ABC Moves and Shakes

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ABC's new fall drama series Invasion and Commander-in-Chief commanded the most dramatic buzz among advertisers and agents attending the network's annual upfront presentation Tuesday, with the sci-fi thriller Invasion seen as perhaps the next Lost.

On the comedy side, talk centered on midseason entries rather than the lukewarm greeting for the new Freddie Prinze Jr. comedy Freddie, which earned a place on the fall schedule following George Lopez on Wednesday nights.

Generating the most excitement among the all-media crowd on the comedy side was the new Heather Graham comedy, Emily's Reasons Why Not, which will premiere in January after Monday Night Football.

Coming off a season in which ABC gained 17% year-to-year in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic, thanks in large part to winning the Triple Crown of drama with the freshman trio of Desperate Housewives,Grey's Anatomy and, to a lesser extent, Lost,

ABC skipped the presentations from news and sports that have characterized past presentations.

Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney said that while the network is "back in the game" after its "astounding transformation" this season, the network needs to take steps to continue the growth.

Consequently, ABC added a dozen new series--six dramas, five comedies and a reality show--for 2005-06, twice as many as NBC despite the fact that it is headed for a fourth-place finish in adults 18-49 this season.

Jimmy Kimmel, who roundly basted ABC at last year's upfront, was a little nicer this year, but took some pretty good swipes at the executives who will ultimately decide his late night show's fate, referring to the team of Sweeney and ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson as the "McWeener" at ABC.

The biggest schedule changes of next season will be shifting Lost from 8 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights and the move of Alias--he second time in two seasons it has moved--to Thursday, where ABC has barely had a pulse.

The network is adding a dozen new shows to help broaden the base of its ratings recovery beyond a handful of barn-burners.

McPherson said of the move of Alias: "We want to be in business Thursday nights."

But McPherson wasn't looking to rebuild Rome in a day. "Are we going to win on Thursday? No," he told reporters, advertisers and affiliates Tuesday in New York. But last year, he said,"We weren't even showing up."

The low-rated Lopez show will be coming back to open up Wednesday nights. Why? McPherson defended the show, saying it was doing fine in the fall, but then got "hammered" once American Idol launched in January. "There was a real core audience that kept coming back every week," he said.

As B&C reported Sunday, ABC picked up dramas Invasion, Commander-in-Chief, Night Stalker, The Evidence, What About Brian, as well as an additional drama, In Justice. B&C was five for five on the comedies, with ABC picking up Hot Properties, Sons & Daughters, Emily's Reasons Why Not, Freddie and Crumbs.

McPherson said Freddie, Hot Properties, Commander-in-Chief, Invasion and The Night Stalker will all be on the fall schedule, with the remainder, including the lone new reality series, The Miracle Workers, slated for midseason.

In addition, Grey's Anatomy will be upped to a 22-episode order, which will give it 26 episodes next year combined with four unaired from this year.

As expected, Boston Legal will get the Tuesday 10 p.m. time slot being given up by the low-rated Blind Justice, which will not return along with 8 Simple Rules and My Wife & Kids.

Returning shows include Hope & Faith, Rodney, Supernanny and Wife Swap, with The Bachelor, Jake in Progress, and Less than Perfect returning midseason.

The new schedule is as follows:

8:00 p.m.  “Wife Swap” (through January. New night and time)
9:00 p.m. “Monday Night Football” (through January)

(the following will premiere after MNF)

8:00 p.m. “The Bachelor” (new time)
9:00 p.m. “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” (new comedy series)
9:30 p.m. “Jake in Progress” (new night and time)
10:00 p.m. “What About Brian” (new drama series)

8:00 p.m. “According to Jim” (new time)
8:30 p.m. “Rodney” (new time)
9:00 p.m. “Commander-in-Chief” (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. “Boston Legal” (new night)

8:00 p.m. “George Lopez” (new night and time)
8:30 p.m. “Freddie” (new comedy series)
9:00 p.m. “Lost” (new time)
10:00 p.m. “Invasion” (new drama series)

8:00 p.m. “Alias” (new night and time)
9:00 p.m. “The Night Stalker” (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. “Primetime Live”

8:00 p.m. “Supernanny” (new night and time)
9:00 p.m. “Hope & Faith”
9:30 p.m. “Hot Properties” (new comedy series)
10:00 p.m. “20/20”

8:00 p.m. “ABC Movie of the Week”

7:00 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8:00 p.m. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
9:00 p.m. “Desperate Housewives”
10:00 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy”