What do TV shows about a mysterious teenager minus a bellybutton, a police officer returning to his urban neighborhood and a small town dealing with the possible end of the world have in common?
The three series are on or joining ABC Family’s schedule, part of an effort to boost original programming after traditional reliance on old series reruns and movies — and to put a new gloss on a channel with an erratic history.
There’s a renewed emphasis on the “Family” in the channel’s title, but with a current twist, and a more aggressive hunt for viewers in the 18-to-28 age group, said ABC Family president Paul Lee, the executive guiding the building effort since 2004.
“Family drama is alive and well and people are rediscovering it,” said Lee. “We felt we could take a brand that maybe had looked away from its core word and say, ‘Hold on, we can reclaim this word.’ ”
ABC Family is counting on a slate of new series to accomplish that, including the heavily promoted “Kyle XY,” about the anatomically incorrect teenage boy who is given a home by a social worker and her family and soon displays extraordinary abilities.
“Three Moons Over Milford,” debuting Aug. 6, stars Elizabeth McGovern, Nora Dunn and Rob Boltin in the tale of how the town’s residents respond when faced with a cosmic crisis: An explosion has split the moon into three pieces, perhaps portending the world’s demise.
They decide to live like there’s no tomorrow, quitting their jobs and indulging their whims (or vices).
Other original shows airing on ABC Family are the racehorse saga “Wildfire,” starting production on its third season, and “Falcon Beach,” a soap opera about locals vs. rich kids in a New England summer resort town.
Coming in 2007 is the channel’s boldest bet, “Lincoln Heights,” about a black lawman who returns to his crime-filled neighborhood. He’s determined to make a difference but his family is put under stress by the move. Russell Hornsby and Nicki Micheaux star in the drama from executive producers Kevin Hooks (“Prison Break”) and Kathleen McGhee Anderson (“Soul Food”).
Black family dramas are rare on TV, as Lee well knows. But he says the show fits with the channel’s goal of putting on “high-quality shows about today’s families, not yesterday’s.”
That also describes “Gilmore Girls” and other network shows acquired by the channel, which still dominate the schedule, as well as the forthcoming urban drama, he said: All of the series are about “real families” dealing with contemporary issues.
“I don’t see ‘Lincoln Heights’ as anything but a great lead-out from a ‘Gilmore Girls’ or ‘7th Heaven’ because it is a family that deals with gritty issues.”
While some critics argue the blunt depiction of tough contemporary issues makes the channel less family friendly, Lee disagrees.
“We feel we’re doing our mandate here. . . . Families today are different from the traditional television family, and we’re not in an ‘Ozzie & Harriet’ world. We are in a ‘Lincoln Heights’ world.”
Disney, which bought the channel (and foreign assets) for $5.3 billion in cash and debt acquisition in 2001, saw its value fall in the first few years as plans to “repurpose” ABC shows on the cable channel foundered.
“Kyle XY” airs 8 p.m. Monday on ABC Family.
The series premiere of “Falcon Beach” airs 9 p.m. Monday on ABC Family.