January 14, 2007 2:36 PM
Drivers are stopped and questioned 50 yards from the valet. A gaggle of network pages in cream slacks and dark blue blazers, looking like refugees from a Republican convention, cluster around a heat lamp. A large ABC sign is mounted in the hotel’s foliage. The ballroom has been expanded to include extra seats. Yup, the TCA press tour has transitioned from cable to broadcast. Everything seems a little more important, more formal, and I find myself wearing a full suit on a Sunday in deference to the broadcast temple.
ABC kicks off their show with a video of ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson dancing to AC/DC on a mock “Dancing With the Stars' episode, which the network announces will return in March. Like “Lost,' which is returning next month, “Dancing' has been positioned to avoid Fox’s “American Idol.' ABC needs the protection. Though it’s the number one network season to date, CBS and NBC have been catching up. The networks are currently in a three-way tie for first place, with fourth-place Fox set to surge forward with “Idol' and “24.' Analysts say ABC, which went neck-and-neck for first place last season with Fox, this year could end up third due to a lack of mid-season and spring programming heft.
McPherson sits alone on the stage, semi-casual in a burgundy polo shirt. He seems a tad nervous, yet hides it well, and fields questions effectively. Like many network executives in the Disney family, his answers tend to be succinct, logical and safe.
On whether “Lost' creatively derailed during the fall: “[The writers] made a clear choice that first installment would be about Jack, Kate, Sawyer and The Others. For me the show I really invest in is having everybody together. I thought it was a riveting six episodes, but I like it when they’re all together and they’re heading toward that again after the break.'
On whether he still thinks a four-month schedule break for “Lost' was a good idea: “Ideally the way you would do ‘Lost’ is 22 straight. For us, given where we were in our development, we needed that installment in the fall. Now Sunday and Thursday night are really strong, there’s a good chance next year we’ll run it 22 straight either in fall or spring.'
On Mick Jagger accusing ABC of ignoring his request to keep his name and likeness out of “Knights of Prosperity' title and marketing: “He knew what the show was going to be called ... he asked that it not be called that and we obliged.'
On whether the network is bringing back “Dancing' too soon: “We’ll have a longer wait in between in this season than last cycle. We feel like we’re going to give it a real good break. We think it will work.'
On ABC’s lack of comedy success: “We have to stick with it … three years ago ‘In Case of Emergency’ and ‘Knights’ wouldn’t have gotten on the air … we have to keep taking chances, taking chances is what defined us. ‘Desperate Housewives’ wouldn’t have gotten on the air if we were doing eight procedurals that were all doing well.'