ABC’s ‘Lost,’ ‘Desperate Housewives’ Get Extra Episode, Winfrey Talks up ‘God’

Jan 24, 2005  •  Post A Comment

ABC’s President of Prime-Time Entertainment Stephen McPherson said at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour Sunday the network will do one extra episode of both “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” to bring each of their season orders to 23, but an original episode of “Housewives” was not on the schedule for Feb.6, Super Bowl Sunday.

“That’s one place we don’t want to go up against the competition,” Mr. McPherson said.

Unlike most of his colleagues, Mr. McPherson did not give firm premiere dates for his midseason slate, which includes the dramas “Eyes” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Mr. McPherson also responded to an issue raised earlier in the press tour by producer Steven Bochco, who said if his show “NYPD Blue” were being pitched today, it would never get on the air because of decency guidelines.

“I hope that’s not true,” Mr. McPherson said of the series’ envelope-pushing language, story lines and nudity. “It was organic to what that show was. If we had that kind of a show today we would love to find a place on the schedule for it.”

He added that the series finale of “NYPD Blue” would be a one-hour episode preceded by a one-hour retrospective show.

Mr. McPherson declined to comment on the reshoot of a Jennifer Love Hewitt project, a comedy pilot, saying he hadn’t seen it yet.

“We’ll see a rough cut on Thursday or Friday,” he said.

A reporter also asked him about what he thought of the controversy surrounding the “Desperate Housewives” promo that ran during “Monday Night Football” and which appeared to feature actress Nicolette Sheridan in nothing but a towel.

The heat of it definitely surprised me,” Mr. McPherson said, noting that the spot was originally intended to feature football commentator John Madden instead of Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens.

“It was a whole lot of nothing,” he said.

When asked about the recent downward ratings trend for awards shows such as the Golden Globes and what that might mean for the Feb. 27 telecast of the Academy Awards, Mr. McPherson said he wasn’t worried that the Oscars would also see audience erosion.

“It is the one and only awards show,” he said. “It transcends the clutter. We’re excited about [Oscar telecast host] Chris Rock. We’re really hopeful at this point.”

One reporter raised the issue of the tightening race for No.1 in the adults 18 to 49 ratings demographic and what that meant for ABC, whose performance this season makes it more competitive than it has been in years.

“We’re really looking at improvement against ourselves,” Mr. McPherson said. “We’re looking to build more assets than when we started.”

Mr. McPherson also said it was unlikely any more episodes of the teen drama “life as we know it” will be made.

“It’s really one of my frustrations,” he said. “It’s such a beautifully made show. “We’ve done 13 episodes and have a couple more to air. It’s had a really tough time finding an audience. I’d like to think we can figure it out. You do your best, but unfortunately, you come up a little bit short.”

ABC’s press tour day also featured a session with talk show host and producer Oprah Winfrey, who was promoting her new TV movie “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God” starring Halle Berry.

The TV movie, which will air Sunday, Mar. 6, at 9 p.m., is based on the novel of the same name by Zora Neale Hurston.

“This has been my favorite love story as long as I have been reading,” Ms. Winfrey said, noting that at one point she and producer Quincy Jones were in a bidding war over the property, which is the story of a 1920s African American woman and her three marriages.

“It’s really important for us to see African Americans in a light that allows the history and legacy of the culture, but to show love, and that is often not seen in a way people can relate to,” she said.

Ms. Winfrey also discussed designer and frequent “The Oprah Winfrey Show” guest Nate Berkus, who barely survived the South Asia tsunami disaster during a trip to Sri Lanka. Mr. Berkus’ partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, is still missing. She said it was too soon to talk about any spinoff show starring Mr. Berkus.

“I don’t know if now is the time to talk about development,” Ms. Winfrey said. “Our goal is to get him to get back to being a real person again.”