The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes on ABC's and NBC's 2009-10 Prime-Time Lineups

Courteney Cox in
Courteney Cox in "Cougar Town," part of ABC's Wednesday night lineup of new shows. (By Michael Desmond -- Abc)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dispatches from the second day of Broadcast TV Upfront Week:

NEW YORK, May 19

ABC thinks it can mount an entirely new Wednesday-night lineup of four new comedies and a new drama.

Meanwhile, NBC has returned "Law & Order" for a 20th season, but has canceled "My Name Is Earl" and "Medium" because they were "aging as we were getting younger," according to its entertainment division co-chairman, Ben Silverman.

The second day of Broadcast TV Upfront Week was a real doozy, both for advertisers and for The Reporters Who Cover Television. Fortunately, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel showed up at his network's presentation Tuesday afternoon to boil it all down: "Every year we lie to you and every year you come back for more. You don't need an Upfront -- you need therapy."

A new Mark Burnett reality series, "Shark Tank," seems very out of step with the times -- average Joes will beg five tough "multimillionaire tycoons" for money to help start new business schemes. "Shark" will try to fill the gaping hole left by the demise of "According to Jim" on Tuesday nights at 8.

This time, "Jim" is really most sincerely dead, ABC programming chief Steve McPherson swore, on the record, in response to journalists' grilling on the subject.

A new Jerry Bruckheimer procedural, "The Forgotten," gets one of ABC's best time slots: Tuesdays at 10 after the "Dancing With the Stars" results show. "The Forgotten" is about a group of non-pros who solve cold murder cases.

ABC's Thursday is coming back intact between 9 and 11 p.m. But at 8, there's the network's other fave new show, "Flash Forward." It's a drama in which everyone has blacked out for several seconds, had a multi-minute vision from April 29, 2010, and will then spend several seasons trying to figure out what it all means. I know -- here we go again.

"Ugly Betty," which once owned the first hour of ABC's Thursdays, has been shipped to Fridays at 9, where, McPherson said, he hopes it will do "Ghost Whisperer"-like business. And most ambitiously, or crazily, ABC is pitching an all-new Wednesday to advertisers on the belief that viewers will flock to four sitcoms populated with the pre-sold faces of Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Ed O'Neill and Courteney Cox -- and a "Witches of Eastwick" remake.

Grammer is a former titan of industry who loses his job and most of his money and has to move himself and family back to his middle-class, Middle American neighborhood in "Hank." Heaton is the middle-class wife and mom of three, living in the middle of Indiana in Middle America in "The Middle." O'Neill is the patriarch of a large brood in the mockumentary "Modern Family" -- a show ABC's so keen on that it screened the entire pilot, which played well to Madison Avenue.

In "Cougar Town," Cox plays a recently divorced single mom grappling with 40-dom as a singleton. And "Eastwick" is based on the flick "The Witches of Eastwick," which was based on the John Updike novel. This latest interpretation has a sort "Desperate Lipstick Housewives Jungle" vibe.

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