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Everybody Loves ABC

(Posted August 26, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) The last time ABC helped lead a network television paradigm shift was at the turn of the millennium when the success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" prompted other networks to jump on the game-show bandwagon with temporary hits like "The Weakest Link" and instant duds like "The Chair." Back then, the other networks all bailed first, leading ABC into an over-reliance on "Millionaire" and a programming hole that lasted several seasons.

Flash forward to the 2005-06 season and ABC is hot again, thanks to "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" (and more recently, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Dancing with the Stars"), hits that both proved to be that rarest of network television commodities, the game-changing smash. Naturally, the competition rushed out to produce imitators. While several networks had "Housewives"-esque serial primetime soaps on their pilot slates, those offerings apparently weren't up to snuff. Everybody, however, seems to have an alien-centric "Lost" clone this season. ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson still thinks his originals are special.

"One is such a specific, incredible idea and really reinvents storytelling -- in terms of 'Lost' -- and 'Desperate' is such a specific voice that I think it would be a mistake to think that you can do those shows again," McPherson tells television reporters. "I think you can do shows that are maybe influenced by those or that appeal to the same audience, but I think it gets a little risky when people are trying to imitate them."


McPherson suggests that "Lost" and "Housewives" -- both favorites at next month's Emmy Awards -- aren't the only ABC successes to spread their influence onto other networks. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" became a breakout last season, building its audience almost by the minute every Sunday night. Whereas the model for unscripted shows had previously climaxed with bug-eating and testicle milkshakes, "Makeover" is warmer and fuzzier than nearly any show on television, reducing a terrifyingly high percentage of viewers to tears weekly. Even the most popular show on television hasn't been immune to the "Makeover" magic.

"The marketing campaign of 'Idol' last year changed," McPherson argues. "You know, the year before it was all making fun of everybody and then, you know, last year after 'Home Makeover' worked, it was all about how this is the American Dream."

"Housewives" and "Lost" can change a network's fortunes and shift industry storytelling, but they can't directly help ABC win Thursday nights. Or Friday nights. They can, however, give the network a tiny bit of extra flexibility. As a result, "Alias" is shifting onto its third night in as many seasons, bringing a tiny established audience to 8 p.m. Thursdays. And "Supernanny" is taking its fans off to Friday. Will either move make a difference?

"Every night of the week is really important to us," McPherson insists. "We're going to have greater strength on some and weaker on others."



Source: Zap2it
 


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