ABC needs to get two things right this fall: 1) Launch Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.; 2) Relaunch Dancing With The Stars. The first one looks to be a slam dunk, given the anticipatory gushing over the series, and creator Joss Whedon, going on in the press and on fan sites. The second, however, is far from a sure thing — especially after the last fall’s disastrous all-star edition.
The veteran dance competition lives or dies based on its celebrity casting, and the producers botched it pretty thoroughly in both editions last season. Ratings plunged to an all-time low as the show competed against NBC’s The Voice for the first time in the fall with the all-star edition. Turned out, ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee acknowledged recently, viewers don’t want to see celebrities who can dance well competing — they want to see celebrities who can’t dance well, learning their right foot from their left. This had escaped the network and producers until it was too late. Any hope of real recovering in the spring edition fell flat with that edition’s limp cast. Andy Dick — really? Not surprisingly, the reality series only climbed back up to its second-worst numbers ever, though, yes, up is up.
Related: CNN To Launch Overhauled ‘Crossfire’ Same Night ABC Launches Overhauled ‘Dancing With The Stars’
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Bad news for ABC — better news maybe for Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey: Sandra Oh has announced she’s leaving Grey’s Anatomy at the end of the ABC drama’s upcoming 10th season. “It’s been a great privilege to play the character of Cristina Yang on GA and I am both sad and excited to see where this, her final season will take her,” Oh said in this afternoon’s statement, calling it an emotional and “deeply creative decision” to leave.
Pompeo and Dempsey’s contracts also are up at the end of the coming season, and ABC presumably won’t want any more of the series majors to exit. That’s always a good bargaining position. Dempsey made news the recent Summer TCA Press Tour, when he told a ballroom full of press — while promoting a car-racing show for Velocity network called Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans – that his passion in life is car racing, and acting is what he does to support that habit. Some mention may have been made of the redundancy of Grey’s storylines. Eyebrows around the room shot up. And a few days later, at the Press Tour, the reporters asked ABC programming chief Paul Lee if Dempsey was leaving and/or Grey’s was toast after this season. Lee responded, emphatically — as did ABC today in the wake of Oh’s announcement — that ABC intended to have the steamy doc drama on the primetime lineup “for many years.” At that time, Lee said he would not discuss possible cast changes — the press assumed he was talking about Dempsey — because he didn’t want to be yelled at by show creator Shonda Rhimes.
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ABC programming chief Paul Lee is jumping on the shark bandwagon, announcing this morning his network has scheduled Shark Tank Week for the week of Sept. 8. ABC will not plow through five original episodes of the Mark Burnett-produced reality competition franchise, Lee told TV critics, who’d given the show their TCA Award for best reality series the previous night. Instead Shark Tank Week is merely a re-packaging of five fan-fave repeats. One of the show’s sharks, Mark Cuban, already has been signed to guest on Discovery Channel’s Shark After Dark late night show as part of its Shark Week. Lee declined – twice – to discuss the scheduling of Shark Tank Week to coincide with NBC’s live Ryan Seacrest-hosted game show Million Second Quiz, during Lee’s Q&A this morning at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013.
Lee also declined to take a whack at Netflix for not releasing any viewing stats on House of Cards – a leitmotif of this summer’s press tour. Lee went with “competition is good.” Critics asked Lee loads of micro-questions about his network’s plans – unveiled in May at the upfronts – to air “a selected group” of dramas in two uninterrupted runs, one in the fall and one in the spring, bridged by limited series. But ABC’s new Once Upon A Time spinoff, Once Upon a Time: Wonderland — originally announced as a bridge show between the Once Up on a Time’s fall and spring seasons, has instead been scheduled in the fall on Thursday nights because “We just fell in love with it,” and “it’s a rabbit hole I wanted to go down for the full season.”
