ABC really needs a new drama to work; is this the year?

detroit-187-320.jpgWhat do "Brothers & Sisters," "Private Practice," "Castle" and "V" have in common?

They're the only dramas ABC has introduced since the 2006 upfronts that are still on the schedule for next season. Which is why it's so important that the network get a hit out of its crop of new hour-long series.

The six new shows -- "No Ordinary Family," "Detroit 1-8-7," "The Whole Truth," "My Generation," "Body of Proof" and "Off the Map" -- will try to buck a trend among new shows ABC has introduced in the past four seasons. ABC has, by our count, introduced 24 new dramas (not counting summer shows) between 2006-07 and 2009-10. Of those, 13 were off after just one season -- shows like "FlashForward," "Eastwick," "Big Shots" and "Six Degrees." Six more spanned just two seasons.

"Brothers & Sisters," which just wrapped its fourth season, and "Ugly Betty," whose four-year run ended in April, are the longest-tenured series introduced since fall 2006. "Private Practice" starts its fourth year in the fall, "Castle" is going into its third season, and "V" got a second-season pickup this week.

It's important for ABC to launch a new hit because its returning flagship dramas, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives," are both starting to age a little. ("Lost," of course, is going away in a few days.) As they end their sixth seasons, both are still Top 20 shows in both viewers (14 million for "Housewives," 13.3 million for "Grey's") and adults 18-49 (5.1 rating for "Grey's," 4.8 for "Housewives"), but both are also down some compared to last year. "Grey's Anatomy" is off 9 percent in both viewers and the demo, while "Desperate Housewives" has fallen 11 percent in viewers and 16 percent among adults 18-49.

Most shows show slippage when they get to that age, but ABC doesn't really have anything that looks like a future tentpole on its air at the moment. Outside of "Grey's" and "Housewives," "Castle" is the most-watched returning drama at 10.5 million viewers -- good for 33rd overall this season -- while "Private Practice" is the best performer in the demo at 3.5, tied for 33rd place. Those aren't bad numbers, but they're not the kind that push a network to the top of the Nielsens.

ABC indicated at Tuesday's (May 18) upfront that it would be giving "No Ordinary Family" and "My Generation," both of which will be in tough 8 o'clock timeslots in the fall, big marketing pushes, while hoping that "Detroit 1-8-7" and "The Whole Truth" shore up weak 10 p.m. slots on Tuesday and Wednesday and "Body of Proof" can inject some life into Friday nights. ("Off the Map" will premiere at midseason.)

"Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" probably won't be falling off a ratings cliff anytime soon. But they will need to be replaced eventually, and we're guessing ABC would like to start that process before the shows leave the air rather than after the fact.

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Photo credit: "Detroit 1-8-7"/ABC