"Overhaul" is the only word that accurately describes ABC's fall 2013-14 season, as the network will add 13 new shows to its schedule, including eight in the fall, and its Tuesday-night lineup is packed with series premieres.
The most anticipated new show of the season on any network, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." -- "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Avengers" movie producer Joss Whedon's TV take on "The Avengers" -- kicks off ABC's Tuesday night in the fall, followed by back-to-back new comedies, "The Goldbergs" and "Trophy Wife," and another new drama, "Lucky 7." Whedon took the stage at the network's upfront presentation in New York City on Wednesday to introduce a clip from the show.
The biggest surprise on ABC's schedule is a change for its celeb reality series "Dancing With the Stars." Instead of taking up real estate across multiple nights, "DWTS" will air only on Mondays in the fall, with the results being folded in on the same night.
Other new ABC shows bring Tricia Helfer ("Battlestar Galactica"), Christian Slater, Paul Reubens, and James Caan back to primetime, while the network's new comedies include a Conan O'Brien-produced starring vehicle for big-screen breakout Rebel Wilson and a Ryan Seacrest-produced, high-concept series about a trendy singles bar in New York City's Meatpacking District.
ABC will hold the third season of its Wednesday-night comedy "Suburgatory" for midseason, and in October the network will premiere a new "Toy Story" adventure for Halloween, "Toy Story of Terror," in which the movie's stars -- Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz, Joan Cusack as Jessie, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, and Wallace Shawn as Rex -- reprise their roles in a story in which the toybox gang goes on a road trip and gets caught up in a mystery when one of the group gets lost.
The highlight of ABC's annual upfront presentation was a few minutes of jokes from late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who poked fun at the other networks -- "Things are looking up for NBC since they finally got rid of their worst shows, '30 Rock' and 'The Office,'" he said -- as well as ABC.
"It's time to stop calling this an upfront and start calling it what it is: throwing a bunch of s--- at a wall to see what sticks. And guess what? You guys are the wall," Kimmel told the audience full of advertising executives.
A description of the new ABC series, along with our first impressions about which ones might make our must-see list next fall:
Stars: James Cromwell, Henry Thomas ("E.T."), Braden Lemasters ("Men of a Certain Age"), Hannah Ware ("Boss"), Stuart Townsend ("Night Stalker"), Chris Johnson ("The Vampire Diaries"), and Wendy Moniz ("Damages" and "The Guardian")
Producer: David Zabel ("ER"); pilot directed by Patty Jenkins ("Monster" and "The Killing")
Plot: A messy, sudsy drama about a female photographer having an affair with a lawyer who's defending a murder suspect ... who is being prosecuted by the photog's husband.
First Impression: You can never have too many good soapy dramas in primetime, but ABC's first-look video clip during its upfront presentation was a snoozer, which is sorta like a movie trailer in which the studio can't pull together 60 good seconds from a two-hour movie.
"Killer Women" (Drama -- Midseason)
Stars: Tricia Helfer, Mark Blucas ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Alex Fernandez ("Dallas"), and Michael Trucco ("Revenge")
Producers: Hannah Shakespeare ("The Playboy Club"), Ben Silverman ("The Office"), Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family"), and Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale")
Plot: Based on an Argentinian series, the show follows Molly Parker (Helfer), the only female member of the Texas Rangers (the law enforcement group, not the baseball team).
First Impression: "BSG" alum Helfer knows her way around a kick-butt heroine role, which is sorely lacking in primetime these days. The added Western/cop vibes make "Killer Women" particularly interesting, and ABC's upfront preview clip was action packed.
"Lucky 7" (Drama)
Stars: Isiah Whitlock, Jr. ("The Wire"), Matt Long ("Private Practice"), Anastasia Phillips ("Skins"), Summer Bishil ("90210"), Stephen Louis Grush ("The Mob Doctor"), Lorraine Bruce (who starred in the British series "The Syndicate," which this show is based on), Luis Antonio Ramos ("The Huntress"), and Christine Evangelista ("666 Park Avenue")
Producers: David Zabel and Jason Richman ("Detroit 1-8-7")
Plot: Seven gas station employees in Queens win $45 million in the lottery.
First Impression: A lot depends on how well audiences click with the cast, which is devoid of any major names. Also, though we've all played out the "what if I won the lottery" fantasy in our heads, there have been enough news stories and TLC reality shows that have shown us exactly what happened to real people who won real lotteries that a fictional version may not hold that much viewer appeal. But the network's preview clip during its upfront presentation did grab our attention and make us want to know more about the new millionaire characters.
