NEW YORK (AP) — Kiefer Sutherland will play a low-level Cabinet member who suddenly becomes president on a new ABC drama this fall, and the network plans to add a second night of comedy to its schedule.
ABC has also given the go-ahead to another drama from the prolific creator Shonda Rhimes and a comedy where Minnie Driver plays a mom fighting for her special-needs child.
ABC was to present its new schedule to advertisers on Tuesday, the first under the stewardship of its new entertainment president, Channing Dungey. She replaced Paul Lee as the network, which generally fights with NBC for second place behind CBS, tries to improve sagging ratings.
While Sutherland's new series, "Designated Survivor," is a thriller, presumably the fictional president will face less action than Jack Bauer, his character in Fox's "24." His character on the Wednesday night show becomes president after an attack against Washington.
The network is opening its Tuesday night schedule to comedies, while keeping Wednesday and Friday as nights where sitcoms also air. The Wednesday night show "The Middle" will move to Tuesdays in the fall, joined by "Fresh Off the Boat" and "The Real O'Neals."
Dungey said the move is a reflection of ABC's strong development in comedy the past couple of years.
Driver's comedy "Speechless" joins ABC's schedule on Wednesdays in the fall, and the other new fall comedy is "American Housewife," about a woman raising a dysfunctional family in a wealthy Connecticut suburb.
ABC has ordered nine new programs for next season, with five on the schedule in the fall. The drama "Conviction" is reminiscent of Chelsea Clinton in that it features a former First Daughter who goes to work in a New York district attorney's office as her mother is running for the Senate. "Notorious" is based on the lives of criminal lawyer Mark Geragos and television news producer Wendy Walker.
The new Rhimes show, "Still Star-Crossed," picks up where the story of Romeo and Juliet ends, and is expected to join the schedule in midseason.
But ABC will break up its all-Shonda Thursday lineup this fall with "Scandal" on hiatus due to star Kerry Washington's pregnancy, and air "Notorious" on Thursdays in the fall. Considering ABC has five Rhimes series in production (also including "Catch," ''Grey's Anatomy" and "How to Get Away with Murder"), spreading out was inevitable.
"We're going to have to expand beyond Thursdays or we're not going to be able to accommodate them all," Dungey said.
ABC will also bring back its limited-run series "American Crime" and next winter premiere "When We Rise," another limited series about the personal and political struggles of gay and transgender Americans.
The network will air a remake of the movie "Dirty Dancing." It won't be a live production, as NBC and Fox have recently done, but Dungey said ABC is considering future live presentations. ABC is also doing a special on Muhammad Ali.
Dungey, who was previously in charge of dramas at ABC before getting the top job, plotted the new schedule based on pilot decisions made by her predecessor. But she said the schedule "very much reflects the sensibility of where I think the network is and where I think it should be going."
"Castle" and "Nashville" were among the shows ABC cancelled to make way for the new schedule.