After giving sitcoms Cristela and Black-ish full first season orders, ABC may have finally found some rhythm in its comedy department. ABC executives ordered an additional nine episodes of Cristela Alonzo’s family series Cristela on Monday. This is in addition to several other series extensions, including 11 new episodes for comedian and current Walmart pitchman Anthony Anderson’s Black-ish. The network also ordered two more episodes this season of sophomore series The Goldbergs, veteran comedy The Middle and Emmy Award-winning golden child Modern Family.
ABC has struggled to find a solid block of sitcoms in the 21st century. Far gone are the days of Boy Meets World (1993-2000), The Drew Carey Show (1995-2004) and Home Improvement (1991-1999). Since then, it has mostly been a long string of few-season series. Modern Family and The Middle are in the midst of their sixth seasons, the network’s longest-running sitcoms while Last Man Standing is its only other “veteran” sitcom in its fourth season. ABC has questioningly canceled fan favorites like Ugly Betty, Suburgatory, Cougar Town (which was saved by TBS) and Happy Endings in recent years as it attempts to build an entire comedy block rather than one or two concurrently-running hits.
New comedies Manhattan Love Story and Selfie (pictured to the right) were given the axe this month. The concept comedies brought in underwhelming ratings and were cancelled before completing their first seasons. ABC announced that it will stream the full first seasons of both shows on ABC.com and on Hulu. With a wave of cancelled and unaired series being snatched up by video streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, the low cost of airing already-produced episodes are an innovative way for studios to “shop” their unwanted wares or even build up enough of a fan base to pick a series back up, not unlike Family Guy.
ABC has never been a consistent destination for comedy in the new millennium. With its last big hit Desperate Housewives ending in 2012, the network only has a few years left to develop strong shows with high enough ratings to block together. Their recent push for comedy shows representing minority voices may be the angle that works for them. Black-ish has been well-received despite the potentially-embarrassing title and Cristela is delivering consistent numbers. The other hopeful will be new mid-season series Fresh Off the Boat, which premieres in 2015. Fresh Off the Boat is a semi-autobiographical series about the life of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, whose father moves the family from Washington D.C.’s Chinatown to the suburbs of Orlando, FL to pursue the American Dream— of opening a barbecue restaurant.
ABC’s newfound comedy block on Wednesday nights starts with The Middle at 8 pm ET followed by The Goldbergs, Modern Family and Black-ish. The complete first seasons, including unaired episodes, of Selfie and Manhattan Love Story will be available on ABC.com and Hulu starting this week, where older episodes of other ABC shows like Black-ish are currently available.