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Sunday, March 3, 2013

WEEKEND REWIND: ABC 2004-05 Season

ABC had been through several rough years since Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had imploded after being all over their schedule. ABC's schedule was littered with cheap reality filler, modestly rated sitcoms, and failed dramas. But the 2004-05 season changed all that as ABC struck gold when four different shows exploded and several others saw a season two. It was the most successful freshman season ABC has seen in a very long time (and probably since) and it put ABC back on the map.

(Sep 20-Oct 25)
8:00 The Benefactor
9:00 Monday Night Football

(Nov 1-Dec 27)
8:00 Various Programming
9:00 Monday Night Football

(Jan 10-Feb 28)
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (encores)
9:00 The Bachelorette
10:00 Supernanny (starting Jan 17)

(Mar 7-May 9)
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (encores)
9:00 The Bachelor (starting Mar 28)
10:00 Supernanny (through May 2)
One of ABC's failed attempts in a pretty good season came on Monday nights in that dreaded pre-Monday Night Football slot which hadn't worked with any regularity since MacGyver. The Benefactor which was an Apprentice-type show featuring Mark Cuban. It was far less successful than Cuban's current ABC show Shark Tank and it was one of the lowest rated shows of the season. The show was cancelled after just a few weeks and replaced by specials until football ended. When football ended, a new reality lineup took over with repeats of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Bachelorette then The Bachelor, and Supernanny. The Bachelorette was cancelled until it was revived in 2009 but Supernanny became one of ABC's several modestly successful reality shows during the decade.

(Sep 25-Mar 1)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 George Lopez
9:00 According to Jim
9:30 Rodney (through Feb 15)
10:00 NYPD Blue

(Mar 8-May 17)
8:00 My Wife and Kids
8:30 George Lopez
9:00 According to Jim
9:30 Rodney (Mar 22-Apr 26)
10:00 Blind Justice
ABC stuck with a comedy block on Tuesdays but only According to Jim returned to the night as My Wife and Kids moved over from Wednesday and George Lopez moved over from Friday. They were paired with the new Rodney to make a full block of family sitcoms led by the Dad of the family. This lineup stayed together all year but wasn't all that successful. My Wife and Kids was cancelled after five modestly rated seasons at the end of the year. The other three shows were renewed but George Lopez and Rodney probably shouldn't have been. ABC was just very thin with comedies even as the rest of their lineup improved. At 10pm for most of the season was NYPD Blue in its final season. The show had been ABC's one smash hit drama in the 1990s and 2000s but now with three new dramas breaking out in the 2004-05 season, NYPD Blue became less essential. It was also well past its prime and slipping in the ratings. It was the right time to end this show after 12 acclaimed seasons and a cherished spot in TV drama history. When it ended, it was replaced by Blind Justice, a new Steven Bochco drama that was intended to be the heir to Blue. Starring Ron Eldard as a blind police detective, the show only lasted 12 episodes as opposed to Blue's 12 years.

(Sep 22-Nov 17)
8:00 Lost
9:00 The Bachelor
10:00 Wife Swap (starting Sep 29)

(Dec 1-29)
8:00 Lost
9:00 Various Programming
10:00 Wife Swap

(Jan 5-Mar 23)
8:00 Lost
9:00 Alias
10:00 Wife Swap

(Mar 30-May 18)
8:00 Lost
9:00 Alias
10:00 Eyes (through Apr 27)
Wednesdays were changed in a big way in 2004-05 with the arrival at Lost. The mysterious island serial drama with a huge cast became one of the most talked about shows in years and revitalized ABC. The much revered first season was a huge hit with audiences and critics, winning the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy at the end of the season. Of course each subsequent season lost some people who gave up with the mythology but Lost really revolutionized TV dramas and there have been countless attempts to be the "next Lost" over the years. The rest of the night started with reality shows The Bachelor and the new Wife Swap, another decent performing reality show like Supernanny. In January, The Bachelor franchise moved off the night and Alias came back after taking the fall off. The show was falling apart the season before but airing behind Lost helped it gain viewers in its fourth season and get another year. Finally at the end of the season, ABC tried to make it a night full of dramas with the premiere of Eyes, with Tim Daly leading a team of unorthodox crime solvers. Three hours of drama rarely work and this was no exception as Eyes was cancelled after five episodes. But it was no worry to ABC, Lost was here to stay.

(Sep 23-Dec 16)
8:00 Extreme Makeover
9:00 Life as We Know It (starting Oct 7)
10:00 Primetime Thursday

(Jan 6-27)
8:00 Life as We Know It (through Jan 20)
9:00 Extreme Makeover
10:00 Primetime Thursday

(Feb 3-Mar 10)
8:00 Various Programming
10:00 Primetime Thursday

(Mar 17-Apr 21)
8:00 Jake in Progress
8:30 Jake in Progress
9:00 Extreme Makeover (starting Mar 31)
10:00 Primetime Thursday
"Jake in Progress"
ABC was having a better fall but there were problems on Thursdays as usual. The season started with Extreme Makeover at 8pm and Life as We Know It at 9pm. Makeover was fading in the ratings and flipped between the 8pm & 9pm slot before finally getting cancelled. Its spinoff on Sundays, the Home Edition version, was far more successful though the parent show aired a few more specials in subsequent years but never returned as a weekly series. Life as We Know It was a teen drama featuring Kelly Osbourne among others. The angsty teen drama was perhaps another attempt by ABC to make amends for My So-Called Life but this show didn't have much critical buzz and was cancelled at midseason. In March, ABC tried to air sitcoms on the night for the first time since the 1992-93 season with the new Jake in Progress, a single camera comedy starring John Stamos and Wendie Malick. The show struggled but ABC gave it a second season for the winter of 2006. However, it aired only one episode the next season before being cancelled. ABC aired double episodes of Jake because it didn't really fit with their Tuesday or Friday comedies. All season long, Primetime Thursday continued to air at 10pm.

