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May 18, 2012 - 7:17am

Upfronts 2012 (Part 3 of 5): ABC likes it soapy



Every spring, the major television networks present their fall and midseason schedules to potential advertisers at their upfronts. Senior Arts Editor Kayla Upadhyaya takes a look at the new series coming to ABC.

ABC is bringing quite the lengthy list of new programs next fall, though some of the comedies don’t look like they have the backbone to make it very far.

Of all the networks to release trailers so far, ABC takes the prize for best edited dramatic promotional videos (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their abysmal comedic trailers. It appears the network has decided to ride the waves of “Revenge” ’s success and amp up the drama and scandal next fall. But let’s not forget that it takes much more than a juicy premise to turn a primetime soap opera into a compelling, fiery series, and an oversaturation of melodrama will likely just make us think of some of your less-beloved endeavors, ABC.

Previously on Upfronts 2012: NBC and FOX announcements.


Quick Facts: Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”) stars as country music superstar Rayna James, who goes on tour with young newcomer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere, “Heroes”) as a way of boosting Rayna’s career. The show also stars Eric Close (“American Horror Story”), Powers Boothe (“24”) and Charles Esten (“Enlightened”) and was created by Callie Khouri (“Thelma & Louise”).

Reasons to Watch: Yes, this is basically just “Country Strong” as a TV show. But it has Connie Britton, ya’ll! A singing Tami Taylor is all I’ve ever wanted from television, and I’m sure I’m not alone ... right? And there’s no Gwyneth Paltrow in sight, hoorah!

Cause for Concern: I have my doubts about Hayden Panettiere’s acting skills … hopefully the show leans on Britton as much as possible.

“Last Resort”

Quick Facts: From Karl Gajdusek (“Dead Like Me”) and Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) comes a high-charged action series about the crew members of a U.S. ballistics submarine who are declared enemies of the U.S. after failing to follow through on an order to nuke Pakistan. Unable to go back to the country that has turned against them, the crew winds up at a NATO outpost on a secluded island, where they begin to restart their lives, declaring the island a sovereign state. The ensemble cast includes Andre Braugher (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), Daisy Betts (“Harry’s Law”), Autumn Reeser (“Entourage”), Scott Speedman (“Felicity”) and Jessy Schram (“Falling Skies”).

Reasons to Watch: Once on the island, big scary alien boats emerge and are all “E7, F5, G3!” Oh nevermind, that’s the upcoming movie “Battleship.” As far as I can tell, this is a naval-action drama that’s alien-free. The trailer is very well done, and Andre Braugher is perfectly cast as the bold, unwavering captain. And “The Shield” was a brilliant crime thriller, so I know Ryan can deliver.

Cause for Concern: The trailer makes it pretty clear that there will also be some annoying romantic side-story going on that will likely be the most predictable, flat aspect of the show.

“The Neighbors” (midseason)

Quick Facts: Created by Dan Fogelman (“Crazy Stupid Love”), this new sitcom takes place in the simple suburbs of Hidden Hills, New Jersey … home to a community of aliens. The Weavers, a human family, unknowingly moves to Hidden Hills and have to deal with the bizarre Zabvronian clan. Tyler Christopher (“The Lying Game”), Jami Gertz (“Entourage”), Simon Templeman (“Just Shoot Me!”) and Lenny Venito (“Bored to Death”) star.

Reasons to Watch: The aliens don’t even look cool! Oh yeah, and the premise is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve heard in a while.

Cause for Concern: I am 99.9% sure this show will be canceled after the pilot airs.

“666 Park Avenue”

Quick Facts: This supernatural soap is based on a novel of the same name by Gabriella Pierce. Created by former co-executive producer of “Fringe” David Wilcox, “666 Park Avenue” follows a Midwestern couple (Dave Annable of “Brothers & Sisters” and Rachael Taylor of “Grey’s Anatomy”) as they move to a historic apartment complex in Manhattan known as The Drake. But this is no ordinary apartment. Owned by the mysterious and alluring married couple Gavin (Terry O’Quinn, “Lost”) and Olivia (Vanessa Williams, “Ugly Betty”), The Drake is filled with dangerous supernatural forces.

Reasons to Watch: NBC, take note: This is how you put together a trailer. Every second of the just-over-two-minutes-long promo is gripping, sexy, scary. And let’s face it, I’ll watch anything with Terry O’Quinn or Vanessa Williams, so put them together and I’m in your pocket. Plus, it’s from the producers of “Pretty Little Liars” and “Gossip Girl,” so you know it has to be twisty and feature at least one text-stalker, and who doesn’t love text-stalkers, am I right?

