Diane Haithman is a contributor to Deadline.
Scandal fans watched tonight’s jam-packed season finale and received a major revelation SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! because of a single line (“Dad???”). The ABC drama’s ’gladiators’ as they are called heard it live at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at the end of the first-ever onstage table read of the show using the finale script. The session ended about 10 minutes into the 10 PM PT airing. The cast whooped and hollered too. “The satisfying part is, I knew all along,” Morton crowed as the cast finished reading Act 6 which revealed that Rowan (Joe Morton) is the father of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington). At the top of the session, show creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes said she hoped the experiment would give the audience a feeling of what it’s like to be in the room at a real table read. Washington said she didn’t know that would be a plot twist until the first table read of the script. “I grew up in a household where Joe Morton is a great American hero,” she said. “Every week I would say: ‘Joe, I really hope we have some scenes together. He’d say: ‘We do. We do.’ ”
Related: ABC To Air Some Dramas In Two Batches Of 12 Episodes
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ABC is changing things up in scheduling some of its serialized dramas. Taking a page from the cable model, the network will air what ABC president Paul Lee called “a selected group” of dramas in two uninterrupted runs, one in the fall and one in the spring, bridged by limited series. The series that will follow the new scheduling pattern include Once Upon A Time, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and likely Revenge, with others TBD. So far, the network only has set up a bridge series for Once, new adventure reality series The Quest. Lee said such bridge series won’t necessarily be all unscripted. Two cycles of 12 episodes would bring the total orders for the shows to 24, which is hard on a complex, serialized drama, but Lee indicated that number has not been set in stone. He said that the network is looking to further shake up the traditional broadcast scheduling model with “quality launches” throughout the season. Lee also said that new fall drama Betrayal is designed as a limited series, airing 12-13 episodes a season. The same applies to midseason drama Resurrection, which will replace it in the Sunday 10 PM slot in midseason.
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At the networks’ upfront presentations, they usually tout their freshman successes. Last year, ABC brought out onstage the casts of breakout freshman dramas Once Upon A Time and Revenge, while CBS built its presentation around 2 Broke Girls. This year, ABC, which normally brings only 1-2 casts to the upfronts, is going with the cast of sophomore Scandal (plus veteran Modern Family, whose trip is paid for by USA as the cable network will showcase the comedy’s syndication rollout). Scandal‘s presence is completely justified as the Shonda Rhimes drama is that rare show that made the leap from an inauspicious start with a 7-episode run at the very end of last season to a bona fide success and a pop culture fixture in Year 2.
But its presence also underlines the fact that, unlike last season, ABC does not have a single breakout freshman series that has been a slam dunk for renewal. NBC has Revolution, CBS has Elementary, Fox has The Following, and the CW has Arrow — all of which received early pickups. ABC is heading into its renewal decisions tomorrow with its entire freshman class on the bubble. The one first-year show that appears most likely to get the nod is country drama Nashville. With a great pedigree, creator Callie Khouri and star Connie Britton, Nashville launched to critical praise and OK ratings. But it’s had a rocky freshman season, with the show going through growing pains and struggling with its creative direction as well as the ratings. I’ve heard accounts of tension between co-producers ABC Studios and Lionsgate and other behind-the-scene issues, including star Britton being unhappy with the experience. But in the end, most problems seem to have been resolved, and Nashville, which at one point looked unlikely to continue, now likely will be on the schedule next season. In addition to the solid response from critics (Britton is a major awards contender), Nashville draws important young viewers and also generates sizable revenue from digital music downloads. The only other freshman ABC drama that is still alive, Red Widow, is not expected to come back.
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The second week of ABC’s Zero Hour (1.1/3) saw nightmares of Nazis, more secrets revealed and the Book of Revelation consulted. The new conspiracy drama also the ratings spiral downward. Coming off the lowest-rated in-season debut ever for a scripted show on ABC, the Anthony Edwards show fell 21% from last week. With a 1.3/4, the CW’s 8 PM The Vampire Diaries actually beat both Zero Hour and NBC’s Community (1.1/3) and the 8:30 PM Parks And Recreation (1.3/4) among the key 18-49 demographic for the hour. The CW show was up a strong 30% from last week while the NBC comedies were down 8% and 13% from last week respectively. Thursday also saw series’ lows for both NBC comedies. Beauty And The Beast (0.6/1) was also up on the CW. The show rose 20% from last week’s 0.5/1 fast nationals.
