- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - ABC is adding a fourth drama next season from its favorite producer, Shonda Rhimes, and bringing the Muppets to prime time in a series with both adult and kid appeal, the network said Tuesday.

The Shondaland production company’s fraud investigation drama “The Catch,” starring Mireille Enos, is one of 10 new series for ABC’s 2015-16 schedule.

“The Muppets” is a mockumentary style comedy - in the manner of “The Office” and “Modern Family” - that looks at the famed puppets’ personal lives.

“It’s a grown-up Muppets,” said ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee.

The major broadcast networks are unveiling their new season line-ups to advertisers in New York this week.

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WHAT’S NEW

ABC’s freshman slate will include six dramas and four comedies. Sharing network space with the Muppets is the drama “Wicked City,” which aims to capitalize on L.A. history with such cases as a 1982 murder set in the “rock ‘n’ roll, cocaine-infused revelry of the Sunset Strip,” as ABC put it. In comedy, there’s a remake of the 1989 John Candy movie “Uncle Buck,” with Mike Epps in the role of an irresponsible cutup.

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WHAT’S GONE

The network is bidding farewell to canceled dramas “Forever” and “Resurrection” and the Latino family comedy “Cristela,” part of the network’s diversity push.

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SHONDA TIME

The influence of Rhimes’ work at ABC can’t be overstated. The megaproducer is already responsible for ABC’s entire Thursday night lineup of “Grey’s Anatomy,” ”Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” All of them will return next season. “The Catch” will be slotted into the “Murder” time slot next winter when that show has completed its run of new episodes.

At its presentation to advertisers Monday, ABC joked - sort of - about her pull. It posted a mock schedule with several time slots marked off for TBA Rhimes series.

“I really should give credit to the person who’s paying for this shindig,” said ABC President Ben Sherwood. “Shonda Rhimes, where are you?”

In his annual comedy routine before the advertisers, Jimmy Kimmel noted that in a recent interview, Lee had said that ABC’s success this year was partially due to Rhimes. He said that’s “like saying the success of ‘Thriller’ was only partially due to Michael Jackson.”

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DIVERSITY

ABC is extending the emphasis on diversity that brought “black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” to its schedule last season. Both shows were renewed, and will be joined by the new “Dr. Ken,” starring Ken Jeong of “Hangover” fame as a cranky doctor, and casting Epps as the star of “Uncle Buck.”

The sensitivity made it all the more awkward when Jeong and Epps took to the Avery Fisher Hall stage in front of the advertisers and joked about mistaking the other for being involved in other shows with primarily black and Asian casts.

They couldn’t exit the stage fast enough.

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HOT TOPIC

“The Real O’Neals,” a comedy that drew criticism from religious and conservative groups even before ABC announced it would be airing, is described as a “fresh take” on a seemingly ideal Catholic family whose lives are upended when a son comes out as gay. The lightning rod: Among its executive producers is Dan Savage, a gay rights activist who writes a blunt sex-advice column.

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LATHER UP

ABC, which doesn’t shy away from over-the-top dramas (again, it is Rhimes’ stomping ground) is adding what Lee called two “big, muscular” soap operas to its schedule. One is “Of Kings and Prophets,” which continues the recent TV trend of using the good book as a source and which will offer “all the intrigue and sex and power struggles of the real Bible. … It’s truly the original dynastic soap opera,” Lee said. The other is “Oil,” set in the booming North Dakota oil fields and with an ensemble cast including Don Johnson and Delroy Lindo.

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THESPIAN POWER

ABC is calling on the talents of respected actors including Joan Allen, who stars in “The Family,” about the mysterious reappearance of a politician’s son who vanished a decade before. British TV and film actor Ray Winstone will play King Saul in “Of Kings and Prophets,” while “The Catch” star Enos made a splash in “The Killing.”

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MORNING SYNERGY

ESPN is making moves in the morning designed to bask in the glow of ABC’s top-rated “Good Morning America,” its corporate cousin.

The network said Tuesday it is speeding up its morning “Sportscenter” to fit the pace of the time of day, and will work to share personnel and stories with “GMA.” ESPN2’s morning talk show “Mike & Mike” will move next year from its Connecticut studio to the same Times Square building where “GMA” originates.

Not surprisingly, ESPN executives were quick to tell advertisers that it will sell ad packages that include all three shows.

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BIG BILL

The free-spending days when CBS hired The Who and Turner Networks brought in The Eagles to entertain at its advertising presentations are over. But Univision echoed those days Tuesday, when it booked Bill Clinton to open its show and Ricky Martin to close it.

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AP Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this report

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