Cause for Concern: The CGI looks mediocre, and that could be a problem if it gets in the way of spooking viewers. Can’t be afraid of the things that go bump unless they look at least somewhat believable.

“Red Widow” (midseason)

Quick Facts: A remake of a Dutch series called “Penoza,” this primetime soap is about Marta (Radha Mitchell, “Phone Booth”), a widow of an assassinated criminal. Marta must continue her husband’s work in an organized crime syndicate in order to protect herself and her family. The pilot was written by “Twilight” and “Dexter” writer Melissa Rosenberg.

Reasons to Watch: The tone of the trailer is eerie and heavy, and the drama has a definite European feel to it versus a more flashy American soap like “Revenge.”

Cause for Concern: Might ABC be getting a bit — dare I say — too soapy?

“Zero Hour” (midseason)

Quick Facts: Action-thriller “Zero Hour,” revolves around conspiracy theorist and magazine editor Hank Foley (Anthony Edwards, “ER”), whose wife (Jacinda Barrett, “The Last Kiss”) is abducted, leading Hank on a mysterious path of legends, secrets and a Nazi Doomsday device. The series was created by “Prison Break” ’s Paul Scheuring.

Reasons to Watch: This kind of looks like “The Event” meets “Transformers,” which in other words means it looks like it will be horrible. But Cappie from “Greek” is in it!

Cause for Concern: World War II historical fiction can be very hit (“Inglourious Basterds”) or miss (“Miracle at St. Anna”). This one, unfortunately, looks like the latter.

“Mistresses” (midseason)

Quick Facts: An American remake of the BBC’s series of the same name, “Mistresses” follows four friends — sharp lawyer Savi (Alyssa Milano, “Charmed”), party girl Josselyn (Jes Macallan, “Justified”), therapist Karen (Yunjin Kim, “Lost”) and mourning widow April (Rochelle Aytes, “Detroit 1-8-7”). The series is overseen by “Gossip Girl” ’s K.J. Steinberg.

Reasons to Watch: This could end up being a completely ridiculous but addictive guilty pleasure like “Desperate Housewives” or it could be … no, it’s definitely going to be that.

Cause for Concern: Sounds like there is going to be voiceover … which is a rarely well executed gimmick, even in some of my favorite soaps (looking at you, “Revenge”).

“Malibu Country” (starting in November)

Quick Facts: Reba McEntire (“Reba”) stars as Reba Gallagher, a mother who leaves her cheating country-star husband and restarts her life in California. The project was created by Kevin Abbott (“My Name is Earl”) and also stars Lily Tomlin (“Desperate Housewives”).

Reasons to Watch: Who keeps giving Reba McEntire her own show? Well at least it could be the perfect thing to hate-watch!

Cause for Concern: Reba. McEntire.

“How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)” (starting in January)

Quick Facts: A single-camera comedy created by Claudia Lenow (“Less Than Perfect”), “How To Live With Your Parents” revolves around uptight single mother Polly (Sarah Chalke, “Scrubs”), who is forced to move in with her wild and hyper-sexual parents (Brad Garrett of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and Elizabeth Perkins of “Weeds”) for financial reasons.

Reasons to Watch: I’m pretty sure the script could be bland as hell and I’d still end up laughing hysterically because of the combined super-force of Chalke, Perkins and Garrett’s fine-tuned comedic abilities. As Cecilia, Perkins almost always stole the show on “Weeds,” and Garrett and Chalke have similarly been standout secondary characters in their past works.

Cause for Concern: The premise isn’t particularly imaginative, and the trailer is underwhelming considering the ironclad cast.

“The Family Tools” (starting in January)

Quick Facts: Jack Shea (Kyle Bornheimer, “Blades of Glory”) is the screwup son of the owner of a handyman business who ends up having to continue his aging father’s work. The series, created by Bobby Bowman (“Raising Hope”), also stars J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man”), Leah Remini (“The King of Queens”) and Edi Gathefi (“X-Men: First Class”).

Reasons to Watch: The series is based on a British format, and I’m typically all about British comedies, but I’m willing to bet that “The Family Tools” took the original format and Americanized it majorly, since this appears to feature a lot of poorly executed slapstick. I do like J.K. Simmons though.

Cause for Concern: Kyle Bornheimer simply isn’t funny, and neither was this trailer.

Stay Tuned: The CW’s new programming lineup is coming up