[01/10/11 - 01:29 PM]
ABC at TCA: Lee Wants More Comedy; Touts Renewals, Development
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "That's a core part of our schedule," ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee said about its renewals of "Castle," "Cougar Town," "Grey's Anatomy," "The Middle," "Modern Family" and "Private Practice."

Lee, five months into his job as network topper, was on hand to tout the aforementioned pickups during ABC's executive session at the TCA Winter Press Tour this morning. "My real ambition is to make the ABC studio and the ABC network a real showrunner culture," he added with regards Bill Lawrence, Shonda Rhimes, Steve Levitan and company.

Two shows not on the list however were "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters." "We have ambitions to pick ['Housewives'] up. We are not quite there, ready to do so," he said. "And 'Brothers & Sisters' has gotten really good numbers this year... But we have not made decisions on them yet, and we are not necessarily ready for them, but we'll see as we go forward."

All in all, it was a relatively low key affair as Lee, as expected, reiterated his ambitions to add another night of comedy next season. "I have a twinkle in my eye that I'd love to see another night of comedy," he said, later adding kind words about their first wave of comedy pilots. ("We just picked up on Friday two hilarious comedies, one from Chris Moynihan called 'Man Up' and one from Reich and Cohen, which is called 'Smothered,' which I thought was absolutely hilarious.")

On the drama front, Lee addressed rolling back "V's" second season to 10 episodes: "We made sure it was ten episodes so we could quality control those episodes. And we've also brought we brought a whole load of new ideas into it, so we've tried to really amp up the level of adrenaline in that show. And I think that's our ambition, to make sure that shows like that just get better and better and better. And we were very pleased to see it come back with a good number, very pleased."

As for its acclaimed-albeit-ratings-challenged freshman entry "Detroit 1-8-7," Lee noted that "we haven't made our decisions yet on second season. I'm not saying I wouldn't have liked it like it to have stayed with high numbers, because it's an extremely high-quality show... It's a really gritty, brilliantly written show which we're very proud of. So do we hope it comes back. We're not going to make those decisions probably for another two to three months, I have to say."

Lee also tubthumped Shonda Rhimes's latest drama pilot for the network, an untitled hour about a public relations fixer in Washington, D.C. ("There's a fabulous procedural. I called it procedural. It's so character driven, it's a strange word for it from Shonda Rhimes that we picked up right before Christmas."), as well as potential franchises from the now Disney-owned Marvel Comics.

"We certainly would like to do it," he said about "The Incredible Hulk" and "A.K.A. Jessica Jones," citing the power of the Disney brand. "This is one of the things I think our company does better than other companies that I've worked for in the past, is that you can get the whole company behind an idea and that if it works, you can then make that idea live in theme parks and in retail stores and beyond."

On the flip side, Lee was quick to address the failure of "Skating With the Stars." "We did a whole lot of postmortems afterwards, and, look, not everything works. Statistically, most things don't work. I think we were probably too similar," he said with regards to "Dancing With the Stars." "And I think maybe we put them too close together, or we made something whose DNA was really too close together even though the brief before going in there was, 'Hey, we have this fabulous, culturally defining show. We'd love to extend it.'"

He was also candid about the decision to spell "Cougar Town" for "Mr. Sunshine": "Look, does the position after 'Modern Family' provide for us a great launch pad for what we consider to be strong comedies into the future? Yeah, of course it does. I mean, otherwise we wouldn't have put the Matt Perry show there, and we think that's a good place to put it. In the long term, do we have ambitions that 'Cougar Town' could on its own start an hour? We would love to see it do that. Nevertheless, nobody looks at our Wednesday at 9:00 and 9:30 and doesn't feel that's a great hour of television and those are very good ratings."

The executive sessions continue tomorrow with FOX.

  [january 2011]  

· V (ABC)

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