TCA: ABC President on ‘Grey’s’ Spinoff, ‘American Idol,’ ‘Scandal,’ ‘The Bachelor’ and #MeToo

ABC/Eric Liebowitz
American Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan with host Ryan Seacrest.

Monday at the Television Critics Association 2018 winter press tour found ABC’s Channing Dungey, President of ABC Entertainment, taking questions from critics about what’s to come on the alphabet network later this year.

Before she answered questions from the crowd, Dungey announced the exciting news that Shark Tank would return Fall 2018 and this season will include the series’ 200th episode.

Below are some other highlights from the session:

Grey’s Anatomy Spinoff:
Dungey admits that the spinoff (about Seattle firefighters) still doesn’t have a name and says, “The coming-up with a title is one of the most challenging things we do.” She recalls that Grey’s Anatomy didn’t have a title until right before its premiere, and “We have a few titles we’re rolling around.” She hopes to announce a title for the series in the next few weeks.

When a member of the session half-jokingly asked about the obvious option, Seattle Fire, Dungey said the closeness to NBC’s Chicago franchise obviously squashes the probability of using it.

The Mayor:
Dungey admits that the quick demise of the new comedy The Mayor, “was a little bit of a heartbreak for all of us.” The series was a top priority this fall and was one of ABC’s top promoted new series. “For whatever reason, it didn’t connect with an audience,” says Dungey. She insists that the issue wasn’t that the audience didn’t know about the series… “People knew and they didn’t come.” Dungey offered a possible explanation for the series failure to connect with audiences, speculating that political fatigue affected the audience.

When asked what the failure of The Mayor means for the network’s comedy brand, Dungey stated, “We think our family comedy brand is second to none,” and reminded the session that ABC is presenting three new comedies at TCA for midseason.

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World:
When asked about the small but fiercely loyal fans of the series, Dungey gushed, “Jason is fantastic. He’s such a magnetic character. Audiences really connect with the hopeful nature of the show.” She pointed to the series’ message of redemption as appealing to audiences.

The Crossing:
One of the dramas that ABC is bringing to its midseason slate is The Crossing, a serialized science fiction series starring Steve Zahn. After the failure of the network’s 10 Days in the Valley, Dungey admits that drama, starring Kyra Sedgwick, “didn’t get the level of marketing support that it needed.” But she is excited about The Crossing, and hopes the audience will give it a chance.

Alex, Inc.:
Dungey calls the new comedy from Zach Braff a “50-50 family/workplace hybrid.:” She likens Alex, Inc. to black-ish in its mix of humor in multiple places.

Shonda Rhimes:
When asked about Rhimes’ new development deal with Netflix, Dungey shared, “My relationship with Shonda dates back to my first days in television…Our relationship is as strong as it’s ever been.” Dungey shares that she’s known that Rhimes was interested in flexing new muscles and reminds the session that ABC has currently has three Shondaland series on its current slate with two more (the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff and For the People) premiering in midseason. Dungey did not, however, reveal what Rhimes’ Netflix deal meant for future spinoff series—even if it meant making them without her. “I don’t know if Scandal would be Scandal without Shonda. It’s so wrapped up in her DNA.”

And speaking of For the People, Dungey blames “scheduling Jenga” for the series not airing on Thursdays with other Rhimes series and is excited for the show to find a home on Tuesdays.

American Idol:
Dungey says she “feels very confident about the creative that we have” and looks forward to the series’ afternoon panel to give TCA members a sense of the series.

Roseanne reboot:
When asked if the success of the Will & Grace reboot was a sign that audiences were ready to re-welcome beloved series Dungey says she’s, “Happy that a rising tide lifts all boats.” She reports that the cast has “stepped back into these roles without missing a beat.”

Bachelor Winter Games:
After she allegations of sexual misconduct on the set of Bachelor in Paradise, will the scandal affect the franchise? “What happened last summer was unfortunate,” admits Dungey but hopes that #BachelorNation will continue to support the franchise and Bachelor Winter Games.

The Oscars:
Will the awards be able to move past last year’s epic screw up? Although the broadcast is in Kimmel’s hands, Dungey would prefer for the show to poke fun at the moment, and then move on. Dungey hinted that the March 4 broadcast will celebrate “the past and the present” and will incorporate unique ways to celebrate the award’s 90th anniversary.

Future programming:
Dungey revealed that as ABC heads into pilot season and finding new series for fall 2018, here’s one thing the network is definitely looking for: dramas with closed-ended storytelling. ABC also has several police procedural pilots in development. And they are looking for family comedies, but ones that will “push the boundaries” of what that means.

#MeToo Movement:
Dungey calls the movement, “A watershed moment of the industry.” While she isn’t sure if the network’s goal is “50-50 by 2020,” she’s happy that conversations are happening. And Dungey says that providing a safe and equal environment is “an issue that ABC has always taken seriously.” She also points out that the network is a place for strong dynamic women, using herself as an example.