Plus, he noted, “We were looking to build a real block on Thursday of Empowered Women [Drinking Game!] on Thursday nights. This is Alice like you have never seen before. She’s a truly kick-ass Alice,” he said. And by ‘empowered, kick-ass Alice,’ he means an Alice who’s saved from “a doomed fate” by the White Rabbit and a handsome genie with whom she’s in love, who Lewis Carroll forgot to mention in his original story. Female Empowerment Thursday on ABC includes Alice in peril, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scandal. Read More »
Barry Jossen, exec vp at ABC Studios, the guy who ran day-to-day operations at ABCS, is “returning to his career as an award-winning producer with a production deal with ABC Studios,” ABC said today. That wasn’t ABC’s headline: The headline was that ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee is promoting Channing Dungey, Samie Falvey and Patrick Moran, each to EVP. Moran, who had been SVP Drama Development, now will run ABC Studios, with all creative and production operations will report to him. He’s taking Jossen’s place. Jossen had this to say: “During the course of the past year, I have given a lot of thought about what I want to do next due to television’s changing landscape. For me, it seemed best to get out of the day-to-day operational work of overseeing ABC Studios. I plan to return to producing and am considering a number of other opportunities that have come my way. I love my colleagues at ABC Studios and have been quietly preparing them for success as they transition into their new positions.” Dungey, who was SVP Drama Development, adds movies and miniseries to her purview. Falvey, formerly SVP Comedy Development, adds international scripted development to her comedy responsibilities. Read ABC’s statement after the jump:
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ABC is changing things up in scheduling some of its serialized dramas. Taking a page from the cable model, the network will air what ABC president Paul Lee called “a selected group” of dramas in two uninterrupted runs, one in the fall and one in the spring, bridged by limited series. The series that will follow the new scheduling pattern include Once Upon A Time, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and likely Revenge, with others TBD. So far, the network only has set up a bridge series for Once, new adventure reality series The Quest. Lee said such bridge series won’t necessarily be all unscripted. Two cycles of 12 episodes would bring the total orders for the shows to 24, which is hard on a complex, serialized drama, but Lee indicated that number has not been set in stone. He said that the network is looking to further shake up the traditional broadcast scheduling model with “quality launches” throughout the season. Lee also said that new fall drama Betrayal is designed as a limited series, airing 12-13 episodes a season. The same applies to midseason drama Resurrection, which will replace it in the Sunday 10 PM slot in midseason.
Related: ABC 2013-14 Schedule Read More »
ABC‘s successful fairytale drama Once Upon A Time is all about the juxtaposition of good and bad and so were the opening remarks of the network’s topper Paul Lee at TCA today. “We have a lot to shout about and a lot to do,” Lee started off with. On the bright side, Lee touted ABC’s success with sophomore shows, including Scandal, which Lee said “is rocking and rolling,” and Once Upon A Time, as well as making “a great first step with family comedies on Friday.”
Related: ‘Mistresses’ Producers Mull How To “Break The Rules”: TCA
On the disappointment side: the soft ratings for the all-star edition of Dancing With The Stars (“We found out people like to see bad dancing as much as they like to see good dancing,” Lee said), and freshman drama Nashville‘s inability to connect with wider audiences off the bat despite very strong 18-34 ratings. Add to that the disappointing ratings performance of ABC’s other freshman dramas, Last Resort and 666 Park Ave, both of which have been cancelled. “I was disappointed that there have been no big breakout hits on any networks this fall, not just ABC,” Lee said, discounting NBC’s drama Revolution and the CW’s hot rookie Arrow.
Related: ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ “Embodies The American Dream”, Says Producer: TCA Read More »
At ABC’s executive session this morning ABC chief Paul Lee fielded questions about the state of the cast salary renegotiations on Modern Family, which have been difficult and resulted in a lawsuit and a table read rescheduling this week. “I expect the season to start on time,” Lee said. “We are in the middle of negotiations, and we’re hopeful and optimistic we will be able to resolve it”. While negotiations are led by Modern Family producer 20th Century Fox TV, “we are with 20th in this, we are full partners”, Lee said. I hear Lee and ABC’s head of business affairs Jana Winograde have been very involved in the process. The network will take over production cost for the show in a couple of years.
Related: Are ‘Modern Family’ Actors Nearing Salary Agreement?
Lee also was asked about the top BBC job that he was reportedly offered but didn’t pursue. “I’m living the dream why would I”, Lee said. “I have one of the best jobs in television, I love this job. I’ve been in the U.S. for 15 years, and my sons are American, my family are Americans. I love ABC, it’s a brand I’m loyal to”‘.
