1:57 p.m. Has ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson been practicing his Ben Silverman kiss-off all week? Does he have a funny Paula Abdul joke? And is he ready to say good-bye to “According to Jim” forever? Follow our live-blog of McPherson’s Saturday (August 8) Television Critics Association press tour panel… After the break…
2:00 p.m. Let’s roll…
2:03 p.m. The first question is the Ben Silverman question: “I think NBC’s in transition right now,” McPherson says, adding that they’re curious to see how Jay Leno does. He notes, though, that NBC’s resurgence is good for the network television business. Wow. Totally took the high road.
2:04 p.m. ABC still cares about drama. They have to be ambitious.
2:05 p.m. We raise the issue of ABC no longer sending out screeners. He dodges.
2:07 p.m. McPherson says “Eastwick” is in their brand. Does that mean he knows what the ABC brand is?
2:08 p.m. “Canceling shows is the worst part of my job,” McPherson says, vowing as much patience as possible with serialized drama. He says that the network has many different platforms in which to run through
2:11 p.m. “Scrubs” is going to be “Scrubs” when it returns. McPherson promises that even if the locations and some characters change, the voice and dynamic won’t change.
2:12 p.m. “Absolutely,” McPherson says of bringing Paula Abdul over to “Dancing with the Star,” saying Paula would be welcome as a judge, participant, contestant, whatever.
2:14 p.m. McPherson calls NBC’s Leno decision an example of cost-containment, that decisions are either about minimizing downside or maximizing upside and that NBC is minimizing their downside. “NBC is about doing its own thing and the other networks are following the tradition of trying to make great material.”
2:15 p.m. I’m confused. Did McPherson just call “Hank” a “sophisticated” multi-camera? He saw a different pilot than I did.
2:17 p.m. McPherson repeats David Goyer’s point that they’d love to have even part of the “Lost” audience for “FlashForward.” Current “Lost” audience or Season One “Lost” audience?
2:18 p.m. “Katherine’s back,” McPherson assures a questioner who hadn’t been paying attention to “Grey’s Anatomy” news. McPherson feels like Shonda Rhimes hit her stride at the end of last year and that the show is just in the process of evolving, including Ellen Pompeo missing several episodes for her pregnancy.
2:19 p.m. “I’ve come to not really worry about it,” says the formerly agitated McPherson on Nielsen reporting.
2:20 p.m. “Romantically Challenged,” the Alyssa Milano sitcom, looks like it’ll probably air at midseason. Which we knew. So it isn’t informative. On the issue of launching a full night of new programming on Wednesday, McPherson says the night is a priority and that they’ll concentrate on those shows in the same way as they concentrated on “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” years ago. The plan, though, will be to target individual shows, but not to focus on the idea of “Wednesday.” He dubs this an exceptional year of development.
2:23 p.m. “I think it’s unfortunate. It’s not something you want to let consume you or your people,” McPherson says of Katherine Heigl’s ongoing mouthing off. His concern isn’t that the public are going to hear Heigl’s criticisms so much as that hard-working ABC employees will hear and get disheartened. He doesn’t seem passionately unhappy with Heigl, but he sure seems unhappy.
2:24 p.m. Not surprisingly Katherine Heigl isn’t on the talent list for tonight’s ABC party. Fortunately, James Pickens Jr. is and he’s always happy to speak for Heigl.
2:25 p.m. McPherson promises that the “V” people know when the show is premiering and they’re going to tell us later this afternoon. Or maybe he’s just dodging the question.
2:26 p.m. “I’m not going to begin to try to explain someone else’s behavior. As I said, it’s just unfortunate,” McPherson says when, once again, the issue of Katherine Heigl, specifically her motives in carping on a 17-hour work day, is raised.
2:28 p.m. Get this: Stephen McPherson says ABC would like to have a dramatic series franchise (a la “Law & Order” or “CSI” or “NCIS”). I’m shocked.
2:28 p.m. “We have great plans for ‘Ugly Betty.’ We think it’s terrific,” McPherson says of the fate of “Ugly Betty,” a show he calls creatively terrific.
2:30 p.m. McPherson admits that he was frightened when he first heard about the “Private Practice” finale, but that he’s been satisfied with the fan response and the direction that Shonda plans on taking the show next year.
2:31 p.m. McPherson says that he’d have liked “Better Off Ted” to do better in its summer run, but that they’re happy with the direction of the show that they’re seeing in fresh scripts. In general, he says they could have done better with summer programming.
2:33 p.m. Will they actually reach out to Paula? “I definitely have reached out to her. We were friends from way back, so I gave her a call,” McPherson says.
2:34 p.m. That was not as newsy as I might have hoped. Oh well.