ABC’s Fall 2015 Lineup: Muppets, Diversity, and Murder

Unlike the other three Big Four networks, ABC is satisfied just the way it is — and for good reason. Last season, the network found success (in both ratings and quality) with a smart combination of diverse family sitcoms, Shonda Rhimes dramas, and Marvel Universe thrillers. The network is so confident in its stability that three of its lineups will remain unchanged going into the next TV season: Monday (Dancing With the Stars/The Bachelor and Castle), Wednesday (family sitcoms galore), and Thursdays (Shonda’s night!). The network is also introducing new shows, of course, and we’ve got the rundown on all the trailers.

Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish were two of the season’s best new comedies, and ABC is hoping to double down on that luck with Dr. Ken and Uncle Buck, two more family comedies that center on, respectively, Asian-American and black families. Uncle Buck, which will premiere midseason, is a oddly timed reboot of the popular 1989 movie, but with an all-black cast. Mike Epps stars in the titular role as the fun-loving, irresponsible uncle who moves in with his brother to help take care of the kids — and learn a few things along the way! Yeah, it doesn’t sound super-promising (and the trailer is iffy), but Epps is fun to watch and it has the potential to rise above its source material.

Then there is Dr. Ken, premiering in the fall (taking over Cristela‘s Friday night slot), which looks … well, not great. On the one hand, it’s hard to hate the fact that ABC will now have two Asian-American sitcoms on air after 20 years without any. On the other hand, it’s another lame show about a doctor with no bedside manner (though kudos to Dr. Ken for using the “struggles to juggle career and family” plot with a man for once). But hey, at least Albert Tsai, who was easily the best part of Trophy Wife, has a new show!

Following suit with every other network’s nostalgia baiting, ABC’s biggest bet this year is The Muppets. It’s at once supposed to evoke those warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia while also being more “adult” (whatever that means these days) with a meta, mockumentary format (although mockumentaries are growing increasingly tired every TV season). Still, it’s The Muppets, so we will all love it.

Last of the comedies is The Real O’Neals, another generic-sounding family sitcom. Premiering midseason, The Real O’Neals is about a very Catholic family with secrets that get brought out into the open — most notably that their teenage son is gay. I can see the series going one of two opposite ways: It could be either a very forgettable sitcom or something that gradually becomes quite sweet, in the same way The Middle and The Goldbergs did.

On the drama side, there is the requisite Shonda Rhimes thriller. The Catch lacks the immediate hook of How to Get Away With Murder or the intrigue of Scandal. Maybe it will get better as it goes along, but the preview, which sets up the story as, “woman who is good at detecting frauds becomes a victim of fraud,” doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Quantico, which I understandably mistook for Shonda Rhimes’ new show, takes us inside training at FBI’s Quantico, which it compares to a summer camp, all raging hormones and fighting crime. The trailer starts off somewhat promising but then shifts to tease a mundane thriller — and frustratingly turns Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra into a suspected terrorist.

Oil is another series about people looking for the American Dream and failing to find it, but also getting caught up in oil? There’s not much broad appeal to be found here (unless you’re that desperate to see Chace Crawford’s “acting” faces again), and I have a feeling the series blew all of its (literally) explosive scenes in the pilot.

If Chace Crawford wasn’t your favorite Gossip Boy, you can wait until midseason to watch Ed Westwick in Wicked City, a show that ABC keeps boasting will be popular with millennials. The crime anthology series begins with a 1982 Bonnie and Clyde-like murder case which finds Westwick committing coked-up sexy murders. Really, it’s amazing they didn’t just title this Sexy Murders.

At first glance, midseason thriller The Family seems like it could be one of those shows with amazing acting but a rocky serialized story. It certainly has a creepy and intriguing premise: a boy presumed dead shows up about ten years later and returns to his family, but — twist! — is he actually that same boy? Or an imposter? (If it sounds familiar, it basically looks like a fictional version of The Imposter.). My only reservation is that it’s so packed with different threads (a political campaign, an alcoholic family member, etc.) that the sheer amount of plot could take away from the actual compelling story in the middle.

Every season, there is one new show that I want absolutely nothing to do with, where I can’t even muster enough interest to watch the pilot. This year, that honor goes to Of Kings and Prophets, a biblical saga with some watered-down Game of Thrones elements thrown in.