Despite the fact that ABC’s schedule only features two multicamera comedies next season, Last Man Standing and Malibu Country, both on Friday, Lee reaffirmed the network’s commitment to the multicamera genre and confirmed that ABC will be “re-piloting” its multi-camera pilot from this past season, Kings Of Van Nuys, which is based on one of Lee’s favorite British series, Only Fools And Horses. The pilot script has now been reworked, and deals are being made with the entire original cast, led by John Leguizamo, to return. Read More »
“Storytelling itself has changed because our viewers have changed,” ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee said this morning at his opening presentation for the Banff World Media Festival in Canada. ”Smart is the new mainstream….If the message of 20 years ago was famously never over-estimate the intelligence of the public, I think the message of today should be never under-estimate the intelligence of the public.” ABC has responded by promoting shows such as Once Upon A Time, Revenge and Suburgatory. They worked while “the not-so-smart shows that I did? Well, I needn’t mention Charlie’s Angels anymore….I like to call my brand ‘smart with heart’.” He says that while television has long offered smart shows, in the past “they were the exception, now they’re the rule.” With Once Upon A Time, he says the producers effectively straddle the demands of high and low culture. It’s also helped by green-screen technology that enables producers to use computers to generate a cinematic look without the need for extravagant sets and location shots. ABC initially ran into trouble when it promoted the show as a procedural. But when it began to sell it like a movie, “awareness shot through the roof.” ABC took a chance to build interest by putting the show online ahead of the TV premiere. “We found that presampling the whole show online can actually create enough buzz, enough conversation, enough excitement to drive higher, not lower linear numbers at launch.”
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On the heels of beating Jay Leno for the first time in-season last week and marking his 10th anniversary in late-night, Jimmy Kimmel returned to headline ABC’s upfront presentation today older if not wiser. Kimmel was introduced by a video featuring celebrities congratulating him on his anniversary, including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, stars of ABC series and the Kardashian sisters. Kimmel started off by thanking the Kardashians for taking time “from their busy schedule of having sex with the Minnesota Timberwolves.”
Kimmel skewered ABC entertainment president Paul Lee for putting panned cross-dressing comedy Work It on the air last season. “Remember last year that show Work It? You know we were kidding, right? The fact that Paul Lee greenlit that should tell you everything you need to know about what Brits think about us.”
Related: ABC First Look Teasers: 2012-13 New Shows
On Lee, who was reportedly approached for the top job at the BBC. “He decided to stay. In the end, ABC has something that BBC would never have: dental.”
On ABC shows: “Dancing With The Stars is still going strong-ish. Last night I was watching the show, fell asleep fell off the couch and hit my head on the floor. And for the first time this season, I actually saw stars.” On ABC’s upcoming all-stars edition of Dancing: “Dancing With The Stars All Stars — how many times can we lie to you in a single title.” Also, “The upcoming Duets is unlike any other singing competition show… assuming you haven’t seen any other singing competition show.”
Related: 2012-13 ABC Schedule: Comedy Block On Friday, ‘Revenge’ Gets ‘Housewives’ Slot
Some of Kimmel’s shots at other networks:
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The upcoming cycle of Dancing With The Stars will be an all-star edition, ABC president Paul Lee announced during the network’s press call this morning. “We’re bringing fan favorites from the past 14 seasons,” Lee … Read More »
ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee is not going anywhere. A Variety report out of London about interest in the British-born ABC executive for the soon-to-be-vacant position of director general of the BBC got the town buzzing as the news … Read More »
