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ABC looks to more nighttime soaps for fall

By Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — ABC is doubling down on nighttime soaps in its bid to get out of third place.

The network of “Revenge” and “Scandal” announced that it will add new shows such as “666 Park Avenue,” about the machinations at an upscale and possibly haunted New York apartment building, and “Nashville,” centering on the scheming among country-music stars and Nashville politicians.

Starring Rachael Taylor, “666” will premiere on Sunday nights at 10 p.m., following “Revenge,” which is moving from Wednesdays to a coveted Sunday slot in an effort to build an evening of soapy drama on the competitive night.

“Sunday night will be a battle between good and evil from 8 all the way to 11,” Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment, told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday, alluding also to the first show of that bloc, the fairy-tale-themed “Once Upon a Time.” “Nashville” will air in “Revenge’s” old slot on Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

It will debut its more male-oriented new hourlong drama, Shawn Ryan’s military-themed “Last Resort,” earlier in the evening at 8 p.m.

Overall, the network, which this season will finish ahead of only NBC in the ratings race among the four major networks, picked up 10 new shows, including a host of new comedies.

Among them is “Neighbors,” a show from “Crazy, Stupid, Love” screenwriter Dan Fogelman about what happens when a couple moves into a new home and realizes some of the other homeowners are aliens; the series will air in the prized slot behind network powerhouse “Modern Family” at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

ABC has also signed up midseason comedies such as the Brad Garrett-starring “How to Live With Your Parents (for the rest of your life)” and the Mark Gordon-produced “The Family Tools.”

The Disney-owned network is also shifting around existing comedies. It’s moving “Happy Endings” out of its Wednesday 9:30 p.m. slot in the hope it can kick off a one-two punch of comedy on Tuesday, when it will air at 9 p.m., followed by this year’s freshman series “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23.”

Though those comedies might seem like an odd fit with “Private Practice” at 10 p.m., Lee said that the social media component will help drive viewership. “The (‘Endings’ and ‘Trust’) light up the Twitter feeds and Facebook every time they go on…(so) it’s a great lead-in for the upscale ‘Private Practice,’” he said.

Finally, the network hopes that Friday night can become a destination for a particular kind of comedy once again, and is moving Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” to that night when it premieres in November, and putting the new Reba McEntire-Lily Tomlin country-music comedy “Malibu Country” behind it.

“It’s time for Friday night to be a destination again for broad family entertainment,” Lee said, referring to the network’s ‘90s-era period of “Family Matters” and its successful T.G.I.F programming bloc.

Lee also announced that “Dancing With the Stars” will inaugurate an all-star show that will bring back past favorite contestants, but declined to identify them at this point.

ABC has been facing added heat from NBC, whose ratings have picked up in the past year.

Lee downplayed the question of NBC heat. “All ships should rise … I think that’s good for broadcast,” then added that, “When you take sports out of it we’re a very strong third behind CBS and Fox,” he said, “and we’re going to continue to press.”

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