BEVERLY HILLS - ABC started its Television Critics Association press tour day with the generally well-received "Nashville" before moving into Paul Lee's executive session. Perhaps the network was hoping to get in an extra 45 minutes of negotiations with the "Modern Family" cast?
Expect lots and lots and lots of questions about the "Modern Family" impasse. Click through to see how many.
10:01 a.m. Paul Lee loves "Nashville."
10:10 a.m. Lee says "we've had a pretty good year." He highlights Wednesday becoming a comedy destination. "What works so well for this network is individual voices," Lee says. He's also very proud of "Once Upon a Time," which is smart, but also broad. ABC has more co-viewing than any other network. Aren't you glad? ABC loves "Revenge." Lee praises the "binge-watching" of "Revenge," while calling "Scandal" "underrated."
10:04 a.m. However, Lee admits that the network has work to do. "More work to do and time to do it in," he says. He also likes "The Last Resort," praising Shawn Ryan as a showrunner and for mapping out the entire season. "It's emotional and yet it's really full of adventure," Lee says. "It's a genre show. It's a scary show. But it's totally in the ABC brand," Lee says of "666 Park Avenue," he also calls it "delicious," a favorite Paul Lee word. He also likes "Happy Endings." And the midseason comedies. Oh and he's looking forward to bringing family comedy back to Friday night. He likes "Malibu Country" and "Last Man Standing. We get it.
10:07 a.m. News: He's very excited about the "Dancing with the Stars" cast. We're getting tape. There will be 13 all-stars back. I can't keep up with them. But Bristol Palin will be back. And that's really all that matters. And the Final Star will be chosen by ME!!! Oh. Wait. By "you." Sorry. Not me at all. Because I don't care if Kyle Massey comes back.
10:09 a.m. Paul Lee used to love country music. "I used to make documentaries about folk and country musicians," he says. He points out that ABC gets good value from the CMAs. "I think 'Nashville' transcends country music," he says. He compares it to his own appreciation of "Dallas" as a kid, when he didn't love oil. He's particularly proud of T-Bone Burnett's musical contributions. He warns us that they will use that music sparingly, but well and he calls Hayden and Connie gutsy for doing their own singing.
10:11 a.m. The Big "Modern Family" Question: "I expect the season to start on time." he says. "We're hopefully, we're optimistic that we'll be able to resolve it," he promises.
10:11 a.m. Paul Lee loves the linkages between "Don't Trust the B----" and "Dancing with the Stars."
10:12 a.m. How does "Last Resort" fit the ABC brand? Lee likes saying that "Last Resort" tested as well or better with women as with men. "It was an incredible dial-test that built for men and women," Lee maintains, mentioning the "emotional punch" and the "strong female characters." He keeps mentioning a haunting 30-second spot that they've cut for "Last Resort."
10:13 a.m. "It's very important to me. I love 'Neighbors,'" Lee says. "I certainly felt that 8:30 was better. It suited the show better," he adds, explaining the recent time swap. He promises that the network is loving the scripts for "Neighbors." "Candidly, there's so much pressure at 9:30 after 'Modern Family,'" Lee says, adding that "Suburgatory" will be a better bridge anyway. "I'm really looking forward to you guys talking to Dan [Fogelman], because he's one of the best writers in the business," he says.
10:15 a.m. "I have one of the best jobs on television," Lee says, explaining why he preferred the ABC job to topping the BBC.
10:17 a.m. Something about public broadcasting. Great American storytelling resonates around the world. Gotcha.
10:17 a.m. How did "Modern Family" negotiations get to this point? "We're optimistic. I don't want to talk about the specifics of the negotiations, but it's a wonderful show and they're a great cast," Lee says agian.
10:18 a.m. What was Lee's goal for programming? ABC likes talking about its brand. Lee likes to say that ABC shows are smart and have heart. "I love the idea that this is a network that can really take risks with different genres," he adds. He likes that the brand can extend to fairy tales and a story in a submarine.
10:20 a.m. Is there any conversation about getting "Rookie Blue" in-season? "'Rookie Blue,' it's such a great player for us," Lee says, though he adds that there haven't been any thoughts about moving it in-season.
10:20 a.m. "We haven't made a decision about it yet. The cast was fantastic and we loved the twist," Lee says of "Duets." "Reality is hard, because it's very much more difficult now to find the shock of the new," he says. He thinks the key is in execution and he admits that this didn't resonate with audiences. He was very pleased with stars of "Duets." But it's all about execution. He won't say if it's dead. But come on...
10:22 a.m. And what about "Glass House"? What's happening with the CBS law suit? Was it worth it? "We were right in the law suit and that suit is over," Lee says, adding that "It was totally worth it." "We think that was a good swing and we're going to continue to do them."
10:23 a.m. Are other networks looking to ABC to draw a line in the sand on "Modern Family"? ABC and 20th Century Fox TV are full partners are it. But he doesn't want to talk about negotiations.
10:23 a.m. Lee's eager to talk about the "Gotham" pilot. "We were super-excited about some of the shows we had," Lee says. "In the end, it didn't quite make it," Lee says of "Gotham," praising writer Michael Green.
10:25 a.m. ABC is repiloting "Kings of Van Nuys" and multi-camera comedies are still part of ABC's plan, albeit in "a measured way." "You may well see more on the network," he teases.
10:26 a.m. "I started my life on a Brazilian soap opera," Lee says. He loves soap operas. "I don't want to overclaim it, but I feel like 'Revenge,' for instance, has really made soaps cool again. There's nothing wrong with serialized drama," he says. Is ABC reconsidering daytime soaps? "We're very pleased with 'The Chew,'" Lee says, convincingly. "Our focus is on 'General Hospital,'" he says.
10:28 a.m. Does ABC have a contingency plan if negotiations don't go well on "Modern Family"? "I don't want to discuss hypotheticals," Lee says. They're in negotiations.
That's all, folks...