We are at the tail end of a TV selling season that saw more bidding wars and production and put pilot commitments than I can remember, and that isn’t lost on the broadcast entertainment presidents. Survivor‘s Jeff Probst opened the discussion at the annual Hollywood Radio & Television Society network chiefs luncheon today by sharing that during his lunch with the executives before they took the stage, everyone was complaining about how crazy and out of whack this pitch season has been. Fox’s Kevin Reilly, who spoke his mind more than anyone else on the panel, quickly jumped in. “(NBC) got cash, (ABC) got competitive against that cash, and we took the bait,” is how Reilly summed up this year’s marketplace. “We all think we were played a little bit. Agents are doing very well this year as a result.” Reilly’s counterparts mostly agreed, though their responses were more measured. “It’s been very, very frantic this year,” CBS’ Nina Tassler said. She blamed media coverage for the increased intensity of the pitch season. “Every single thing that happens is now being reported, from a pitch to speculation on the terms of a deal, and that does absolutely impact the business.” Added NBC’s Jennifer Salke: “I get the email about a media inquiry while the producer is still in the parking lot. That adds to the frenzy.” But it wasn’t all bad this buying season, ABC’s Paul Lee said. “There was also a rush of new energy, with a lot of new people and new ideas; there was lot of ambition in the projects coming in,” he said. Read More »
At the end of ABC’s TCA executive panel, president Paul Lee admitted that he had asked a network PR executive beforehand, “Shall I go out in a dress?” That probably would’ve been appropriate given that ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy Work It, which has not even been scheduled yet, emerged as the main attraction at the Q&A session even somewhat overshadowing the official announcement of Desperate Housewives coming to an end. The first mention of the Bosom Buddies-esque multi-camera comedy starring Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco as out-of-work car salesmen who dress as women to get jobs as pharmaceutical reps came when Lee was asked to discuss the network’s new crop of comedies. When he got to Work It, the British-born Lee said, “I’m a Brit, it is in my contract that I have to do one cross-dressing show a year; I was brought up on Monty Python. What can I do?” Later on he was asked about a trend of many new shows featuring central characters who are orphans that harkens back to Victorian times and Charles Dickens. Admitting that he didn’t notice an orphan pattern in picking up series, Lee noted, “We don’t sit there and think, ‘Work It! That goes all the way back to Shakespeare!’ ” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: ABC Will End ‘Desperate Housewives’ In May 2012 After 8th Season
This morning ABC officially announced what Deadline readers already knew: that this coming season will be the last for veteran Desperate Housewives, which, along with Lost, turned ABC’s fortunes around in the fall of 2004. “It is an iconic show; we are so proud of it,” ABC entertainment president Paul Lee said. “I just wanted to make sure that the show that put the network on the map had its victory lap and had a chance to build a great final arc.” Lee was then joined by Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. “I think the only thing harder than creating a hit show is to know when to end it,” he said. “It’s something that has weighed on my mind for some time. I’m well aware of people who have overstayed their welcome, and I just didn’t want that to happen to us. I wanted to go out while the network still thought it was a viable series and while it still did well in the ratings; I wanted to go out in the classiest way possible.”
According to the network’s press release, the upcoming “Season Eight of Desperate Housewives will roll out in a way that is accessible even to viewers who may have lapsed in their viewing, and be all the richer and more rewarding to the series’ loyal fans.” Cherry elaborated that the “mystery of what’s going on in the final season harkens back to the first season,” to “the roots of the Mary Alice mystery,” which kicked off the series seven years ago. “It feels right that that would be the storyline that would take us out.” As a result, I hear that Brenda Strong, who narrates the series as Mary Alice but has only made a handful of appearances on the show, may get more screen time this season. Asked whether Nicollette Sheridan’s character Edie Britt will make a return, Cherry, who is being sued by the actress over her termination from the show, made a pause before responding, “I don’t know how I would do that, but I have an idea for the last episode where I want to pay homage to everyone who has been on the show.” Read More »
ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee has made his expected post-upfront move, reshuffling the executive teams at the network and the studio, with promotions/new roles for John Saade, Vicki Dummer, Patrick Moran, Amy Hartwick and Lynn Barrie.
