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ABC loads fall schedule with comedies

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NEW YORK — Add ABC to the list of broadcast networks loading up on comedy next season.

In addition to its successful Wednesday comedy block, the network will launch another block on Tuesdays and will resurrect its Friday family comedy block, last seen during ABC’s “TGIF” days.

A new comedy about aliens — seems they’ve snapped up all the real estate in a gated New Jersey community — won the lottery for the coveted post-“Modern Family” time period Wednesday. And Tim Allen’s returning “Last Man Standing” will be paired with the new Reba McEntire sitcom, “Malibu Country,” to jump-start the Friday comedies push.

Meanwhile, the sophomore soap “Revenge” is the heir to the defunct “Desperate Housewives” 9 p.m. time slot Sunday — the most-watched night of the week. “Revenge” will be sandwiched between the returning fairy-tale horror drama “Once Upon a Time” and a new Faustian soap about an evil Upper East Side residential building, to get a whole Good vs. Evil thing going on that night.

And on Mondays in the fall — against NBC’s returning singing competition “The Voice” — ABC’s going to take it up a notch with an all-star edition of “Dancing With the Stars.” ABC programming chief Paul Lee did not name names, saying it’s still casting.

On Tuesday, ABC will move the “Dancing” results show to 8 p.m. to make room for “an incredibly inappropriate comedy block at 9,” Lee told reporters in a phone conference call Tuesday, a few hours before he was scheduled to unveil his new schedule to advertisers at Lincoln Center.

And by “incredibly inappropriate comedy,” Lee explained that he meant “two of my favorite shows” — “Happy Endings” and “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.”

If you think this move sounds suspiciously like NBC’s Monday announcement that it will move its Tuesday “Voice” results show to 8 next season — to make room at 9 for a new two-comedy block (Matthew Perry’s “Go On” and Ryan Murphy’s “The New Normal”) — you go to the head of the class.

Anyway, both Incredibly Inappropriate Comedies previously enjoyed the cushy time slot after “Modern Family.” Lee thinks those shows will survive the move because both have “passionate, rabid fanbases” and “light up Twitter and Facebook every time they go on.”

And come January, when “Dancing” is resting — and “The Voice” is not — ABC (unlike NBC) will be able to grow its two-comedy Tuesday block into a four-comedy Tuesday block from 8 to 10 p.m.

ABC will add two midseason comedies: the much-ballyhooed Sarah Chalke/Brad Garrett/Elizabeth Perkins vehicle, “How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)” — the highest-testing show title of the year, Lee said — and “The Family Tools,” about a guy who’s failed at every career move and now takes over Dad’s handyman business. That arrangement presumably continues until “Dancing” picks up again in March.

And that new our-neighbors-are-aliens comedy, “The Neighbors,” is the creation of Dan Fogelman of “Crazy Stupid Love” fame. Lee pointed out that Fogelman movie credit by way of noting how many film creative types he’d snagged for ABC’s lineup next season.

Lee also noted that “Nashville” — the show that follows “The Neighbors” at 10 p.m. Wednesdays — hails from Callie Khouri (who wrote “Thelma and Louise”) and will be directed by “documentarian R.J. Cutler.”

Yet “Nashville” does not also star McEntire. Instead, it stars Connie Britton as a country-singing legend whose popularity is waning and whose record label wants to send her on tour with a disrespectful, untalented little vixen who is considered the future of country music and who is played by Hayden Panettiere.

On Thursday, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” are returning, but the night will begin with a new drama called “Last Resort” from Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”).

“Last Resort” is about a U.S. ballistic missile submarine that receives orders — over a radio channel intended to be used only if the country has been wiped out — to fire nuclear weapons at Pakistan. When the captain demands confirmation, he’s sacked; when his replacement demands confirmation, the sub is fired upon and winds up crippled on the ocean floor. Naturally, the two sacked sub leaders decide their best bet is to take the sub and its crew to an exotic island, where they will find refuge, romance and a chance at a new life.

When one TV critic on the conference call wondered whether this should actually air at 8 p.m., Lee reminded her that “Lost” started as an 8 p.m. drama. Lee also noted that “Last Resort” “tested extremely well with women — as well, if not better than with men.”

That reminded us of a funny story, about the time Ryan was running Fox’s drama series “Lie to Me” — which bore an eerie resemblance to CBS’s “The Mentalist,” though it was not doing nearly so well in the ratings. When we tried to discuss that with Ryan at a press tour gathering, his upper lip curled ever so slightly, and he said he guessed that because we are a chick, we couldn’t resist “Mentalist” star Simon Baker’s smile and wouldn’t understand or appreciate what he was doing with “Lie to Me.”

