Tuesday, September 2, 2003

ABC puts more faith in family matters

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

According to Jim, a throwback family comedy with contemporary themes, is part of ABC's new strategy to reclaim its old glory.

After foundering with trendy singles comedies (Dharma & Greg, Two Guys & a Girl, Spin City, It's Like, You Know) and sinking to fourth place with the demise of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the network is rebuilding its lineup with family shows.

This fall, Hope & Faith, the Kelly Ripa-Faith Ford comedy, joins ABC's According to Jim, The George Lopez Show, Damon Wayans' My Wife and Kids, Bonnie Hunt's Life with Bonnie and John Ritter's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

"These are the kind of shows that ABC was known for for a long time, and then they ... disappeared from network TV," says Susan Lyne, ABC Entertainment president.

For three decades, ABC prospered with family sitcoms such as The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Growing Pains, Full House, Who's the Boss?, Family Matters, Step By Step and Roseanne. When Tim Allen's Home Improvement vanished in 1999, so did the family sitcom on ABC.

"After Friends, all of us were chasing single young adults in the city, trying to make their way in the world. And we lost sight of the fact that, for most of our 18-49 audience, that's not their experience," Lyne says.

"We forget that network comedy gives people a way to see their lives reflected ... in a way that's funny, and allows them to laugh at some of the bigger problems they may deal with in the course of a day," she says.

ABC will revive its "TGIF" Friday sitcom block Sept. 26 with George Lopez, Life with Bonnie and Hope & Faith.

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