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Drama)
Stars: Clark Gregg ("The Avengers") as Agent Phil Coulson, Ming-Na Wen ("ER") as soldier and martial artist Melinda May, Brett Dalton ("Killing Lincoln") as combat and spy expert Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet ("Nashville") as computer hacker Skye, Iain De Caestecker ("Coronation Street") as tech genius Leo Fitz, and Elizabeth Henstridge ("Hollyoaks") as biochemist and science whiz Gemma Simmons
Producer: Joss Whedon
Plot: It's the TV version of "The Avengers," as Agent Phil Coulson leads a team whose mission is to protect the world from "the new, the strange, and the unknown secrets of our world."
First Impression: It's the series nearly everyone is excited about for next season, and if anyone can make a superhero show a hit, it's Whedon.
"Mind Games" (Drama -- Midseason)
Stars: Christian Slater, Steve Zahn, Megalyn Echikunwoke ("Made in Jersey"), Cedric Sanders ("Bones"), Gregory Marcel ("Anger Management"), Sunny Mabrey ("The Client List"), and Wynn Everett ("The Newsroom")
Producer: Kyle Killen ("Awake" and "Lone Star")
Plot: Zahn and Slater are brothers -- one a bipolar former professor and the other an ex-con -- who run a business in which they solve their clients' problems "using the hard science of psychological manipulation."
First Impression: They lost us at "hard science of psychological manipulation" but may have won us back with this line from ABC's official series description: "It's a little bit science, a little bit con artistry plus a smattering of Jedi mind tricks." Plus, it would be great to see someone finally figure out how to tailor a show to take full advantage of having Christian Slater on TV.
"Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" (Drama)
Stars: John Lithgow, Sophie Lowe, Emma Rigby, Michael Socha ("Being Human"), and Peter Gadiot
Producers: "Once Upon a Time" producers Adam Horowitz, Jane Espenson, Steve Pearlman and Edward Kitsis, and Zack Estrin ("Zero Hour")
Plot: It's a "Once Upon a Time" spinoff, as told through the eyes of Alice (of "in Wonderland" fame).
First Impression: "Once Upon a Time" fans will have a lot to love next fall, though we wonder if it wouldn't have been a better idea for ABC to air the original series half the year and the spin-off the other half.
NEXT: Preview the new comedies from Wilson and Caan, and see ABC's full fall 2013 schedule.
"Resurrection" (Drama -- Midseason)
Stars: Frances Fisher ("Titanic" and "Touch"), Omar Epps ("House"), Kurtwood Smith ("That '70s Show"), Samaire Armstrong ("The O.C."), Devin Kelley ("Covert Affairs"), Landon Gimenez, Mark Hildreth ("V"), Matt Craven ("NCIS"), and Nicholas Gonzalez ("Off the Map")
Producers: Aaron Zelman ("The Killing"), Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner ("World War Z"), JoAnn Alfano ("30 Rock"), Jon Liebman ("Ringer"), Charles McDougall ("House of Cards"), and some dude named Brad Pitt (of "Brangelina" fame)
Plot: In the tiny town of Arcadia, Missouri, the citizenry is shocked when Jacob, an eight-year-old boy who (supposedly) drowned 30 years ago, shows up on his parents' doorstep with knowledge of the family and the drowning accident that no one else could possibly know. "The child's return will have everyone questioning faith, miracles and the supernatural. When other mysterious strangers start to arrive in Arcadia, we come to know that Jacob is not the only one," the official series description reads.
First Impression: ABC's upfront preview clip was so intriguing that we wished the series were premiering this summer. And yes, Arcadia is a real town (with a population of less than a thousand people).
"Back in the Game" (Comedy)
Stars: James Caan, Maggie Lawson ("Psych"), Lenora Crichlow ("Being Human"), Griffin Gluck ("Private Practice"), and Ben Koldyke ("How I Met Your Mother")
Producers: Mark and Robb Cullen ("Vegas"), John Requa and Glenn Ficarra ("Bad Santa"), and Aaron Kaplan ("The Neighbors")
Plot: A recently divorced softball player (Lawson), who vowed to leave her family's baseball obsession behind, moves in with her gruff, beer-chugging former baseball player father (Caan) and begins coaching her son's Little League team.
First Impression: ABC's preview clip featured a funny bit with Caan smashing the windshield of a man whose son he thought was tormenting his grandson, but grumpy James Caan alone does not a watchable sitcom make.
"The Goldbergs" (Comedy)
Stars: Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Wendi McLendon-Covey ("Reno 911!"), George Segal, Hayley Orrantia ("The X Factor"), Sean Giambrone, and Troy Gentile ("Hawthorne")
Producer: Adam Goldberg ("Community")
Plot: In this series, set in the 1980s, Garlin and McLendon-Covey are the parents of three kids, including an 11-year-old who records the family action on a video camera. Mom yells a lot, Dad yells a lot, and Segal is the fam's grandpa, "a shameless Don Juan" who drives a sports car.
