ABC: When Will That Veteran End?ABC, quite frankly, has not had a good season when it comes to newbies in 2015-16. They renewed have gone fractional or near fractional. Meanwhile, ABC currently has three scripted shows that premiered outside of this decade, and all three of them were in their Top 5 scripted shows for the season. So while ABC has some promising veterans to boast, they're having trouble finding new ones. What will happen when they inevitably get too expensive to continue? It's going to happen sooner or later. ABC needs to find replacements. This question is: how long can they take before they adequately find one? Let's take a look into how many seasons realistically these veterans have left.
Quantico, and Dr Ken joined it, as did marginal players The Catch and The Real O'Neals, but everything, including these four,
Remember having "How to Save a Life" by The Fray stuck in your head? Pretty long time ago when you think about it, right? 2005 to be exact, and they used the song to promote early-day Grey's Anatomy, which premiered March 27 of that year (happy birthday Grey's!). The band hasn't had a top 40 hit since 2009, if that ages Grey's any more. Oh, and it's also ABC's highest rated drama.
Shonda Rhimes, who created the show long before she became a household name, has said she has no plans on ending Grey's Anatomy. Why would she, really? It's not averaging 9.x's like it used to, but nothing is. I don't see it collapsing anytime soon, and I think that they can always keep the storylines fresh. People keep returning for more. They could decide to end it after, say, 15 seasons, but at this rate it could even rival Law & Order (20 seasons) for the longest-running prime time drama ever. It'll end when Shonda says it'll end.
Not all of ABC's longest-running scripted shows are dramas. Modern Family, which premiered on September 23, 2009, was ABC's #1 comedy in its first season and never lost the title. The only comedy episodes ever to beat the same-week Modern Family episodes were the first couple of Cougar Town, and that flamed out relatively quickly. However, just because Modern Family remains ABC's #1 comedy doesn't mean it'll definitely be on for years to come. It appears that the series got "only" 22 episodes this season, as opposed for the 24 given to the rest of the Wednesday comedies + Fresh Off The Boat (which gets less than half the ratings of Modern Family). That most likely has to do with expenses--Modern Family is comprised of a large ensemble cast, and all but one have become household names since the premiere due to awards and high ratings. The one that hasn't been a household name through Modern Family? Yeah, he was the big star that ABC was able to promote the show with (Ed O'Neill from Married with Children). So basically, they're all big stars. Modern Family is also a huge player in syndication, except that ABC makes none of that money (distributor 20th Century Fox does). Ratings are down 20% year-to-year, and sooner or later it'll fall down to earth into the high 1s-low 2s. Modern Family will have a great legacy for years to come, but I don't think it has much left in the tank. Even Seinfeld ended after 9 seasons when technically they could have kept it going for many more years. Unless it comes to the point where ABC forces themselves to retire many veterans in two seasons, I think that's all we are getting out of Modern Family. A 10th is possible, but it could very easily be using money at that point and only be sticking around for the sake of helping another show.
The Middle premiered on September 30, 2009, right before Modern Family's second episode. They're essentially the same age. The Middle is currently on a better track record than Modern Family in terms of year-to-year declines, but like Modern Family, ABC isn't making any money off of The Middle's syndication (which is also a much smaller player in that respect than Modern Family). We know it's getting next season, and then assuming that ratings are still good, it's a question of if the Hecks will sign on for a ninth season. It's significantly less expensive than Modern Family (five regulars and a fairly small supporting cast, as opposed to 12 regulars and a supporting cast), so that shouldn't be the problem of it ending. I think it'll end after nine seasons, just like Patricia Heaton's other hit comedy (Everybody Loves Raymond), and extending it's run past 2000s ABC comedy According to Jim's. Could The Middle and Modern Family end the same season? I think it's entirely possible and will make for a bittersweet exits to the shows which revitalized ABC Wednesdays. But once again, we'll get a better picture once we see ratings and if it's even more necessary to retire other veterans.
Right now, ABC should worry about fixing problem slots that have been made as a result of failing new shows. But they also need to start thinking about a future without their hit veterans Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family, and The Middle. It may be a while until ABC finds a show in the caliber of Modern Family and Grey's Anatomy, and The Middle is the little engine that could. All are clear staples to ABC's schedule. How do you think ABC should go about the big picture? Let me know in the comments below!