ABC tries something brave: drama with journalist as hero

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This image released by ABC shows Hilary Swank in a scene from the new series "Alaska." (Darko Sikman/ABC via AP)

ABC is bringing actress Hilary Swank and the writer of the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” together for a new drama about a journalist working in Alaska.

The Thursday series “Alaska” headlines a fall schedule announced Tuesday that also includes an hourlong celebrity version of “Jeopardy!” and leans heavily on returning favorites.

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Swank will play Eileen Fitzgerald, described as a “recently disgraced” reporter who leaves a high-profile New York life behind to seek personal and professional redemption up north. The creator is Tom McCarthy, who wrote the film about the Boston Globe's investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Craig Erwich, ABC entertainment president, calls it a brave show for this era.

“Telling stories about journalists as heroes is something that's going to get a lot of conversation,” Erwich said in an interview Tuesday. “It's a very optimistic look at the profession.”

“The Rookie: Feds,” a spinoff of ABC's “The Rookie," also earned a spot on the network's fall schedule. Niecy Nash-Betts stars as the oldest newcomer in the FBI academy in the series set for Tuesday night.

“Jeopardy!” will be paired with a celebrity edition “Wheel of Fortune” on Sunday nights. ABC said a host for the show will be named at a later date.

In perhaps providing a blueprint for a broadcast network in a world where streaming services are ascendant, ABC is emphasizing live and unscripted programming in the new season. Aside from its Wednesday night comedy lineup and three dramas on Thursday, scripted shows account for only three of 16 prime-time hours the rest of the week.

“American Idol” will return in midseason, while ABC has said the “Dancing With the Stars” franchise is moving to Disney+. The long-running celebrity dance contest will cede its time slots on ABC to a combination of reality series “Bachelor in Paradise" and NFL Monday night games.

“ABC is a network that is very much about community,” Erwich said. “Whether it's bringing people together through the power of live events, we bring people together to watch family sitcoms, dramas with heroes at the center. We really think that's an opportunity, not just for broadcast television, but it's a place where ABC excels.”


Media Writer David Bauder reported from New York, and Television Writer Lynn Elber reported from Los Angeles.

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