ABC certainly came into Tuesday’s Television Critics Assn. press tour on Tuesday as the underdog, but it had some winning moments.
Paul Lee was funny, receptive and energetic during the executive session. He was successful in sticking to several key points: what the network did get right this past year, the network’s diversity and its desire to be the home for creative people and their pet projects.
The “Black-ish” panel was an exciting and open-minded talk about race and culture that kept everyone laughing and no one seemed peeved or offended (a rarity when race is spoken about at TCA).
And, it was fun to watch Shonda Rhimes spar with a few reporters during the “How to Get Away With Murder” session.
As an overview for the day, Here’s what TheWrap took away from ABC at TCA:
1. We’re still rebuilding.
Newly re-upped president Paul Lee stayed upbeat during his presentation to reporters on Tuesday morning. The No. 4 network did find some silver linings. While admitting that the network suffered a hit this past year, he made sure to mention that ABC won May sweeps in the advertiser demographic Adults 18-49 — its first time to do so in 14 years.
ABC’s line as it has struggled is, “We’re rebuilding.” Lee has been given a lot of space to make changes that are just starting to pay off for the network. That May sweeps win? Lee pointed out that ABC’s decision to mimic cable by running all new episodes without repeats of its programs and ending with big midseason finales nabbed that win.
2. Stick to what you know.
Lee emphasized the importance of building upon what works with the ABC audience. He heralded what he called the “underrated” “Once Upon a Time,” with glowing praise for its showrunners. The failure of its “Wonderland” spinoff was blamed more on scheduling than anything else.
Marvel’s “Agent Carter” will fill “Agents of SHIELD’s” timeslot in the midseason. For the fall, ABC pairs “SHIELD” with “Forever,” which stars Ioan Gruffud as a man who can’t die.
With arguably the funniest show on television, “Modern Family,” ABC is excited by the critical reception for “The Goldbergs” and has at least three more family shows in its lineup this fall.
Reality shows have been a bust for the network lately. It decided not to dedicate a panel to any nonfiction shows during Tuesday’s TCA.
3. Wave your diversity flag proudly
Lee pointed to his own staff and executives as examples of the diversity ABC is striving for both behind and in front of the cameras.
ShondaLand shows are a given with their blind casting. The network decided to focus on several examples of its diverse programming lineup, specifically “Black-ish” and “Cristela.” It also focuses on an Asian family on fall show, “Fresh Off the Boat.