(Sep 24-Jan 21)
8:00 8 Simple Rules
8:30 Complete Savages
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Less Than Perfect
10:00 20/20

(Jan 28-Apr 15)
8:00 8 Simple Rules
8:30 8 Simple Rules (encores)
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Less Than Perfect
10:00 20/20

(Apr 22-May 13)
8:00 America's Funniest Home Videos (encores)
9:00 Hope & Faith
9:30 Hope & Faith (encores)
10:00 20/20
"Complete Savages"
For a second year, ABC tried to recapture the magic of TGIF with a comedy lineup but it was unsuccessful again. At 8pm, 8 Simple Rules moved over from Tuesday. The show had been dealt quite a blow the year before with the death of series star John Ritter and that probably shortened its run. The show was cancelled at the end of the season after just three years. At 8:30pm was the new Complete Savages. Executive produced by Mel Gibson (who guest starred at times), Savages starred Keith Carradine as a single dad of five sons. The show was in the vein of many of ABC's Friday night sitcoms but it didn't do well and was cancelled at midseason and replaced by 8 Simple Rules repeats. At 9pm was Hope & Faith (which added a young Megan Fox to the cast) and season three of Less Than Perfect. The 9pm hour did a little bit better and managed to get another year (Perfect at midseason). Hope & Faith returned to Fridays but the two hour block of sitcoms was done and has not returned since. Perfect was probably renewed due to the syndication rule that has allowed so many undeserving sitcoms get a fourth season and become more suitable for syndication. All season long, 20/20 aired at 10pm.

8:00 Saturday Night Movie/Various Programming
Saturday nights were filled mostly with movies with some occasional specials, sports, and encores.

(Sep 26-Mar 20)
7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 Desperate Housewives (starting Oct 3)
10:00 Boston Legal

(Mar 27-May 22)
7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 Desperate Housewives
10:00 Grey's Anatomy
"Desperate Housewives"
Just like Wednesday nights, Sunday nights were revitalized thanks to a breakout show. But top to bottom, this became the strongest night ABC assembled in years. And then at midseason it got even stronger. To begin the night, America's Funniest Home Videos and the popular Extreme Makeover: Home Edition occupied the 8pm slot. At 9pm, ABC premiered the new dramedy Desperate Housewives. Just like Lost, the show became a hugely popular show with tons of buzz and acclaim. In fact, it outperformed Lost to be the most popular ABC show since Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The show was a huge pop culture success and had a very successful eight year run. At 10pm to start the season was Boston Legal, a spinoff of The Practice. It was dwarfed by Housewives but worth noting that it was a huge improvement over the final years of The Practice. It settled into a solid but unspectacular run. Then in March, ABC premiered a new medical drama Grey's Anatomy, which became nearly as big a hit as Housewives in a shortened first season. Grey's was a the biggest breakout medical drama since ER and remains a cornerstone on ABC's lineup. The success of Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy this season shows what a really strong development season can do for a network. ABC was back in business and built to be competitive in the long run because they had successful scripted programming and not a reality/game show that would burn out fast like Millionaire. The 2004-05 ABC season is legendary for development and each network tries to get something like that with multiple shows that turn a network's fortunes around just like that. On top of all this success, ABC added a reality competition in the summer of 2005 - a little show called Dancing with the Stars that became huge and gave them a tentpole reality show to go with all their hot new scripted shows. This year was very kind to ABC after several wasteland years.

ABC 2004-05 Stats

Shows in the Top 30
4. Desperate Housewives
9. Grey's Anatomy
12. Monday Night Football
14. Lost
15. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
27. Boston Legal 

Fall Shows Survival: 5/8 (63%)
Rodney, Lost, Wife Swap, Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal

Midseason Shows Survival: 3/5 (60%)
Supernanny, Jake in Progress, Grey's Anatomy

Total New Shows Survival Rate: 8/13 (62%)

Cancelled/Ended Shows: 
NYPD Blue (12 season)
My Wife and Kids (5 seasons)
8 Simple Rules/The Bachelorette/Extreme Makeover (3 seasons)
The Benefactor/Complete Savages/Life as We Know It/Blind Justice/Eyes (1 season)

Emmy Award Nominees & Winners (Major Categories)
Lost (WINNER, Outstanding Drama Series)
Desperate Housewives (Nominee, Outstanding Comedy Series)
James Spader, Boston Legal (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series)
Jennifer Garner, Alias (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
William Shatner, Boston Legal (WINNER, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Naveen Andrews, Lost (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Terry O'Quinn, Lost (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)

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