By David Bauder
NEW YORK — ABC plans to launch a comedy night on Wednesdays this fall with familiar sitcom stars Kelsey Grammer, Courteney Cox, Patricia Heaton and Ed O’Neill in new series with roles suited to the times.
The network said it will have 11 new series next season. Under entertainment chief Stephen McPherson, ABC has been the most aggressive network in launching new series and will keep trying even though many new ones have failed in the past few months.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but innovative, different and compelling is going to be the key,” McPherson said Tuesday. ABC is the third-most-popular network behind CBS and Fox, and its viewership declined by 3 percent this season.
Sitcom mainstay Grammer leads “Hank,” playing a corporate titan who’s been laid off. Heaton, who co-starred with Grammer in a short-lived Fox comedy after her best-known role on “Everybody Loves Raymond” finished, plays the wife and mother of an Indiana family trying to survive tough times.
Former “Friends” star Cox is on the prowl in “Cougar Town,” playing a newly single woman learning the new rules of dating in a youth-obsessed culture.
Christina Applegate’s “Samantha Who?” is the highest-profile existing series to be canceled. For the second time in two incarnations, “Cupid” didn’t make it to a second season on ABC.
O’Neill, best known as the harried dad in Fox’s “Married ... With Children,” takes on another TV family in “Modern Family.” In the style of “The Office,” this looks at a family from the perspective of an unseen documentarian.
Ubiquitous producer Mark Burnett will make his first series for ABC, “Shark Tank,” where budding entrepreneurs try to convince five millionaires to seed their business ideas.
The new dramas include “East-wick,” an adaptation of the movie “The Witches of Eastwick”; “The Deep End,” which follows four young lawyers joining a cutthroat firm; “Flash Forward,” a sci-fi series where people black out and get a glimpse of their future; “The Forgotten,” a Jerry Bruckheimer procedural on trying to piece together the stories of missing persons; “Happy Town,” about a Minnesota town that was plagued by kidnappings; and “V,” a remake of a 1980s era miniseries about aliens confronting humans.
McPherson said NBC’s decision to run Jay Leno each weeknight at 10 p.m. gives his network and CBS an opportunity to make inroads with dramas.
“Scrubs” will return for a second season at ABC after departing NBC, although star Zach Braff’s full involvement is unclear. McPherson also said ABC would be very interested in picking up CBS’ “The New Adventures of Old Christine” if CBS doesn’t go forward with it.