "Dating in the Dark" and "Shaq VS." replace "True Beauty" and "Downfall" on Monday, Aug. 9 and Tuesday, Aug. 10, respectively.

(For plot descriptions and credits on ABC’s new dramas, see our previous post here.)