First Impression: We're suckers for anything with an '80s soundtrack, and the upfront preview clip suggests that this quirky but sweet family comedy would make a nice pairing with "Modern Family."
"Mixology" (Comedy -- Midseason)
Stars: Vanessa Lengies ("Glee"), Blake Lee ("Parks and Recreation"), Andrew Santino ("The Office"), Kate Simses ("Wedding Band"), Adam Campbell ("Touch"), Craig Frank ("2 Broke Girls"), Alexis Carra ("The Mentalist"), Sarah Bolger ("Once Upon a Time"), Ginger Gonzaga ("Legit"), and Adan Canto ("The Following")
Producers: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore ("The Hangover"), and Ryan Seacrest; pilot directed by Larry Charles ("Seinfeld")
Plot: "One bar. One night. 10 single people" ... the series follows the action in a trendy Meatpacking District bar in NYC, where, over the course of the season, 10 people looking for love will meet, with each episode focusing on the meeting of two characters. "Will they find love? Will they find a warm bed for the night? Will they find a cold drink in their face? All questions will be answered by the season finale," according to the show description.
First Impression: Comedy set in a bar? That's been done successfully before, and this modern, high-concept spin has potential. ABC's upfront preview clip was a little underwhelming, but we're still hopeful about the concept.
"Super Fun Night" (Comedy)
Stars: Rebel Wilson ("Pitch Perfect" and "Bridesmaids"), Ashley Tisdale ("High School Musical"), Lauren Ash ("Lost Girl"), Liza Lapira ("Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23"), Kelen Coleman ("The Newsroom"), and Kevin Bishop
Producers: Conan O'Brien, John Riggi ("30 Rock"), David Kissinger and Jeff Ross ("Eagleheart"), and Rebel Wilson
Plot: Junior lawyer Kimmie (Wilson) just got promoted, which may make it difficult for her to continue her long-running Friday-night get-togethers with her high school BFFs, who were not considered to be the cool kids.
First Impression: If you are immune to the charms of Rebel Wilson, this is probably not the new fall comedy for you. And ABC's upfront preview suggests that a lot of people might become immune to her charms.
"Trophy Wife" (Comedy)
Stars: Malin Akerman ("Suburgatory"), Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing"), Marcia Gay Harden ("Damages"), Ryan Lee ("Workaholics"), Natalie Morales ("90210"), and Michaela Watkins ("Saturday Night Live")
Producers: Emily Halpern ("Private Practice"), Lee Eisenberg ("The Office"), and Gene Stupnitsky ("The Office")
Plot: Former party girl Kate (Akerman) becomes the third wife of Pete (Whitford) and has to get used to her new life with three stepchildren and his two ex-wives (Harden and Watkins).
First Impression: We're kinda dreading the inevitable jokes about how Pete's teenage daughter hates her new stepmom, while his teenage son drools over dad's hot young wife. The network's upfront preview clip did, in fact, include jokes about her breasts.
"The Quest" (Reality -- Midseason)
Stars: No host has been announced yet.
Producers: Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri ("The Amazing Race"), Mark Ordesky and Jane Fleming (Court Five), and executive producers Rob Eric and Michael Williams
Plot: The reality adventure series features 12 contestants in a "fantastic world" called Everealm that will come alive in a "unique competition series where players will engage in epic challenges. Fantasy meets reality when one player emerges as a real-life hero."
First Impression: "The Amazing Race" meets "Lord of the Rings" ... that almost sounds like a reality experience for which ABC could charge the contestants.
ABC 2013-14 SCHEDULE
(All times ET)
8 PM -- "Dancing With the Stars"
10 PM -- "Castle"
8 PM -- "Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D."
9 PM -- "The Goldbergs"
9:30 PM -- "Trophy Wife"
10 PM -- "Lucky 7"
8 PM -- "The Middle"
8:30 PM -- "Back in the Game"
9 PM -- "Modern Family"
9:30 PM -- "Super Fun Night"
10 PM -- "Nashville"
8 PM -- "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland"
9 PM -- "Grey's Anatomy"
10 PM -- "Scandal"
8 PM -- "Last Man Standing"
8:30 PM -- "The Neighbors"
9 PM -- "Shark Tank"
10 PM -- "20/20"
8 PM -- "Saturday Night College Football"
7 PM -- "America's Funniest Home Videos"
8 PM -- "Once Upon a Time"
9 PM -- "Revenge"
10 PM -- "Betrayal"