ABC to shelve “Ugly Betty” this spring

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The news is not horrible.

Ugly Betty is not being canceled; it’s merely going on hiatus this spring (beginning March 26) to give ABC a chance to bring back Samantha Who? and introduce In the Motherhood.

Now, there’s nothing inherently bad about being pre-empted to shore up other shows. It suggests that your time-slot and audience is valuable. And ABC is a fan of the mid-season replacement — after all, they pioneered it 20 years ago with the Animal House spinoff, Delta House, featuring Michelle Pfeiffer. (Major points to anyone who remembers this show, and you’ll earn my undying respect if you know the lyrics to Pfeiffer’s song, “Pizza Guy.”)

And if you really want to try to make this a good thing, think about it this way: You get to skip all the reruns between February and May Sweeps! Of course, the fact that Ugly Betty probably won’t be airing during May Sweeps certainly raises the question of how much ABC values one of its signature programs. And, as Michael Ausiello at Entertainment Weekly points out, that’s the issue. His prediction, after considering likely timelines, is that Betty won’t return until sometime in June — after the regular TV season ends. Which raises a big WTF? Is this how you treat one of the best shows on TV?

Let’s take a moment to look at what’s pre-empting Betty. There’s Christina Applegate’s Samantha Who?, which also features Jennifer Esposito and Melissa McCarthy.

The cast is certainly compelling, and I’ve heard the show is worth watching. And last fall, they aired an obligatory character-is-mistaken-for-a-lesbian episode, which sounds like it was a complete rip-off of the Season 1 episode of Friends in which Chandler is mistaken for gay and then insulted that his colleagues believe that “Brian in Payroll” is out of his league.

And then there’s In the Motherhood, the sitcom based on the Chelsea Handler/Jenny McCarthy/Leah Remini web series of the same name.

The ABC version features Megan Mullally, Cheryl Hines and Jessica St. Claire and works from the same premise: it’s a scripted show about motherhood that draws its plots from real-life scenarios submitted by viewers.

(If you’d like to submit your motherhood stories, you can do so on their website. Perhaps they’ll introduce lesbian moms or even better — lesbians trying to become moms — because that would be original!)

Again, it’s not that the Ugly Betty replacements are bad — I’ve heard Samantha Who? is worth watching and In the Motherhood certainly has a cast worth watching. It’s just a little depressing that ABC is bumping a well-written show driven by such strong women characters to make room for it’s other “girl” shows. Isn’t there room for more than one at the same time?

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