Glad he’s now in a position to appreciate what a large female audience can do for a show.

After the crush of fall launches, ABC in November will move “Last Man Standing” to 8 p.m. Fridays, followed by the new “Malibu Country” at 8:30 and the reality series “Shark Tank” at 9; “Primetime: What Would You Do?” will air at 10.

“I think it’s time for Friday night to be a destination again for broad family entertainment,” said Lee, adding that Allen and McEntire are the stars who can do it. “Shark Tank,” in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to millionaires (think Mark Cuban) in hopes they will bankroll the scheme, is the perfect fit for a night of broad family entertainment, Lee insisted, because families will watch it together.

Sunday’s new player, 10 p.m.’s “666 Park Avenue,” is based on the book series by Gabriella Pierce. It’s about an idealistic young couple (that’s Hollywood code for “from the Midwest”) who do not realize they are making a Faustian contract when they’re hired to manage a Park Avenue residential building that has a “mysterious owner” (that’s code for “from the cast of ‘Lost,’ ” — such as, say, Terry O’Quinn) who is married to a woman prone to “machinations” (that’s code for “vixen from some previous ABC soap, such as ‘Ugly Betty’ or ‘Desperate Housewives’ ” — such as, say, Vanessa Williams). Nasty, mysterious things start to happen.

Waiting on the bench, ABC has ordered a midseason drama about mistresses that stars Alyssa Milano; another drama about a woman who’s husband is brutally murdered by the mob, “Red Widow”; and another about a paranormal geek whose wife is abducted from her clock shop, which pulls him into some centuries-old clock mystery.

Kimmel ‘kills’

“How many times do I have to tell you this is [b-------]?” Jimmy Kimmel asked a Lincoln Center hall jammed with advertisers Tuesday. “We don’t know what we are doing. We have no idea what people want to see. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

“Remember last year, that [cross-dressing guys] show, ‘Work It’? You know we were kidding about that. That was a joke. The fact that [the British] Paul Lee greenlit that should tell you everything you need to know about what Brits think about us.”

For years, late-night host Kimmel has done a seventh-inning stretch performance during ABC’s unveiling of its new schedule — and it’s generally the highlight of the week for advertisers. Here are some of the highlights from Tuesday:

●Kimmel on NBC’s new schedule: “Spinning chairs and a monkey. This truly is The Golden Age of Television.”

●Kimmel on Fox: “No one knows talent like Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. I feel bad for Paula Abdul. She paved the way. She never got $15 million. She’s the Rosa Parks of bipolar talent show judges. And we must never forget her.”

●Kimmel on CBS: “Raise your hand if you ever said to anyone, ‘Did you see what happened last night on ‘NCIS’? It’s never been said.”

“Jimmy Kimmel — he will be missed,” Lee quipped as Kimmel left the stage.

‘Talent’ dips with Stern

About 10.48 million people tuned in to watch Howard Stern’s debut on the NBC competition series “America’s Got Talent” Monday night.

Last year, when the show debuted later in May, on a Tuesday, it clocked 15.3 million viewers.

That’s about a 32 percent plunge.

Among the 18- to 49-year-old viewers who are the currency of NBC ad sales, Stern’s “Talent” season kickoff clocked a 3.7 rating. That means slightly under 4 percent of the country’s viewers in that age bracket tuned in.

Last year’s debut had a 4.3 rating. That’s a 14 percent drop.

Last year’s season debut aired the Tuesday after Memorial Day. The May “sweep” ratings derby had ended by then, and “Talent” faced mostly rerun programming on the other broadcast networks.

This year, armed with Stern, “Talent” debuted in the teeth of the penultimate performance night of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” as well as the season debut of “The Bachelorette.”

Stern’s unveiling also faced off against the one-hour season finale of CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” — which had been enjoying one of its stronger seasons — as well as original episodes of CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” and “Mike and Molly.”

The “Talent” debut also competed for viewers with the season finale of Fox’s “Bones” and the penultimate episode of Hugh Laurie’s long-running doc drama, “House.”

The moral of this story? Howard Stern is not, as NBC said on”Talent,” the King of All Media, and the network made a mistake when it bought its own hype and scheduled Stern’s “Talent” debut for Monday.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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