2019-20 TV season pilot watch, the rankings: ABC

Illustration of characters from ABC shows
Olivia Staser/Staff

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There is something commendable about ABC’s commitment to diversity in its shows, although sometimes it’s to the point where you’re questioning why the cast of “Quantico” resembles “It’s a Small World.” (Is the FBI recruitment school really that diverse? Really?) Even with Shonda Rhimes wooed away to Netflix and her current shows coming to an end, in its coming season ABC seems to still be going strong with its push for diversity and family sitcoms. It will be interesting and possibly refreshing to see how the network develops new shows in the future. So here’s a look, from predicted best to worst, at ABC’s upcoming shows.

1.“Stumptown”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Cobie Smulders, Michael Ealy, Jake Johnson

Premiere date: Sept. 25

ABC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Based on the ‘Stumptown’ graphic novel series, ‘Stumptown’ follows Dex Parios (Smulders) — a strong, assertive and sharp-witted army veteran with a complicated love life, gambling debt and a brother to take care of in Portland, Oregon. Her military intelligence skills make her a great PI, but her unapologetic style puts her in the firing line of hardcore criminals and not quite in alliance with the police.”

First impressions: The internet agrees that Smulders could step on us and we would pay money to watch. This Jessica Jones-without-superpowers premise provides the leading role we have all waited for Smulders to play. Throw in the fact that she is starring opposite Johnson, fresh off of his “Spider-Verse” fame, and Ealy, from his “Wow, have you seen Michael Ealy? He’s beautiful!” fame, and you have a TV show that will be highly buzzed about.

Prediction: Renewed

2. “For Life”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Nicholas Pinnock, Indira Varma, Joy Bryant

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

ABC/Courtesy

Tagline: “A fictional serialized legal and family drama about a prisoner who becomes a lawyer, litigating cases for other inmates while fighting to overturn his own life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. His quest for freedom is driven by his desperate desire to get back to the family he loves and reclaim the life that was stolen from him. The show will also, through the window of his ferocious struggle and his complicated relationship with a progressive female prison warden, examine the flaws and challenges in our penal and legal systems.”

First impressions: While none of the midseason replacement shows have a trailer out, the premise of “For Life” (although a mouthful) makes it sound like a promising legal drama version of “Prison Break.” Also, exploring the flaws in the American legal system is the classic progressive social commentary melodrama ABC is here for, so it (out of all the networks) has the audience for it. Not to mention that 50 Cent is producing this show, so you know his name will be incessantly used for promotion.

Prediction: Renewed

3. “Mixed-ish”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Arica Himmel, Tika Sumpter, Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Premiere date: Sept. 24

ABC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Rainbow Johnson recounts her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the ‘80s and the constant dilemmas they had to face over whether to assimilate or stay true to themselves. Bow’s parents Paul and Alicia decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they’re perceived as neither black nor white. This family’s experiences illuminate the challenges of finding one’s own identity when the rest of the world can’t decide where you belong.”

First impressions: Another spinoff of the Emmy-nominated “Black-ish” (the first being “Grown-ish” on Freeform), “Mixed-ish” is almost too stacked to fail — at least for a season. “Mixed-ish” was intended to have a backdoor pilot on its predecessor’s show, and while it remains unclear whether that will happen, any potential crossover between the two will only boost the newer show’s profile. Although it is sad that Anders Holm stepped out, the show’s trailer looks like the classic Kenya Barris sitcom formula: family comedy, social commentary and just a touch of ‘80s nostalgia.

Prediction: Renewed

4. “Emergence”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Allison Tolman, Alexa Skye Swinton, Donald Faison

Premiere date: Sept. 24

ABC/Courtesy

Tagline: “A character-driven genre thriller, ‘Emergence’ is about a police chief who takes in a young child she finds near the site of a mysterious accident who has no memory of what has happened. The investigation draws her into a conspiracy larger than she ever imagined, and the child’s identity is at the center of it all.”

First impressions: “Emergence” is the kind of show that happens when broadcast executives see the success of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and try to recreate it on their own networks. “Emergence” has the same setup of a small town rocked by a catastrophic incident that leads to a mysterious young girl who seems to have paranormal powers. Sound familiar? But it’s hard to adapt a high-concept show into a weekly, serialized, 20-plus-episodes-per-season format. While the premise of the show sounds intriguing, it would be much better suited for a movie or shorter season on a streaming service site. Sadly, not even Turk can save this show.

Prediction: Canceled

5. “United We Fall”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Will Sasso, Christina Vidal, Jane Curtin

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

ABC/Courtesy

Tagline: “A profoundly realistic family sitcom that follows the trials and tribulations of Jo (Vidal) and Bill (Sasso), parents of two young kids, as they try to make it day to day as a functioning family. Bill’s very judgmental live-in mother and Jo’s large, Latinx Catholic family will never hesitate to let our couple know they’re seemingly screwing up, but Bill and Jo will always have each other’s backs, united against everyone — other parents, teachers, doctors, specialists, coaches, co-workers and, especially, their kids.”

First impressions: “United We Fall” could go either way; without a trailer, it is hard to get a feel for the cast and the writing. With ABC staple “Modern Family” in its final season this year, ABC is undoubtedly looking for its next big family sitcom. The premise of “United We Fall,” however, sounds almost exactly like “Modern Family” and may be too on the nose — especially since “Modern Family” isn’t even over yet. Also, audiences will inevitably have traumatic flashbacks to Sasso’s lemon Vines when watching.

Prediction: Canceled

6. “The Baker and the Beauty”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Victor Rasuk, Nathalie Kelley, Carlos Gomez

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

ABC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Daniel Garcia is working in the family bakery and doing everything that his loving Cuban parents and siblings expect him to do. But on a wild Miami night he meets Noa Hamilton, an international superstar and fashion mogul, and is life moves into the spotlight. Will this unlikely couple upend their lives to be together and pull their families into a culture clash?”

First impressions: Although this show is based off of a successful Israeli series, it’s a romantic dramedy, and romantic dramedies have rarely done well on broadcast in the past decade (RIP “Selfie,”Manhattan Love Story” and “A to Z” — you are gone and pretty much forgotten). This “Notting Hill”-esque setup promises saucy family drama and a peek into the glamorous lives of rich celebrities, but that’s nothing you can’t get from “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Even without a trailer, “The Baker and the Beauty” sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Prediction: Canceled

Jule Lim covers television. Contact her at [email protected].