NEW YORK — ABC is casting for an all-star edition of "Dancing With the Stars" this fall and is seeking to turn its Sunday night schedule into "a battle between good and evil," the network's entertainment chief said Tuesday.
The third-place broadcast network ordered 10 new series for next season, six of them dramas. In keeping with the staggered premiere schedule currently in vogue, only four of the new shows will start in September.
The network is looking to bring back favorites from the 14 editions of "Dancing With the Stars," its most popular show. Paul Lee, president of the ABC Entertainment Group, offered no hints on who would be dancing again.
In addition to the new shows, ABC is renewing six freshman series from the current season. "Missing" and "The River" are among the newly canceled. The network trails CBS and Fox in the ratings, its numbers essentially flat from last season.
"You have to evolve your brand," Lee said. "If you don't, it stagnates."
ABC's most important rebuilding job next season will come on Sunday, the most popular night for TV viewing. "Desperate Housewives" just had its series finale, and the soapy show designed to replace it, "GCBs," failed and was canceled.
Fortunately for ABC, the fantasy tale "Once Upon a Time" was an unexpected success this season and it will be paired with "Revenge," which will move from Wednesday nights. A new drama that will wrap up the night, "666 Park Avenue," is about a New York building with supernatural forces and features Vanessa Williams, late of the "Desperate Housewives" cast.
Two comedies that were introduced in the time slot following "Modern Family" on Wednesday nights – "Happy Endings" and "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" – will air on Tuesdays in the fall. When "Dancing With the Stars" ends, ABC will add two new sitcoms on that night in January for a total of four.
The only new comedy to begin in September will be "The Neighbors," in that familiar seeding spot behind "Modern Family." It's about a family that moves into a New Jersey gated community where the neighbors are aliens from Zabvron, "where the men bear children and everyone cries green goo from their ears," ABC said.
"We know we wanted a family comedy," Lee said, "and we wanted to give it a real twist."
The country music drama "Nashville" begins on Wednesday in the fall, starring Connie Britton as a veteran singer whose career is on the wane. ABC is putting the new action piece "Last Resort" on Thursdays. It features Andre Braugher as the captain of a doomed military submarine.
Starting in November, ABC will attempt to establish two family comedies on Friday nights. One is Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing," back for its sophomore season, and the other is "Malibu Country," starring Reba McEntire as a mother who divorces a country music star and moves to California.
ABC will sprinkle other series premieres through the rest of the season, a model successfully followed by cable networks. They include "Mistresses," with Alyssa Milano as one of four women friends; the crime series "Red Widow"; and "Zero Hour," which brings Anthony Edwards of "ER" back to TV in a paranormal mystery.