ABC Family launches new reality series, original movie

Sunday, January 12, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Angela Shapiro had been president of the ABC Family Channel only a few weeks when she approved her first show, a reality program featuring families who think they're funny enough to star in their own sitcom.

"I did it on two sentences from (producer) Bruce Nash: 'Haven't you always said your life is funnier than a sitcom? Well we're going to find the families whose lives really are,'" Shapiro said Wednesday.

The show, "My Life is a Sitcom" premieres Jan. 20 and is the first of several programs ABC Family hopes will boost ratings and advertising dollars at the channel, which The Walt Disney Co. acquired as part of its 2001 purchase of Fox Family Worldwide for $5.2 billion.

ABC Family's ratings grew 14 percent in prime time in 2002 compared to the previous year, but with 1 million viewers, the channel lags far behind rivals.

Shapiro guided ABC Television's popular and profitable daytime lineup before being named ABC Family president last March. Her goal is to remake prime time with new reality shows and made-for-television movies. The channel hopes to have original comedies on air by the end of the year.

Offering family shows

Part of her challenge is to define the term "family" in a way that allows her to offer shows other than those aimed at children. The channel now offers syndicated fare, repeats of ABC shows, movies and children's programing.

ABC Family also is obligated to run evangelist Pat Robertson's "700 Club" several times a day, which was a condition of Robertson's sale of the channel.

ABC Family will broadcast several reality series, including "The Last Resort," in which nine couples with shaky relationships travel to Hawaii to sort things out. It also will debut its first original movie, "The One" in February.

Shapiro is expected to produce a lineup strong enough to justify the money Disney paid for the channel.

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