Press Tour 2013 Live-Blog: ABC Executive Session with Paul Lee

It’s party time for ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee. 

Expect questions about the failure of of “Last Resort” and the upcoming production on Joss Whedon’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Click through…

10:30 a.m. ABC’s intro video is LOUD.

10:32 a.m. “I thought Seth was fantastic. I think he’s going to be a great choice,” Paul Lee says of Oscars host Seth MacFarlane. 

10:33 a.m. Lee admits that the network wishes it had more success in the fall. He specifically wants to see more viewership for “Nashville” and he’s also disappointed with how “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” performed. On the other side, he’s very pleased with ABC’s upscale audience. He claims that ABC is the No. 1 brand in America, specifically for Women 18-49 and overall 18-49. ABC is *not* the No. 1 brand among Men 18-49. That would be ESPN. Lee calls “Once Upon a Time” a “huge asset” and says that “Scandal” is “rockin’ and rolling” and he hopes we’re watching.

10:36 a.m. “There’s no question that Jimmy has come out strong and showed he’s really going to be competitive in that time slot,” Lee says of Kimmel. For midseason, Lee praises the “distinctive voice” that Melissa Rosenberg is bringing to “Red Widow.” He speculates that Ludo is going to be the breakout star on “The Taste.” He also thinks “Celebrity Diving” has potential. “We have the original,” Lee says of his diving thing, comparing it to the special FOX aired last night to minimal enthusiasm.

10:38 a.m. Lee is showing us a clip from the upcoming Gloria Has a Baby episode of “Modern Family.” This is a good way of avoiding questions.

10:40 a.m. Jason Mantzoukas is guesting on “Modern Family.” ABC isn’t promoting this fact, but the probably should be.

10:41 a.m. Our first question is about increasing the scale of TV, making TV more like movies. He lists “Once Upon a Time” as a broadcast show with “big ambition.” “The technology is such that we can bring you movies at a price that we can afford,” he says, but adds that “writing and acting and emotion” are still the heart of broadcast TV.

10:43 a.m. What is ABC’s patience with the Tuesday comedies? He calls them  “incredibly distinctive” and says the network loves them. He says that the network is behind “Happy Endings” and “Apartment 23” both on Tuesday and on Sunday. He specifically mentions the plans to back “Happy Endings,” but he doesn’t say the same about “Apartment 23.” “I can tell you these are shows that we love,” he says.

10:45 a.m. Does Lee feel like ABC is now competing with cable? “I think we compete against all entertainment on all platforms,” Lee says, noting that thanks to the DVR, ABC is now often competing with itself. “I think we bring a sense of scale and ambition that others don’t,” Lee says. As for “666 Park Avenue” and “The Last Resort,” Lee says that the network supported “Nashville” instead. He says that “Last Resort” was a male show and viewers didn’t connect with the relationships.

10:47 a.m. But is “Nashville” actually a success? Lee calls it a “bipolar” response. It does well 18-34, but not so well with 35-to-49, apparently. “Those performances are superb,” Lee says of his leading ladies. “We know we have the young trend-setters in and loving that show and we want to use that,” he says. “We’re going to sustain this one,” he promises, suggesting that the Golden Globe nominations may help.  

10:49 a.m. How will ABC looking at Live-plus-3 and whatnot when making choices in May? “We’re in a much more complicated world,” Lee says. He says it isn’t just about Live-Plus-3 or Live-Plus-7. He says he’s also evaluating “passionate” response, whatever that means. He admits that passion is good, but they still want to find a way to move viewership to linear viewing or Live-Plus-3. “I think we, in particular, try to do shows that are really appointment television,” he says. “It’s incumbent on all of us not to take snap judgments,” he says.

10:51 a.m. How will recent violence-related tragedies impact development in pilot season? “Our jobs is always to get a sense of what the country is feeling,” Lee says, calling the tragedies “heartbreaking.” He says that they “welcome the conversation” regarding their role. Lee says that ABC has more sensitive standards. “We want to make sure that the stories that we tell are done with integrity, that there’s no gratuitous action there,” he says.

