Steve McPherson Surprised by Emmy Shutout

ABC's Entertainment President on J.J. Abrams, Canceled Shows

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PASADENA, Calif. ( -- ABC's entertainment president, Steve McPherson, dispensed with the usual introductions at the Television Critics Association press tour this year, jumping feet first into questions about why the network's hit shows "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" had failed to win Emmy nods and what exactly had happened with last year's promising shows "Commander in Chief" and "Invasion."
Steve McPherson
Steve McPherson Credit: Bob D'Amico

Mr. McPherson told the critics at this year's TCA Tour that he was surprised that two major ABC hits had not received any prime-time nods from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

A problem with the process
"Clearly its because of the new system," he said. "I mean, who wins an Emmy is one thing, but to have that kind of oversight, just to me, is remarkable. And it's sad for a show like ["Lost"]. It's one of the best shows on the air and maybe one of the best shows of all time. I've heard everything from 'Well, maybe the blue ribbon panel had never seen the show 'Lost.' To me then, there's a problem with the panel." But Mr. McPherson was happy that another top ABC series, "Grey's Anatomy," had been recognized in the drama category.

The sessions with the entertainment presidents are often an opportunity for TV beat writers to ask what went wrong during the season. A number of reporters wanted to know what had gone wrong on "Commander in Chief" and "Invasion," about creative changes at "Desperate Housewives," and also about the departure of show creator J.J. Abrams ("Alias," "Lost"), who is quitting his deal with Walt Disney Co. (and ABC's parent) to move his production company Bad Robot to Warner Bros.

'Commander in Chief'
Regarding "Commander in Chief": "We would have probably brought it on later in the season and let Rob [Lurie] prep for it a lot longer than he had a chance to," Mr. McPherson said, referring to Mr. Lurie, the show's creator, who left the set after having difficulty keeping up with the production schedule. He was replaced by Steven Bochco. The show was later shelved.

The cancellation of "Invasion" was a close call, he said, but ultimately its ratings had declined to a point that it didn't warrant its valuable time slot after "Lost."

Another theme of brought up by critics this week if canceled shows' storylines can be concluded on the web. "The question at this point is, given the revenue of those digital streams, how do you produce a $4 million-an-episode show? Is there any way to finish that story in a less expensive but still satisfying way for the viewer," he said. "I think it would be great if certain things could be extended and ended outside of the broadcast window, which financially is just impossible."

'Housewives' 'creative collapse'
One TV beat writer asked about the "creative collapse" at "Desperate Housewives," which drew murmurs of disagreement from the press corp. Mr. McPherson responded, "I would completely disagree with you about a creative collapse. ... But what has changed this year is Tom Spezialy has left the show and Marc [Cherry] has taken over 100% of the show running."

Mr. McPherson suggested that perhaps the show had wrapped up too much of the mystery and the end of the first season and spent too long setting up new arcs at the beginning of the second. He promised a "Desperate Housewives" that would go back to its dark comic roots.

As for star producer Mr. Abrams, Mr. McPherson said that even with the move to Warner Bros. Mr. Abrams would be more available to work on shows such as the new drama "Six Degrees" and "Lost"; last year Mr. Abrams was away from the latter to direct the Tom Cruise action flick "Mission Impossible 3." Mr. Abrams will again direct episodes of "Lost" this season.
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