Related: NBC To Finish 5th In Sweeps For First Time
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The Parents Television Council is lambasting ABC for a torture scene in last week’s episode of Scandal that the group says reveals how broken the content-rating system is. “The brutal nature of that scene, which was rated as appropriate for a 14-year-old child, refutes statements made by an industry claiming to be responsible and concerned about societal violence,” the PTC said in a statement Monday. The January 10 episode of the political drama from creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes had a content advisory at the beginning of the broadcast. But calling the three-minute scene “intense, explicit and bloodied,” the heads-up wasn’t enough for the advocacy group. “It is sickening just how quickly the entertainment industry was able to move past the tragedy of Newtown and get back to business as usual,” said PTC president Tim Winter. The PTC particularly singles out the timing of the episode, coming on the same day entertainment industry representatives met with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House to discuss curbing gun violence in the wake of the Newtown school shooting. The episode marked a Season 2 ratings high for the Kerry Washington-starring drama. Read More »
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Scandal creator/executive producer Shonda Rhimes says producers of the ABC series to “ramp up the drama” for the second season. During a conversation on the series’ Hollywood set at the … Read More »
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Kerry Washington, the star of ABC’s Scandal who also has a key role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, was tactfully circumspect today when Deadline asked about Spike Lee’s comments regarding … Read More »
Big life celebrations scored in the ratings last night. The Liz Lemon wedding episode of NBC’s departing 30 Rock drew a 1.3/4 in adults 18-49 and 3.6 million viewers. That was up 8% from its last original two weeks ago and the comedy’s best demo rating since Oct. 11 and largest viewership this season. Meanwhile, ABC’s sophomore drama Scandal (2.2/6) popped 10% from its last episode two weeks ago to hit a season high. (In adults 18-34, it hit a series high). That is with Scandal‘s lead-in, Grey’s Anatomy (3.0/8), dipping 6% from two weeks ago to tie its season low. No dead cat bounce for ABC’s Last Resort. In its first airing post cancellation news, the freshman drama (1.0/3) fell 17% from two weeks ago to a series low.
Fox’s Glee (2.2/6), which featured the latest cover of Psy’s ubiquitous Gangham Style, bounced back 47% following the depressed numbers last week when the network aired originals on Thanksgiving. (Fox’s fast nationals for last night may be slightly inflated because of an NFL preemption in New Orleans). The X Factor (2.7/8) was actually down a tenth from last week’s telecast, which was boosted by a football lead-in. Read More »
Following its three-script order earlier this month, ABC’s freshman comedy The Neighbors has received a back-nine order for a full-season 22-episode run. The alien comedy, from Cars writer Dan Fogelman, had a ratings uptick this past Wednesday in the 8:30 PM slot. Fogelman is executive producing with Aaron Kaplan.
Also getting a back-nine is sophomore ABC drama Scandal starring Kerry Washington. Shonda Rhimes’ drama entered the fall with a 13-episode order as it launched in midseason. It had been expected to continue and sealed its pickup with a solid ratings showing last Thursday. Both The Neighbors and Scandal were up a tenth from their previous airings last week to a 2.0 rating in adults 18-49. Both hail from ABC Studios. It was a bittersweet week for Rhimes, whose other series with a 13-episode order, Private Practice, did not get a back order. She also has Scandal‘s lead-in, Grey’s Anatomy. Read More »
Putting Breaking Bad on Netflix is credited for the ratings surge the AMC series has experienced this season as more viewers discover the serialized drama. ABC is hoping for a similar bump for the second seasons of its returning serialized dramas Once Upon A Time, Revenge and Scandal. In a unusual move so early into series’ runs, the complete first seasons of the three ABC shows are being made available for U.S. members to watch instantly on Netflix and will become exclusive to Netflix at the end of the month. The move is timed to get the three series out just days before their second-season premieres. Read More »