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‘American Idol’ Reboot Puts Squeeze on ABC Pilots

Variety logo Variety 5/11/2017 Daniel Holloway
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Producers with pilots in contention at ABC were less than thrilled to hear the news that the network was reviving “American Idol.”

The talent competition, which ABC announced Tuesday will return to television in the 2017-18 season, will likely fill up multiple time slots that might otherwise gone to scripted series. The show during its Fox run was also easily expanded out to extra hours when needed. All of this adds up to ABC probably being more selective about its comedy and drama pickups this year.

“I was feeling pretty good about things until I heard about (‘Idol’),” said a producer with multiple pilots at ABC — one of several to voice discontent with the pickup to Variety.

ABC has committed to airing roughly 40 hours of “Idol” next season, Variety learned. As such, the network will likely air the show over two nights most weeks, as it did during its 15-season run on Fox. With a March premiere being eyed for “Idol,” Sunday nights — where ABC has struggled in recent seasons stacking dramas after “America’s Funniest Home Videos” — appears to be one possible scheduling option for the show. Monday nights would potentially be free for an “Idol” results show after the end of spring cycle of “The Bachelor.”

That would mean little space at midseason for new or returning scripted series.

ABC ordered 13 drama pilots and 11 comedy pilots for the current development season — more than any other network. Of those, sources tell Variety that only Shonda Rhimes-produced legal drama “Black’s Law” and an untitled comedy from “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs now appear to be locks. Comedies “Raised by Wolves,” “Household Name,” “Start Up,” and “Libby and Malcolm,” as well as dramas “The Crossing” and “Las Reinas” remain in contention for pick-up at ABC, but had received mixed reactions. Their prospects have not improved with the sudden addition of “American Idol” to next season’s schedule. And with ABC’s upfront presentation Tuesday in New York looming, the surprise pick-up of a massive unscripted property that ABC passed on earlier this year is not a vote of confidence in its scripted-development slate.

(Cynthia Littleton and Elizabeth Wagmeister contributed to this report.)

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