ABC‘s comedy Happy Endings is not going to live up to its name but has cemented its cult status with an untimely death. I hear series’ leading studio Sony Pictures TV has ended its efforts to find a new home for the underrated series as it faces the expiration of the cast’s options on Monday. Sony did try hard, starting to explore a possible future for Happy Endings well in advance of ABC’s May decision not to order a fourth season. Cable network USA, which is re-entering the half-hour comedy space this fall with off-network acquisition Modern Family, originally expressed interest in early April. It entered talks with Sony immediately after ABC made the cancellation decision the Friday before upfronts but, three weeks later, the network opted not to proceed with the pickup to focus on its original comedy series. While USA was considered the only real play for Happy Endings, Sony TV didn’t give up and continued to search for ways to keep Happy Endings until it ran out of time with the cast options.
Comedy is expected to take center stage at USA Network‘s upfront presentation this afternoon as the cable network touts to advertisers the fall launch of its big off-network acquisition, Modern Family, and unveils its newly picked up original comedy series Sirens and Playing House. The cable network has been getting extra attention from comedy fans in the past week following ABC’s decision last Friday to cancel cult series Happy Endings. Talks between USA and leading Happy Endings producer Sony TV continue. At this point, I hear a pickup appears unlikely but the network is carefully exploring the opportunity to migrate a show with some success on broadcast TV and a dedicated fan base the way ABC’s Cougar Town moved to TBS.
Of its three comedy pilot/presentations it had in consideration, USA picked up two, Sirens and Playing House. The third, Paging Dr. Freed, which was the first one ordered almost two years ago, is still in contention. I hear USA brass liked the pilot for the family medical comedy but thought it felt more like a season finale and didn’t properly introduce the characters. I hear the network approached Paging Dr. Freed creator Michael Feldman and studio Fox 21 about redeveloping the project and writing a new pilot script. If USA likes the new script, I hear it is intent on picking up the project straight to series. The options on the Paging Dr. Freed producers have been extended while those on the cast have lapsed. I hear USA is keen on bringing Annie Potts back if she is available. (Her ABC pilot Murder In Manhattan did not get picked up but is being considered by cable networks.)
EXCLUSIVE: Despite ratings hardship and real and clear danger of cancellation, Happy Endings may live up to its title even if ABC opts not to order a fourth season. I hear that Sony TV, the leading studio behind the underrated comedy series, has quietly reached out to a couple of networks, including USA Network and NBC, about the possibility of continuing the comedy there if ABC does not renew it. I hear USA, which has been looking to break into the half-hour original series space, has expressed interest and has had discussions about picking up Happy Endings in case of a cancellation by ABC.
If the financials can be worked out, a Happy Endings pickup would be fortuitous for USA, which has been actively developing half-hour comedies and has ordered several pilots but has yet to greenlight a half-hour series. USA had been looking to have an original comedy on tap for the fall premiere of its marquee off-network series Modern Family. Happy Endings would be a suitable companion for Modern Family as it already spent two seasons on ABC paired with the Emmy-winning family comedy. Happy Endings did well behind Modern Family, but its fortunes changed this past fall when it was moved to Tuesday to form a comedy block with Don’t Trust The B—- At Apt. 23 in a crowded comedy hour. Despite strong cult following and critical praise, Happy Endings struggled mightily on Tuesday and was recently relocated to Fridays. ABC brass had been strongly supporting the show from Day 1, but they will likely won’t be able to keep the series on broadcast TV at these ratings levels. In a last-ditch effort, the network recently launched a Save The Show-themed promo campaign for Happy Endings‘ move to Friday. The call to arms didn’t help, with the two back-to-back Friday originals drawing a 0.9/3 and a 0.7/3 in adults 18-49, down 25% and 46% from the show’s last Tuesday airings on January 29.
Now that ABC has shifted Happy Endings to air the series’ remaining originals back-to-back at 8-9 PM Fridays starting March 29, the network has launched a campaign asking fans to save the show:
ABC‘s 9-10 PM comedy block, which was slated to air until the Dancing With The Stars result show returns March 29, is being dissolved effective immediately. After a month-and-a-half break, the only surviving member of the block, Happy Endings (its companion, Don’t Trust The B— was recently cancelled) will move to Fridays. Beginning February 26, reality series Taste, which airs at 8 PM, will slide to 9 PM, and a limited run of Celebrity Wife Swap will take over the 8 PM hour. (A Bachelor: Sean Tells All special airs at 9 PM next week.) Celebrity Wife Swap will be replaced with new diving reality series Splash on March 19. As for the remaining Happy Endings originals, ABC will air them back-to-back from 8-9 PM on Friday beginning March 29, after the Friday night comedy block of Last Man Standing and Malibu Country will have aired their season finales. This marks the third time slot for Happy Endings this midseason. In January, ABC slotted originals of Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B— in the Sunday 10 PM hour in addition to their Tuesday runs but pulled them after two airings.
Originally ordered for next summer but also considered for the upcoming season, ABC‘s racy new soap Mistresses will launch next May for a summer run, ABC’s Paul Lee said during a press call this morning. It will likely premiere on Monday after The Bachelorette.
Also on the call, Lee addressed the decision to move Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B— to Tuesdays against Fox’s New Girl after the two launched in the protected post-Modern Family slot. Lee said both shows have passionate audiences that would follow them to the new night. As for pitting them against other comedies, especially New Girl, Lee said, “I do think there is room on the networks for big ratings” for multiple series in the same slot. Opting not to put a comedy against New Girl last year but to do it this fall with Happy Endings is not a suggestion that ABC feels New Girl is getting weaker but confidence that Happy Endings “can open a comedy block at 9 PM on Tuesday,” Lee said.
Damon Wayans Jr is heading to the Tuesday 9 PM slot after all. The actor starred in the pilot for Fox’s New Girl but had to pull out because his series in first position, ABC’s Happy Endings, was surprisingly renewed for a second season last May. Now he will face New Girl as ABC is slotting Happy Endings in the Thursday 9 PM slot this fall. ABC opening a 9-10 PM comedy block on Tuesday is surprising given the fact that the network last May said it would expand its new Last Man Standing-anchored Tuesday 8-9 PM comedy block to 10 PM in January with the younger-skewing Cougar Town and Don’t Trust The B—- in the 9 PM hour. But the network abandoned the idea, with ABC topper Paul Lee citing the strength of New Girl for the decision. Now the network is pitting Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B— against New Girl and Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project.
ABC’s Happy Endings got its happy ending. As expected, the network has given a full-season, 22-episode order to the Sony TV-produced sophomore comedy series, which was glaringly missing from last night’s list of seven “no-brainer” ABC scripted series renewals. …
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Do shows like Don’t Trust the B— In Apartment 23, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and the Fox series New Girl mean we’re in some kind of women’s renaissance in network TV? At this morning’s TCA session on Apartment 23, creator/executive producer Nahnatchka Khan concluded, well, maybe. But in an afternoon panel featuring producers from ABC’s successful Wednesday night comedy block, the female showrunners of The Middle, Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, pointed out that they’ve been funny for some time now — behind the scenes. “It’s exciting, but we always thought women had funny things to say,” said Heisler. “I think Tina Fey — and us — poked a little hole that allowed for this. We’ve been doing it for a while, and we’re glad to have company.” The Middle is a family show, not a snarky sitcom about a bitch or an emotionally unstable female roommate. But after the panel, Heisler said the show will continue to borrow as guest stars the veterans of that classic comedy about the “girl” who’s gonna make it after all, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Harking back to his Lou Grant character, Ed Asner will portray the editor of the local paper.