ABC maps tentative fall plans, including 'The Bachelorette,' 'DWTS' and (now) 'Black-ish'

Gary Levin
Clare Crawley will make her fifth appearance in "Bachelor" nation as season 16's "Bachelorette" star.

ABC is planning a quarantined edition of "The Bachelorette," delayed from summer, and a new version of "Dancing with the Stars" in a preliminary fall schedule that its top programmer acknowledges may be set in sand rather than stone.

The network, the last of the major broadcasters to announce fall plans, is treading carefully in the wake of a production shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Like CBS and NBC, its more-or-less traditional fall schedule presumes that the slowdown of the virus' spread and enhanced safety protocols will allow a return to work by late summer, in time to produce episodes. (Fox and CW have scheduled filler programming instead, opting for regular series to return in January.) 

In an interview, ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke acknowledged the unveiling, however tentative, is designed in part to allow ABC's ad-sales team to try to sell commercial time.

More:NBC announces fall schedule (with just one new show), but the real question is, 'When'?

"Anybody that's convinced of anything right now is not speaking truth," Burke says. "This is a target for us; we're calling it our premiere schedule. We're hopeful that it's a version of our fall schedule, but we felt it's important to announce it now so we have something to work toward." 

"The Bachelorette" season with Clare Crawley, delayed from summer, is scheduled to be taped at a remote location, where contestants will be tested and quarantined with the crew for the duration, Burke says. And after speaking to "Dancing" producers, "we got confidence from them in their ability to deliver that show, even in a quickly post-COVID environment."  (Reality shows can be produced more quickly than scripted programs.)

More:TV's biggest cliffhanger: Will my show return on schedule?

Leslie Jones, formerly of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," will host a new version of "Supermarket Sweep,"  a game show for ABC.

A remake of game show "Supermarket Sweep," hosted by Leslie Jones, was also first planned for summer. And two more new shows were picked up without typical pilot episodes, based on confidence in the premises and their producers: "Big Sky," a thriller about a Montana kidnapper from David E. Kelley ("Big Little Lies"); and "Call Your Mother," a comedy from Kari Lizer ("The New Adventures of Old Christine") about a woman (Kyra Sedgwick) who reinserts herself into her daughters' lives across the country.

On Thursday, a day after announcing the schedule, ABC reversed course and said it would hold back "Mother" for midseason and instead return "Black-ish" to the schedule, reflecting apparent concern that the series, its spinoff "Mixed-ish" and another Black-led show, "For Life," were all being held back from the fall.

More:Here are the top 100 shows of the 2019-20 TV season, from NFL to 'The Wall'

It may all be moot if production can't resume in time, in which case, Burke says ABC will rely on borrowed shows from other Disney programmers, including Hulu, ESPN, Freeform, FX and National Geographic. (ABC has already aired movies available on Disney+ and ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary "The Last Dance" to fill its summer schedule.) 

Kyra Sedgwick stars in a new ABC comedy, "Call Your Mother," due in early 2021.

A few more new shows will be added later for early 2021, along with "Mixed-ish" and  "For Life." And the first Black "Bachelor," Matt James, will star in a new season of that franchise early next year.

The Oscars will air on April 25, two months later than planned. ABC also has this year's Emmy Awards on Sept. 20, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, though it's unclear whether it will be in a traditional theater setting or a "virtual" broadcast produced remotely. (Plans for either scenario are being pursued simultaneously.) 

Status report:Save Our Shows: Is your favorite TV series canceled, renewed or still on the bubble?

"Jimmy and the team are being very thoughtful and exploring all options," Burke says. "We're waiting until the last possible moment to pivot.  Luckily Jimmy in particular has some experience with that."

ABC's (maybe) fall schedule

Monday: 8, Dancing with the Stars; 10, The Good Doctor

Tuesday: 8, The Bachelorette; 10, Big Sky

Wednesday: 8, The Goldbergs; 8:30, Black-ish; 9, The Conners; 9:30, American Housewife; 10, Stumptown 

Thursday: 8, Station 19; 9, Grey's Anatomy; 10, A Million Little Things 

Friday: 8, Shark Tank; 9, 20/20

Saturday: 8, Saturday Night Football

Sunday: 7, America's Funniest Home Videos; 8, Supermarket Sweep; 9, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire; 10, The Rookie

(All times EDT/PDT; new shows in bold, new time slots in italics)