Press Tour ’11 Live-Blog: ABC Executive Session

08.07.11 6 years ago 30 Comments

ABC

It’s Sunday Morning! After a late night for the Television Critics Association Awards, reporters are gathered in the Beverly Hilton hotel ballroom for ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee’s opening press conference…

Click through for the excitement, which is sure to include a “Desperate Housewives” announcement and more…

9:00 a.m. The “Desperate Housewives” announcement arrives before Paul Lee. This will, indeed, be the final season of what was, indeed, briefly a landmark series. I’ll inevitably write up a full story on this in a bit. Lee will almost certainly have more to say anon.

9:05 a.m. Paul Lee has been at this gig for a year now and he calls it “a crazy job.” He says ABC has “a hell of a lot to brag about.” The bragging begins with “Modern Family” and with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Dancing with this Stars.” He also celebrates “Body of Proof,” the network’s first new drama hit in years. He admits, though, that ABC “has a lot of work to do.”

9:07 a.m. Lee is the latest exec to SWEAR that their network is all about programming year-round. He’s throwing around a lot of pretty empty jargon. He’s new referred to both “Revenge” and “Apartment 23” as “underrated.” But who the heck has been rating anything? 

9:10 a.m. Paul Lee says he’d had doubts about “Once Upon a Time” as an ongoing story, but he’s seen three scripts and, “I’m now fully confident we can sustain it for three episodes.”

9:11 a.m. On “Desperate Housewives,” Lee says, “It is an iconic show and we’re so proud of it.” 

9:11 a.m. What does ABC get out of nostalgia-driven shows like “Pan Am” and “Charlie’s Angels”? “It does have a built-in audience,” Lee says of “Charlie’s Angels” with its many generations of recognition, but he adds “The proof will be in the pudding.” Of “Pan Am,” Lee says “there’s nothing cheap, glossy and silly about this show.” Lee has now mentioned his background as a director twice. 

9:13 a.m. How do these comedies represent Paul Lee’s comic philosophy? It’s a network about empowered women and the plight of men around them. Lee repeats that ABC is a network that guns for affluent women and these shows reflect that. And what about the reviled “Work It”? Lee admits, “I’m a Brit. It’s in my contract. I have to do a cross-dressing show every year.”

9:15 a.m. There was a whole process of script and conceptual evolution that brought “Once Upon a Time” to air. He thinks the “Once Upon a Time” “changes the rules” and will be “appointment television.”

9:15 a.m. Much praise for Jane Levy, the young star of “Suburbatory.” Of their overall message, ABC plans on opening out a “wider” and “Heartland” brand of comedy on Tuesday night. “Empowered women is definitely a theme of the network. It’s one of the reasons we do so well with affluent women,” he says. But he adds, “In the end, it’s all about emotion.”

9:16 a.m. Lee says that Castle will have a really cool storyline involving a Marvel character. “We’re extremely excited by having Marvel in the fold,” Lee says, adding that they’re aggressively developing properties with The Incredible Hulk and Jessica Jones.

9:20 a.m. “No,” is Paul Lee’s answer to my question about whether the network is worried that the Mancession doesn’t actually exist anymore and that the network is working two years behind the Zeitgeist. Oh well. 

9:21 a.m. “Certainly those are not the projections that we see,” Lee says in response to projections that ABC could slip into fourth place for next season. “We think we’re well-positioned.”

9:22 a.m. What are ABC’s plans for the newly added Hallmark Hall of Fame? “The truth is, it’s an illustrious brand and I think we’re a great environment for them,” Lee says. Up first is “A Leap of Faith.” He thinks TV movies can still be appointment viewing. The deal is for three movies a year.

9:23 a.m. Lee is happy with “Shark Tank.” 

9:24 a.m. A critic asks if there have been thoughts about moving “Rookie Blue” into the regular season. This critic hasn’t actually looked at the ratings. Lee says he’s proud of “Rookie Blue” and wouldn’t rule out airing it in the seasons.

