ABC WILL BE looking for a few more good men this fall. And to make sure they're not scared away by all the shows aimed at "affluent women" - a demo that ABC already overdelivers to advertisers, according to programming chief Paul Lee, who hopes to continue doing just that - it's making sure the guys won't have to stop and ask for directions.
So on Tuesdays between 8 and 9, where the network that reinvigorated Wednesdays with "Modern Family" and "The Middle" is launching a "family comedy" block - two new sitcoms with "Man" in the title. (And maybe even the symbol you find on men's room doors.)
The first, "Last Man Standing," returns Tim Allen to a house that looks eerily like the one in "Home Improvement," where he'll be playing a character who might have been separated at birth from Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. Only now he's the father of daughters and married to Nancy Travis.
Following that is "Man Up," in which "three modern men try to get in touch with their inner tough guys and redefine what it means to be a 'real man.' "
(You can find the complete text of ABC's announcement, including fuller series descriptions, on my blog, Ellen Gray on TV - go.philly.com/ellengray - where I'll post updates on fall plans all week . Next up: CBS, which is to release its schedule this morning.)
And, no, men who wouldn't be caught dead watching "Dancing with the Stars" or "Grey's Anatomy" won't be limited to an hour on Tuesdays, or to shows with "Man" in the title. Not with "Charlie's Angels" making its small-screen comeback at 8 p.m. Thursdays.
That one, whose "angels" include Minka Kelly ("Friday Night Lights," "Parenthood"), is "pure candy," promises Lee, a former ABC Family president who described the first ABC fall schedule he's gotten to oversee entirely since he took over last summer as "a balance between comfort and escapism."
It's also a schedule that holds back six of the 13 new series announced yesterday until well after the traditional fall launch.
"We are just as ambitious for our midseason launches as we are for our fall" ones, said Lee, whose decision to keep Dana Delany's "Body of Proof" off the air until well into midseason seems to have paid off, as it also has for "Happy Endings."
Among the other shows you'll see this fall: the "Mad Men"-era "Pan Am," about the, um, good old days when flight attendants were stewardesses and could be grounded for not wearing girdles; "Once Upon a Time," a fantasy with Ginnifer Goodwin ("Big Love") and Jennifer Morrison ("House") that like NBC's "Grimm," suggests fairy tales actually do come true; "Scandal," a set-in-the-Hamptons soap that stars Madeleine Stowe and Emily VanCamp; and "Suburgatory," about a single city dad who moves his horrified teenage daughter to the suburbs.
Waiting in the wings: "Good Christian Belles," a soap based on the book whose actual title was deemed unsuitable for prime time; "The River," an adventure drama about the search for a famous explorer (Bruce Greenwood) who's disappeared in the Amazon; "Missing," which stars Ashley Judd as a mother who launches her own search when her son vanishes while studying abroad; "Apartment 23," a comedy about a naive young woman who moves to New York and ends up sharing an apartment with a scam artist (whose best friend is James Van Der Beek - playing himself) that is expected to be paired with "Cougar Town" after "Dancing with the Stars' " fall run ends; and "Scandal," which stars Kerry Washington as a former White House aide who specializes in protecting the reputations of the rich and well-connected.
Oh, and in a flashback to "Bosom Buddies" - whatever happened to those guys? - there's a sitcom called "Work It" in which two out-of-work men dress up, not very convincingly, as women to land jobs as pharma reps.
Suddenly, "Pan Am" - which, as late-night host Jimmy Kimmel pointed out to ABC's prospective advertisers yesterday, is based on an airline that went out of business - looks positively up to date. Not to worry, though. "Remember all those shows we were so excited about last year? We canceled all of them," said Kimmel, suggesting the people who bought ad time on those shows might have "a gambling problem."
Kimmel was omitting the aforementioned "Body of Proof" and "Happy Endings," but he had a point: ABC did cancel "No Ordinary Family" (which it was very excited about this time last year), along with "Better Together," "Detroit 1-8-7," "Mr. Sunshine," "My Generation," "Off the Map" and "The Whole Truth." *