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ABC Prioritizes Live and Unscripted TV with a ‘Young Frankenstein’ Musical and Game Shows

ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke emphasized ABC will lean into the TV genres keeping all of broadcast afloat — live, unscripted, and sports.

Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by Alastair Muir/Shutterstock (9119635ac)Hadley Fraser Mel Brooks Lesley Joseph Ross Noble'Young Frankenstein' Musical by Mel Brooks performed at the Garrick Theatre, London, UK, 05 Oct 2017

Mel Brooks and cast at the London premiere of the “Young Frankenstein” musical

Alastair Muir/Shutterstock

ABC may have scripted hits on its hands with shows like “The Conners” and “The Good Doctor,” but with the departure of “Modern Family” — which set the network’s family-focused brand a decade prior — the Disney-owned broadcast network is forging a new identity in 2020.

“We are prioritizing live and unscripted programming,” Karey Burke said in the midst of her introductory speech at ABC’s TCA Winter Press Tour session.

Live and unscripted programming has become the backbone of broadcast network television, be it live musical events, reality TV, or sports. Burke made it clear that ABC understands what’s working, as well as how her network best works within a growing Disney television portfolio that now includes Hulu and Disney+ streaming services, as well as FX and Nat Geo cable channels.

To that end, Burke announced the next live musical event: “The Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein.” No casting has been announced, but Burke said they trust the beloved story to attract top talent for the event’s fall debut.

“We talked to Mel about ‘Young Frankenstein,’ and what he told us was when he watched the Broadway musical, it struck him that it was better suited for television,” Burke said, adding that Brooks’ exact wording was, “This belongs on television.”

As far as whether the production will skew closer to the original film or the Broadway musical, Burke said, “We are taking lessons we learned from the Broadway musical and expanding them for television.”

This follows ABC’s previous live specials “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” and “The Little Mermaid: Live,” both of which performed well in the ratings, with the former adding a Primetime Emmy Award to the mantle. “Young Frankenstein’s” fall premiere will keep it out of this year’s Emmys, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an important piece of the network’s awards slate in 2021.

In addition to the live musical, Burke announced two gameshow revivals: “Supermarket Sweep,” hosted by Leslie Jones, and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” from Jimmy Kimmel. Jones’ revival of the ’60s era gameshow will start production on its 10-episode first season in the spring with a release date to be announced later, while Kimmel’s primetime revival will be an eight-episode run set to premiere April 8. Timed to honor the show’s 20th anniversary, the new “Millionaire” will be hosted by Kimmel and feature celebrity contestants playing for charity.

“I’ve always dreamed of being on ‘Supermarket Sweep,'” Leslie Jones said in a statement. “Seriously, I tried out for the show years ago; and after getting turned away, I knew I’d have to take matters into my own hands. Being able to bring the iconic game show back to life on ABC is my ultimate redemption story!”

“[Original host] Regis Philbin came to me in a dream, asked me to do this, and promised my own line of neckties if I did. I had little choice but to say yes,” Kimmel said in a statement.

While the rest of Burke’s presentation also included plenty of “Bachelor” / “Bachelorette” chatter and the confirmation that the ABC-broadcast Oscars telecast will again proceed without a host, ABC did fit some scripted news in, greenlighting a sequel to the ’80s drama series, “thirtysomething” titled “thirtysomething(else).” The new show will focus on the kids of the original series’ core cast members, but still feature returning stars like Ken Olin (Michael Steadman), Mel Harris (Hope Murdoch), Timothy Busfield (Elliot Weston), and Patty Wettig (Nancy Weston).

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