After months of speculations that Lee won’t keep ABC’s dual leadership structure of the alternative department with the contracts of co-heads John Saade and Vicki Dummer coming up, Lee is indeed going go for a single head of the department. But unlike the last summer changes in the marketing department where one of the co-heads, Mike Benson, stepped down, both Saade and Dummer will be staying at ABC. John Saade, former SVP Alternative Series and Specials & Late-Night, is being promoted to EVP Alternative Series & Late Night Programming, overseeing solo all of ABC’s primetime alternative/reality series and Jimmy Kimmel Live. This is the title Saade and Dummer’s predecessor Andrea Wong held before leaving for Lifetime. Read More »
Exactly 20 years ago, German rock band Scorpions released Wind of Change, which became an anthem for our generation of young Eastern Europeans going through a dramatic political change: the fall of communism. Coming back from the broadcast upfront presentations in New York last week, I’ve been having a hard time getting the catchy tune out of my head. While less far-reaching and profound, there is a clear sense of changing of the guard and a new direction for the broadcast networks this year. I can’t remember a time where the majority of the networks had new heads at their upfront presentations. Paul Lee took over for Steve McPherson at ABC, Bob Greenblatt for Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad at NBC, and Mark Pedowitz is succeeding Dawn Ostroff at the CW. There is a similar changing of the guard among the top TV producers this year. Upstart Chernin Entertainment and DreamWorks TV, which is re-entering the broadcast arena, topped the pods with the most new series, three each, with another recently launched company, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, scoring two new shows. And in its first season, Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods.got one pilot, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, picked up to pilot, with another, Fox’s Family Album, in serious contention. Meanwhile, such longtime upfront fixtures as Jerry Bruckheimer TV, Mark Gordon Co. and Wonderland didn’t land any new series for next season. Read More »
ABC Unveils 2011-12 Schedule: New Comedy Block On Tuesday With Tim Allen
When he took the stage for his first ABC upfront presentation, the network’s new president Paul Lee was quick to bring up the event’s main attraction. “When Anne Sweeney called me about this job, I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to be humiliated by Jimmy Kimmel in front of hundreds of people?’ The answer was: ‘Absolutely’ ”
Right away, Lee, who was visibly nervous, branded the network’s new lineup “pure entertainment,” so he began presenting ABC’s fall schedule with Thursday night, showcasing new 8 PM anchor Charlie’s Angels. “I’ve wanted to remake Charlie’s Angels since I was 14,” Lee said. He explained the decision to schedule the remake Thursdays at 8 PM with the fact that it will be the only scripted drama in the slot (besides CW).
Tim Allen was on hand to promote his new ABC comedy Last Man Standing. “It’s about a man in a women’s world. Its original name was The Paul Lee Story.” That was not the only jab at his new boss. “You can dump the accent, you got the job,” he told British-born Lee.
After the clip for ABC’s new cross-dressing comedy Work It, Lee justified his decision to pick up the show with, “So sue me, I’m a Brit,” segueing to “Talking about cross-dressing, here’s Jimmy Kimmel.”
Kimmel was his usual irreverent self. Here are some of his top barbs: Read More »
They’re both about to take the stage for their first upfront presentations as broadcast network chiefs. But NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt and ABC president Paul Lee share a lot more similarities in their first pilot seasons, especially in their new series choices.
Both opted to go with a predominantly female-skewing drama slate, a change in direction for both networks. Last year, the most heavily touted new drama series at NBC’s upfront presentation was the male-friendly sci-fi thriller The Event. This time, that honor will likely go to the Broadway-themed and heavily female-skewing Smash, with another high-profile new drama, Playboy Club, also testing predominantly female. Last year, Lee’s predecessor Steve McPherson bet on the superhero drama No Ordinary Family and male cop procedural Detroit 1-8-7. Now Lee is going with female hero action series Charlie’s Angeles and female soaps like Good Christian Belles and Revenge. (While passing on several male-oriented drama pilots such as sci-fi cop show 17th Precinct, Western Reconstruction and crime/political saga Metro, NBC picked up one male-friendly new series, the Inception-style Awake, while ABC passed on Poe and Identity to order only one new drama with a male lead, The River, but it is in the horror genre that strongly appeals to women.)
Also, both Greenblatt and Lee picked up drama series set in the 1960s and built around an iconic brand with NBC’s The Playboy Club and ABC’s Pan Am. What are the odds of two such shows hitting the broadcast networks’ schedules at the same time?! But there is more: both Greenblatt and Lee also picked up dramas that exploit fairy tales by the brothers Grimm, NBC’s Grimm and ABC’s Once Upon a Time which features such classic brothers Grimm characters as Snow White and Prince Charming. Both Greenblatt and Lee ordered remakes of famous TV series, Prime Suspect and Charlie’s Angels, respectively, as well as character-driven dramas with a female lead played by a well known movie actress – Prime Suspect with Maria Bello and Scandal with Karry Washington. Moreover, neither of them picked up a straight procedural, with Lee passing on both Identity and Partners, while the closest Greenblatt got to one was the very character-driven Prime Suspect. Greenblatt and Lee also were the only network chiefs to order pilots featuring musical numbers, Smash and ABC’s Grace, though the latter didn’t make the schedule. Read More »