TCA: ABC tries to move up and move on without McPherson

ABC’s presentation at the Television Critics Association Press Tour was dominated by talk of the sudden departure of its longtime entertainment chief (Stephen McPherson) after six years. But while there was talk about it, there was none of it coming from ABC brass – they consider the matter closed.

In comes Paul Lee who was named new entertainment chief, who comes over from ABC Family. He inherits a prime-time lineup deteriorating in the ratings and chock full of aging, older-skewing shows.

Executive session

Talk about going from the frying pan and right into the fire: Paul Lee first task at TCA: face the critics.

– Mr. Lee said ABC Family’s programming (formerly CBN, Fox Family, etc.) proabably wouldn’t work on the mothership, saying both nets have different audiences.

– Expect no changes to the prime-time lineup that he’s inheirting from his predecessor (good luck with that.)

– He’s lucky to have hit Modern Family on his schedule. They’re lucky to have him too.

– Too early to say whether or not he would add a second night of comedy to the schedule (yours truly’s guess: not likely to happen anytime soon; they’re not CBS.)

– Serialized shows aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much they bomb in the ratings.

ABC held a multitude of panels for its new fall shows:

Detroit 1-8-7: The Detroit 1-8-7 panel talked abut the pressures of filming the new crime drama based in the Motor City, especially how the series is going to be portrayed in the rest of the nation. According to executive producer Jason Richman, the show eliminated the documentary-style presentation because of an A&E reality show (The First 48) followed Detroit police officers on a raid this past spring and shot into a house, killing a 7-year old girl. Detroit officials decided to no longer allow camera crews to follow law enforcement in the city (similar to a policy Chicago police have long held – that’s why you’ve never seen Cops based in Chicago.)

The new series is led by former NYPD Blue star James McDaniel. The series is on Tuesdays at 9p.m., facing off against NBC’s Parenthood and CBS’ The Good Wife. Unfortunately, the series may be too gritty for some viewers and the series is definitely going to be plagued by whether the show is positive for Detroit’s image.

My Generation: What notable about My Generation is one of the executive producers in former NBC Entertainment Chief Warren Littlefield. This show is about a group of people ten years later after high school, shot in a documentary-style format. This would be better if this were a group of losers who do nothing but hang around the 7-Eleven all day. Great idea for a TV show!

No Ordinary Family:  Michael Chiklis returns to TV as head of a family with superpowers. The panel discussion focused on the amount of violence – or the lack there of – on the show – particularly in the 7 p.m. (CT) “family hour” (how times have changed – The Rookies aired on this network from 1972-75 at 7 p.m. Mondays and it was more violent than any network show put together today outside of CSI and its sister shows.)

The Whole Truth: Jerry Bruckheimer strikes again, this time with a legal drama featuring Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure, Numb3rs) and Maura Tierney, whose health scare last year forced her to drop out of NBC’s Parenthood. Equal time is presented between the prosecution and the defense in this legal drama. The Whole Truth? Pick ‘Em, since its Wednesday 9 p.m. slot also features two freshman shows.

Body of Proof: Want the proof? Here’s the proof! Dana Delany stars as  a neurosurgeon who loses her job and winds up solving crimes using her medical skills, i.e. Quincy and DaVinci’s Inquest. Better than working at Jack-In-The Box, that’s for sure. With a Friday night time slot (and competition from a relocated CSI: NY), it’s likely bombs away and the crew would actually have to find jobs at Jack-In-The-Box.

Secret Millionaire: I can’t remember the last time the big three networks picked up a canceled series from Fox, but this show features a millionaire who goes into a impoverished community, lives there for a while and at the end of each episode, awards individuals money. It’s likely this show will do worse for ABC than it did for Fox. Hey producers, have you ever heard of the Discovery Channel? This is where Secret Millionaire should have gone if it was looking for a revival. (Personally, yours truly does not like the concept for this show, because it basically sends the wrong message.)

Better With You: Nestled between The Middle and Modern Family on Wednesday nights, this comedy series features three couples who have different outlooks on love. The cast features Debra Jo Rupp, who played Kitty Forman on That ’70’s Show and Jerry Seinfeld’s meddling agent on an episode of Seinfeld. One plus is its a multi-camera sitcom shpt in front of an audience. Another is the good time slot it has on ABC Wednesday night line up. Finishing second to Survivor might not be a bad thing – in fact, it is a good thing.

Also of note:

Modern Family’s executive producer duo of Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd  spoke to the press at TCA and discussed how they handle their showrunner duties, given their partnership dissolved earlier this year (they  take turns being showrunner on Modern Family.)

Matthew Perry talks about his new sitcom, Mr. Sunshine and his return to TV after six years: “You can tell how successful my movies have been by the fact that I’m here,”  noted Perry. Perry plays a manager of a sports arena in San Diego where he realizes he was acting a jerk throughout his life and tries to turn it around – before it’s too late. The series is due in midseason.

ABC announced its Christmas Day NBA Doubleheader featuring the LeBron James-fueled Miami Heat against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, in addition to a Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics game.  Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls play on Christmas for the first time since 1997 when they take on the  Chicago Bulls in an ESPN-televised game.

Next up: Fox