"You look at what's on TV and nothing really distingushes itself," she says. "Traditionally, here at ABC, we've been known for taking risks, from 'Wild Palms,' to 'Cop Rock.' I want us to get back to some of that."
That kind of thinking is good news for viewers and advertisers alike, and it's a big reason Ms. Tarses, 32, landed the top programming job at ABC last summer. As president-ABC Entertainment, Ms. Tarses will be deciding what shows ABC puts on the air.
After a prolonged courtship that featured many official no-comments, ABC hired Ms. Tarses when her contract as NBC's senior VP-prime-time series expired. While at the Peacock network, she helped develop such hits as "Friends," "Mad About You" and "Frasier."
But what she's looking to put on the air at ABC is the next generation of sitcoms and dramas, not clones of her successes at NBC. No doubt some of Ms. Tarses' philosophy of risk-taking has been influenced by her dad, Jay Tarses, who helped create such shows as the off-beat "Buffalo Bill" and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd."
Ms. Tarses, ever mindful that ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co., says her risk-taking will be balanced "by another long-standing ABC tradition, that we're the family network. We're more inclusive, have more choices for more people than the other networks."
She says her two missions are not contradictory.
"When I say risk-taking, I don't mean you have to be bluer than what's on now. What I am saying is I'm looking for material that's unlike anything else on TV," she says.