Last month, ABC took the unusual step of forgoing a fall schedule given the continued uncertainty around when production will be able to resume due to Covid-19. Instead, the network announced its slate for the 2020-21 broadcast season, but did not specify when those shows would actually air.
While production remains shut down, the network has now set its schedule—though as is the case with its broadcast rivals, it remains unclear when any of these shows will actually be able to air.
Among the network’s biggest moves this fall: ABC is airing The Bachelorette on Tuesday instead of Monday, a shift that also relocates The Conners, its No. 1 comedy, from Tuesday to Wednesday—and leaves Black-ish and spinoff Mixed-ish on the bench until midseason.
UPDATE: Two days after unveiling its schedule, ABC reversed course, and opted to bring back Black-ish in the fall.
Dancing With the Stars will return on Mondays, leading into The Good Doctor.
ABC is eliminating its usual Tuesday comedy lineup this fall in favor of The Bachelorette, which will be followed by new drama Big Sky, a thriller created by David E. Kelley based on the Highway mystery series of novels from C.J. Box.
The new Wednesday comedy block features The Goldbergs, American Housewife, The Conners and new sitcom Call Your Mother, which stars Kyra Sedgwick as an empty-nest mom who decides to reinsert herself back into her kids’ lives.
The Thursday schedule is unchanged from last spring, with dramas Station 19, Grey’s Anatomy and A Million Little Things.
Friday is also intact from last season, as Shark Tank leads into 20/20, and Saturday will be devoted to Saturday Night Football.
Sundays kick off with America’s Funniest Home Videos as always, followed by new game show Supermarket Sweep, hosted by Leslie Jones, the return of the Jimmy Kimmel-hosted Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and drama The Rookie.
Like other broadcasters, ABC isn’t sure yet when its shows will be able to resume production, which means premiere dates are also up in the air. Broadcast schedulers have been working harder than ever during the pandemic to piece together a network lineup without knowing when production will be able to start again.
“The biggest struggle in scheduling now is you have no idea what pieces of the puzzle you have. And every day, a piece falls off the table, or somebody pulls one out and puts it on the table,” Andy Kubitz, evp of programming strategy at ABC Entertainment, told Adweek in April. “So right now, your long-term strategy is about two months and the short-term strategy is the next two days.”
On Tuesday, NBC took the most definitive step of any broadcaster yet about the likelihood of scripted series returning this fall, when NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy said in a statement, “With the reopening of the Universal lot for select productions this week, we are confident that our schedule will premiere intact later this fall.”
ABC was the last of the five broadcast networks to set a fall schedule, coming just behind NBC, which unveiled its own lineup on Tuesday. While Fox and The CW constructed mostly pandemic-proof lineups featuring acquired shows and other already-filmed programming, CBS opted to go ahead with a “hopeful” fall schedule with its usual programming that won’t be able to air until production can resume.
During Disney’s upfront roadshow presentation for clients in late May and early June, ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said all the returning shows started up their writers rooms very early, so they will be ready to go as soon as production is able to get back up and running.
Disney ad sales chief Rita Ferro told Adweek earlier this month that ABC execs had offered to create a finished schedule last month, but she said it wasn’t necessary at that point, given the continued production uncertainty due to Covid-19 and the fact that more sports events could be airing in the fall as leagues push their seasons to later in the year.
“I just didn’t think right now, given how early we are in the process, people needed to know exactly what night at exactly what time slot,” Ferro said. “It also feels very legacy television. I don’t know that that was as important as talking about the scale and the volume of content that we were going to be putting out.”
However, she noted that the schedule would be ready when clients needed it for their upfront talks, as is now the case.
(UPDATE: The below schedule has been updated following ABC’s decision to reinstate Black-ish to the fall lineup.)
ABC Fall 2020-21 Schedule
(New programs in ALL CAPS)
8-9 p.m. — Dancing With the Stars
9-10 p.m. — The Good Doctor
8-8:30 p.m. — The Bachelorette (new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — BIG SKY
8-8:30 p.m. — The Goldbergs
8:30-9 p.m. — Black-ish (new time slot)
9-9:30 p.m. — The Conners (new time slot)
9:30-10 p.m. — American Housewife
10-11 p.m. — Stumptown
8-9 p.m. — Station 19
9-10 p.m. — Grey’s Anatomy
10-11 p.m. — A Million Little Things
8-9 p.m. — Shark Tank
9-11 p.m. — 20/20
8-11 p.m. — Saturday Night Football
7-8 p.m. — America’s Funniest Home Videos
8-9 p.m. — SUPERMARKET SWEEP
9-10 p.m. — Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (new time slot)
10-11 p.m. — The Rookie
American Idol, The Bachelor, Black-ish, For Life, Mixed-ish