Grading The Networks: ABC

Today begins the annual weeklong report cards I hand out to the networks, going alphabetically. Naturally, that means starting with the alphabet network.

THE GOOD: ABC, which had been lacking for years in developing sitcoms, came out firing this year with the acclaimed and well-rated trio of "The Middle," "Cougar Town" and the best of them all, "Modern Family."

On the drama side, ABC drew every ounce of attention it could with the final season of "Lost." Though not as strong as in the past, "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" still do solid numbers, and "Castle" has continued to grow as a hit, the top-rated drama on Mondays.

Reality-wise, the network garners big numbers with "Dancing With The Stars" and "The Bachelor."

THE BAD: Two of the networks most-hyped new dramas, "FlashForward" and "V" lost viewers steadily, thanks in part to ABC holding them out for several months while the Olympics went on, and constantly tinkering with both shows. "V" did manage to earn another season. But those shows, as well as the disappointing "Happy Town," mean ABC is no closer to filling the void left by "Lost."

On the comedy side, "Hank" was a notable flop, as was the "Scrubs" reboot, while the solid "Better Off Ted" never found an audience.

OVERALL: In years past, ABC has had the high-concept dramas work while the sitcoms fell flat; this year, it was the reverse. ABC deserves credit for bolstering the weakest aspect of its programming, and will probably be rewarded with an Emmy for "Modern Family."

However, ABC gets low marks for not only failing for the most part with its new dramas, but having a hand as to why they failed with the constant tinkering and the long absence, driving away viewers by the droves. On the flip side, ABC squeezed every single drop it could out of the final season of "Lost," and it will probably also pay off in DVD sales.


MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Ever wonder how Lightman and Foster got together? Learn how it happened tonight on "Lie To Me," (Fox, 8 p.m.), followed by "The Good Guys" at 9 p.m.

The aformentioned ABC has a new "Bachelorette" at 8 p.m., and "True Beauty" at 10 p.m.

I found myself intrigued enough to stick with "Persons Unknown" (NBC, 10 p.m.), sort of a cross between "Lost" and "The Prisoner."

On cable, "Saving Grace" (TNT, 10 p.m.) continues to wind down.