Shield Interrogation

ABC’s new fall schedule answers two big questions: Where is female-skewing ABC going to put Marvel’s Agents of ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.? And will the Once Upon a Time spin-off get paired with Once Upon on Sundays?

The answers: S.H.I.E.L.D. (full trailer) is going Tuesdays at 8 p.m. as part of a radical overhaul of the evening, leading into all-new shows (grid below). One reporter asked ABC entertainment president Paul Lee if he had any trepidation about launching S.H.I.E.L.D. without a lead-in and against CBS’ powerful NCIS. “Every single hour on the schedule is up against competition,” Lee pointed out. “We think it’s going to recruit a whole new audience coming in. We think it has a built-in audience [due to The Avengers]. And we don’t think the audience is necessarily the same as NCIS. [S.H.I.E.L.D.] tested so well in all four quadrants.”

While Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (featuring a “kick-ass Alice,” Lee says) will serve as a lead-in for Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays, creating an empowered-women drama block along with Scandal. ABC hopes that the built-in Once Upon audience will help solve the network’s “death slot” problem on the night.

The biggest news, however, is what’s missing from the schedule: The Dancing with the Stars results show. ABC has been looking for ways to keep the reality show viable amid sagging ratings. By dumping the results hour, it opened up a unique and untested place for ABC to launch S.H.I.E.L.D. The Dancing eliminations will be revealed during the same telecast as the performances. Here’s Lee detailing why ABC eliminated the Dancing results show.

ABC also plans to air some serialized shows like Once Upon a Time, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal in two 12-hour blocks in fall and spring. In between runs, the network would air a limited series to bridge the gap rather than repeats of the time slot’s usual show. It’s yet another way that broadcasters are taking a cue from cable networks, as channels like USA Network and Syfy often split runs of dramas without airing any repeats in between weeks of original episodes. The move has the potential to give fans more epiosdes of their favorite shows — two 12-episode blocks equals 24 episodes instead of the usual 22 (though Lee wouldn’t confirm if the above titles had received additional episode orders).

Also of interest: The Neighbors is moving to Fridays to be paired with Last Man Standing. On Sundays, Revenge will lead into new drama Betrayal, creating a two-hour block of high-emotion titles. Lee also addressed why the network cancelled Happy Endings.

Full Schedule, new shows in bold, more details to come from ABC’s conference call…