ABC (a subsidiary of Disney (NYSE:DIS)) has not had a lot of luck in 2014 with its midseason programming. So far it's launched four new shows and none has really caught on. This Sunday the network will debut Resurrection, the first of its final two new dramas from the previous development cycle, and then hope that it fares better than some its recent predecessors.
Back to life
Resurrection has always been the strongest of the net's 2014 midseason slate as it's the one with the most crossover appeal. The drama centers on a small Missouri town that gets rocked when residents' deceased loved ones start coming back to life. Now this isn't like The Walking Dead -- the returnees come back exactly as they were before they died, just clueless as to where they've been and how much time has passed.
The problem with a show like this is that people don't like talking about death, even if the deceased are coming back to life. The drama's campaign, while clever, heavily focuses on the first resurrected person ... an 8-year-boy who died 32 years ago. That can scare off viewers who may see the ad and turn it off before realizing this is supposed to be an uplifting series. Yet if people actually watch the show and give it a chance, it's entirely possible it has enough of a hook to keep audiences coming back.
Resurrection is going to air Sundays at 9 p.m. EST and serve as a bridge between family friendly fantasy series Once Upon a Time and the sudster Revenge, which shifts an hour to 10 p.m. where it will be free to go darker and push more boundaries. The benefit Resurrection is going to have here is that it's bookended with original episodes of two established series, each making its return after a long hiatus. Audiences will primed for those new batches of episodes and the hope is that they watch all the way through and keep watching as the weeks go on.
So far ABC has bowed The Assets, Killer Women, Mind Games, and Mixology in 2014. The odds are very strong few if any of them will be back in the future as three of the four have seen their 18-49 demographic fall below a 1.0 rating (aka, the danger zone). While Mixology held fairly steady in its second week and has maintained (so far) a healthier 1.7 demo rating, it lost a large share of its plum Modern Family lead-in, which is not encouraging. It also ranks fourth in viewers in its timeslot, topping only the similarly in danger The Tomorrow People on The CW.
As a result, Resurrection becomes a very important show for ABC. Every midseason for the past few years, executives have come away with at least one new viable series that they feel can be a utility player for them in the coming season. Last year it was The Taste, the year prior it was Scandal, and the year before that it was Body of Proof. It doesn't always have to be a megahit (or even last past its sophomore run), but it is a necessity for a healthy business model.
Networks need back-ups in queue and to ABC's credit, it knows that and usually orders more series than any of its rivals. Yet being prepared doesn't help if nobody watches the series.
Out of the box
Following Resurrection, ABC has one card left to play in Black Box. Yet this wasn't always the plan, as the timeslot opening is coming out of necessity and not by design. Scandal star Kerry Washington is pregnant with her first child and the series had to cut its order back from 22 episodes to 18 episodes as a result of her due date being very soon.
Likely executives would have preferred to use Box as a summer series where it would have launched alongside established shows Rookie Blue, Motive, and Wipeout. Now the medical drama starring British actress Kelly Reilly, screen legend Vanessa Redgrave, and Oz star Terry Kinney will have the unenviable task of trying to fill Scandal's shoes in the final vital weeks of the season.