Press Tour Live-Blog: ABC Executive Session with Paul Lee
9:25 a.m. PT ABC News President Ben Sherwood just finished a somewhat punchy session, which ran long and pushed Paul Lee's executive session back by a bit. Fortunately, ABC is barely filling 2/3rds of its TCA day, even with Disney Channel and ABC Family taking time, so we can afford a little delay. Stay tuned...
9:28 a.m. The last time we met with Paul Lee, he'd been on the job for only a couple days and hadn't even spend a day in the office. He placated us with nice platitudes about the ABC brand and we were happy that he tried.
9:29 a.m. We're leading off with a funny clip from this Wednesday's "Modern Family." I've already laughed more times at this clip than I did at last week's full episode.
9:30 a.m. Lee begins with praise for the under-discussed performance from "The Middle" kicking off the Wednesday comedy lineup. He then announces pickups for "The Middle," "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town." Yay for "Cougar Town." The other two renewals were obviously no-brainers.
9:31 a.m. "Combines smart with heart," is what Paul Lee says of the ABC Brand. "We don't always live up to it..." he admits. "My Generation," anybody?
9:32 a.m. Paul Lee is a former showrunner and he says his ambition is to make the ABC Studio and the ABC Network a "real showrunner culture." They're looking for established showrunners and new voices. "The combination between a potent brand and empowered showrunners will really give us a chance to succeed going forward into the future," he says.
9:33 a.m. The first question is whether ABC has any fears of over-exposing "Modern Family," which repeats several times during the week. The easy answer? No.
9:35 a.m. Lee and ABC were worried that too many shows were premiering in the fall and the network wanted to find a place and a time to premiere "Body of Proof." He promises, "It's a really good procedural" and adds that they wanted to give the show a place to "really shine."
9:36 a.m. Although Lee only mentioned the renewals for the three comedies, ABC has also renewed "Castle," "Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy." Lee has nice words for "Castle." He also calls "Detroit 187" a "real quality show," though it hasn't been renewed. Yet.
9:38 a.m. "We brought the dinner party. We brought the guests," Paul Lee says, but he says that it's the job of the showrunner to start the conversation and keep the conversation going. He says again that he wants to be a great home for showrunners. He comes from ABC Family and BBC America, which he describes as also being showrunner cultures.
9:40 a.m. Lee says the network has already done some pilot pickups, including a script from Shonda Rhimes, as well as two comedies, "Man Up" and "Smothered." He says it will be a combination of serials and procedurals, with some risk-taking.
9:41 a.m. Lee doesn't want to sound concerned about the huge ratings drop for "Cougar Town" from its "Modern Family" lead-in. He praises the voice that the show has found, but acknowledges that the "Modern Family" lead-in may be used for other shows, even after "Mr. Sunshine" takes the time slot this spring. He says that comedies sometimes take time to find themselves, using the old "Seinfeld" example. Because it's hard to find that may other examples. He uses "The Middle" as another example of growth.
9:45 a.m. "V" question. "You mean those lizards just won't die? The keep coming back?" Lee responds. He says the cut-down to 10 episodes this season was about quality-controlling those episodes. He says they were "very pleased" with the number the show came back with.
9:46 a.m. Lee says he'd like "Detroit 187" to stay with higher numbers, because it's a very high quality show, adding that the people of Detroit have become champions of the show, comparing it to "NYPD Blue," saying no decision will be made for two or three months.
9:47 a.m. Lee is thrill that ABC now has Marvel within the family. "Jessica Jones" and "The Hulk" have "A-List showrunners" and he says that having a franchise is nice, but having a quality show is better. "We've got a little glint in our eye that we would love to make a Marvel franchise work on the network," he says. He says they don't need to develop these shows on the traditional scheduling cycle. He mentions that glint in his eye again and says "Jessica Jones" and "The Hulk" won't be the only Marvel franchises coming. He says he was a big "Hulk" fan from his days working on Brazilian TV.
9:49 a.m. He thinks audiences have a taste for comedy at 10 p.m. and thinks that "Happy Ending" will have nice flow at 10 p.m. coming out of "Cougar Town." He has another twinkle in his eye! This one is for another night of comedy on ABC. He says, in fact, that this is a good time for comedy in America!
9:51 a.m. What kind of risks is ABC willing to take? "It's a balance," Lee says. He admits that he's proud of the network's shows in traditional genres, shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and says CBS execs wouldn't be proud of their procedurals. "In that balance, you do want to change the world," he admits, saying that "Desperate Housewives" and "Modern Family" are examples of shows that viewers had never seen before "or at least are a combination of things you'd never seen before." The key is figuring out "what can work within a broad definition of what your brand is."
9:54 a.m. Will there be more gay/lesbian storylines on future ABC shows? Well, yes. "I feel passionate about diversity," Lee says.
9:55 a.m. "I feel passionately about marketing," Lee declares truthfully. More talk of branding! He says that broadcast networks compete against powerful scripted shows on cable and also with entertainment on other media. He says marketing is essential to bringing audiences to a show in the first place, but also in terms of wider branding that defines the network and conveys "the promise of a network."