10:52 a.m. Back to Seth MacFarlane. Will he bring an attitude that the show shouldn’t take itself so seriously? “He wants to be there,” Lee says. “He loves the show and I think he’s going to bring a lot of that energy to it,” Lee says, adding that he’s got a lot of respect and he’s going to have a lot of fun. “I may be proven wrong, but I’m feeling good about it and I’m feeling good about him,” Lee says. “I’m really bullish about it.”

10:54 a.m. ABC is feeling good about multi-cam comedies. Or maybe just about comedy, since he’s praising “The Middle” and “Suburgatory.” “We took a different approach, which was ‘Why don’t we go for Friday?,'” Lee says, adding that “Shark Tank” has become a family show on Fridays and has let ABC go back to “one of the great heritages” of the network. The network’s primary focus remains single-camera comedy.

10:56 a.m. Is ABC developing anything that is unique and unlike other things on TV? “We can fall flat on your face when you take a big risk on something people say isn’t going to work,” he says. He loves taking risks and “big swings.” Lee says the Walt Disney Company is surprised to see fairy tales doing so well in the 18-49 demo. “We lead with emotion,” Lee says of the brand. He praises the “Once Upon a Time” creators for bringing emotion.

10:58 a.m. Is ABC doing too many conspiracy shows? “In reality what drives those shows is the emotion,” Lee says, though he admits “Zero Hour” leads with conspiracy.

10:59 a.m. Finally a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” question. Has ABC thought about where to position it if it gets picked up? Lee says ABC has more co-viewed shows than other networks. “Absolutely, Marvel has the ability to bring the family together,” Lee says, praising the male-female relationships in Joss Whedon’s script. He says they fast-tracked the show and they’re “very hopeful” it will move forward and let ABC start promoting it early. “The script’s great. I don’t want to jinx it,” he says. 

11:01 a.m. What did “Last Resort” teach about branching out? “If we do shows that guys like that women don’t want to come to then that doesn’t work for us,” Lee says. The goal is to do shows that women love and men like, too. “It needs to be relatable. You need to be able to imagine yourself in that show,” Lee says.

11:01 a.m. ABC is claiming to be No.1 in C-3, but that’s only if you don’t include sports. If you include sports, they’re No.3.

11:03 a.m. “We’re still intending on keeping it going twice a year,” Lee says of “Dancing with the Stars,” insisting that the “All-Stars” season made the show’s audience older and that casting it differently could bring young viewers back.

11:04 a.m. Lee gives Shonda Rhimes credit for the “Who shot Fitz?” arc on “Scandal” and for making “Scandal” into a very different show from “Grey’s Anatomy.” He also credits the social networking team with helping develop and build buzz around “Scandal.” He praises the “Revenge” and “Once Upon a Time” team for building to cliffhangers and surprises. “They’re competitive with each other. They watch each other succeeding and sometimes they plagiarize and sometimes they compete,” he says.

11:05 a.m. Did they try to help steer Shawn Ryan on “Last Resort” to make the show more female-friendly? He says that they did, indeed, tell the producers to keep in mind relatable storylines. “It’s not our job to give the solutions,” he says. Their job is say, “Can we have some more emotion?” or to ask for more engagement? 

11:07 a.m. Lee notes that the network and studio gave the “Last Resort” enough time to build to a closed ending. The network tries to let the shows create endings. “It’s not always possible, because of the realities of the business,” he says.

11:08 a.m. Lee thinks primetime soaps are back. “Soap is one of the great genres,” Lee says. “I think we do soap operas particular well,” he says, observing that Latinas love soaps and bring that demo to ABC. 

That’s all for Paul Lee… Sepinwall is hoping to get more info from Lee… He’ll report back…