January 15, 2007 12:11 AM
The biggest clue that ABC has some momentary programming challenges is that cellar-rated sitcom “In Case of Emergency' is one of its two TCA series panels. The most recent “Emergency' episode earned a mere 2.3 rating among adults 18 to 49, down 15 percent from its debut, and was the lowest-rated show last Wednesday among the major networks.
So critics are wondering: “Why is the top-rated broadcast network paneling a series on the verge of cancellation?'
The answer: ABC’s midseason shows have largely tanked and the network doesn’t have anything that’s worthwhile and ready to go on the air just yet to fill the slots. (Also, McPherson likes “Emergency' and wants to give it a chance).
At TCA, this means critics and the affable “Emergency' panelists have to work together to somehow keep conversationally afloat a 45-minute panel. This is like being at a dinner party where nobody has much in common and everybody tries desperately to avoid awkward lulls. “So,' a critic asks, “what is it about your characters that you like?'
Later, there’s a showrunners panel. The biggest laugh comes from this exchange between two of the “Lost' executive producers, Cuse and Lindelof.
Cuse: “We went to Steve McPherson last season and said, ‘Okay, one of our main characters, Michael, is going to kill two of our other main characters.’
Lindelof: “And they were all: ‘As long as one of them is Michele Rodriguez.’'
While “Desperate Housewives' showrunner Mark Cherry talked about his quality control angst, saying that he read a “Housewives' message board once during the first season of his show and never went back (“it was too much humanity for me'). Still, he couldn’t avoid the critics that pelted his series last season.
“You hear, ‘You’ve ruined Sunday night, thank god for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’!’' Cherry says. “So you tell Steve McPherson to move that goddamn show to Thursday night so you can feel better about yourself.'
Contact James Hibberd