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Originally published May 19, 2009 at 3:48 PM | Page modified May 20, 2009 at 10:48 AM

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New TV lineup: ABC turns to familiar comic faces for new season

ABC plans a comedy night on Wednesdays next fall with familiar sitcom stars Kelsey Grammer, Courteney Cox, Patricia Heaton and Ed O'Neill in new series with roles suited to the times.

AP Television Writer

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ABC plans a comedy night on Wednesdays next fall with familiar sitcom stars Kelsey Grammer, Courteney Cox, Patricia Heaton and Ed O'Neill in new series with roles suited to the times.

The network said it will have 11 new series next season. Under entertainment chief Stephen McPherson, ABC has been the most aggressive network in starting new series and will keep trying even though many new ones have failed in the past few months.

"We've got our work cut out for us, but innovative, different and compelling is going to be the key," McPherson said Tuesday. ABC is the third-most popular network behind CBS and Fox, and its viewership declined by 3 percent this season.

Sitcom mainstay Grammer leads "Hank," playing a corporate titan who's been laid off. Heaton, who co-starred with Grammer in a short-lived Fox comedy after her best-known role on "Everybody Loves Raymond" finished, plays the wife and mother of an Indiana family trying to survive tough times.

Former "Friends" star Cox is on the prowl in "Cougar Town," playing a newly single woman learning the new rules of dating in a youth-obsessed culture.

O'Neill, best known as the harried dad in Fox's "Married ... With Children," takes on another TV family in "Modern Family." In the style of "The Office," this series looks at three families from the perspective of an unseen documentarian.

ABC took the bold step of screening "Modern Family" in its entirety to an audience of advertisers on Tuesday. The move is risky - the last time a network did this was NBC for the short-lived "Joey" - but it appeared to pay off with lots of laughs by the influential audience.

Christina Applegate's "Samantha Who?" is the highest-profile existing series to be canceled. For the second time in two incarnations, "Cupid" didn't make it to a second season on ABC. "The Unusuals" was not renewed, and ABC said it wanted to evaluate "Surviving Suburbia" over the summer to see if it will survive.

Ubiquitous producer Mark Burnett will make his first series for ABC, "Shark Tank," where budding entrepreneurs try to persuade five millionaires to seed their business ideas.

The new dramas include "Eastwick," an adaptation of the movie "The Witches of Eastwick"; "The Deep End," which follows four young lawyers joining a cutthroat firm; "Flash Forward," a sci-fi series where people black out and get a glimpse of their future; "The Forgotten," a Jerry Bruckheimer procedural on trying to piece together the stories of missing persons; "Happy Town," about a Minnesota town that was plagued by kidnappings; and "V," a remake of a 1980s era miniseries about aliens confronting humans.

ABC is giving "Flash Forward" a plum Thursday time slot, moving "Ugly Betty" to Fridays, and showed advertisers the opening 10 minutes of the first episode.

There were some ominous signs for the network, however. Tuesday's audience reacted with no applause to the mostly dark set of dramas, and Jimmy Kimmel delivered some TV-style tough love in a comic routine just after the drama clips were shown.


"These shows you're so excited about?" he said. "We're going to cancel 90 percent of them. Maybe more."

McPherson said NBC's decision to run Jay Leno each weeknight at 10 p.m. gives his network and CBS an opportunity to make inroads with dramas.

"Scrubs" will return for a second season at ABC after departing NBC, although star Zach Braff's full involvement is unclear. McPherson also said ABC would be very interested in picking up CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine" if CBS doesn't go forward with it.


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.

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