9:26 a.m. ABC’s internal guys are very enthusiastic about “Revenge.” 

9:26 a.m. Is there any future for “Hallelujah”? “I love that idea and we’ve started to redevelop it,” Lee says of the Marc Cherry pilot.

9:27 a.m. If “Mad Men” can’t draw ratings, why will “Playboy Club” and “Pan Am”? “‘Pan Am,’ when you watch it, is a much brighter and broader canvas,” Lee says. He says it’s time to “take some risks in broadcast,” citing “The River” as the kind of show we haven’t seen for a long time. “The fun of these chairs is to start taking risk,” Lee says of his position. Lee says that the second episode of “The River” has “so much heart to it.” He also says that “Steven Spielberg is really engaged in this one.”

9:29 a.m. It’s implied that many of the midseason shows are better than the fall shows. Why? Lee says that January, April and June can all be great months to launch shows. “What we don’t want to do is have all of our shows together,” Lee says.

9:30 a.m. If ABC values women, why cancel those two beloved soaps? This isn’t Paul Lee’s job and he’s perfectly happy to pass the buck.

9:31 a.m. Regarding “Work It,” a critic asks, “Seriously? Come on, Paul.” He says “Sometimes you pick up a pilot because it makes you cackle with laughter.” Lee grins and adds, “We didn’t think this room would like it. And there’s some pleasure in that.” ABC: Taking Pleasure In Programming Trash. Excellent.

9:33 a.m. Out comes Marc Cherry to discuss the end of “Desperate Housewives,” a topic that actually didn’t draw a single question during the panel.

9:35 a.m. “I think the only thing harder than creating a hit show is knowing when to end it,” Cherry says. “I wanted to go out while the network still saw us as a viable show, while we were still doing well in the ratings, while we were still a force to contend with.”  Cherry says that the end-date discussion began in his first discussion with Paul Lee. “We decided that this was the right time and I feel so good about it,” he says. The show will have a whole year to “reflect on how lucky we all were, what an amazing ride this has all been.” He repeats that they’re going to “end this in the classiest way possible.” Cherry had a close relationship with Steve McPherson, but he’s also been close with Lee.

9:37 a.m. Questions for Cherry. How did the stars react when they heard? He’s spoken to over half of the cast. “It was bittersweet and lovely, because the women knew it was a possibility, but they didn’t know,” Cherry says. “People said some very lovely things to me about how I changed their lives and careers and I said it back to them,” he says, calling the actors family. “I love my cast,” Cherry says.

9:40 a.m. Cherry had said he might have enough for a ninth season. “If we were going to go nine, I have no idea what that was going to be,” Cherry says. “The mystery of what’s going on this season harkens back to the first season,” Cherry says, going back to the mystery of Mary-Alice. Part of the consideration for Cherry is that he’s wanted to do some development. “It was really like a back and a forth and we all kinda made the decision together,” Cherry adds of his creative team.

9:43 a.m. Any possibility for a spinoff? “I’m just going to put you in a van and have you solve mysteries,” Cherry says he told Eva Longoria, who he loves more than life itself. Cherry reminds us that he came out of comedy and “Desperate Housewives” was his drama-type thing and it has made him a better writer and “I don’t want to be one of those guys who just repeats himself constantly.”

9:45 a.m. “We’ll see what happens with that,” Cherry says evoking memories of the Edie Britt character.

9:46 a.m. Marc Cherry wanted more time to fix “Hallelujah,” which he says he only got half-right. “You kinda have to get it perfect. It’s a big swing,” he says of timing for the redeveloped pilot. 

9:46 a.m. Will it be an extra-long season? “I never want extra episodes. This is so hard,” Cherry says. “The network has come to me at times wishing they could get more episodes, but this is such a complex show to write,” Cherry says.

That’s all, folks…

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