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ABC programming chief McPherson calls it quits

ABC entertainment chief Stephen McPherson totally upstaged everyone coming to Summer TV Press Tour 2010 this week and next when he up and quit on Tuesday.
On the bright side, McPherson really, really hated coming to the press tour -- he was scheduled to appear in front of TV critics Sunday.

His Q&A session was always one of the highlights of the tour because, to reiterate, he really, really hated taking questions from the press and sometimes it seemed touch and go if thing would get physical. We will miss him greatly.

"Steve McPherson today submitted his resignation as President, ABC Entertainment Group, and the Company accepted," ABC said in a statement Tuesday which was so Disney.

McPherson issued a statement saying "I want to thank the wonderful team of individuals who have worked with me throughout my time here and wish them nothing but the best."

The announcement triggered an orgy of press ruminations about how McPherson's six-year gig -- his current contract was reportedly set to expire in about a year -- was marked more for its volatility than its hits. These were mostly written by people who don't remember the time when the TV industry was filled with colorful characters instead of the beancounters and yes-men who tend to populate it these days.

Oh, and in re that no-hits point, when McPherson took over in April of '04, the network had been "mired in fourth place" for so long even its publicists were making cracks about it. And the stories of how the network ran "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" into the ground, by using it to plug all the holes in its primetime schedule, was the stuff of industry legend.

Under his watch, ABC put on the air the enormously successful "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy" "Desperate Housewives" "Dancing With the Stars" -- and, most recently, "Modern Family" which is about the only new hit series to come out of this past TV season. All of those aforementioned drama series were gimongous hits out of the gate, and did extremely well with younger viewers. The problem is they are/were all heavily serialized dramas which a) do not repeat well and b) tend to flame very bright and burn out faster than, oh, say, CBS's meat-and-potatoes procedural crime dramas which attract an older audience that is a heavy TV-viewing crowd.

On Sunday, McPherson was going to talk to the press about his lineup for the new TV season. That lineup includes a new comedy starring Matthew Perry and Allison Janney, new dramas starring Michael Imperioli, Dana Delany, and Michael Chiklis, and also
a new docu-reality series in which morbidly obese people try to lose hundreds of pounds over the course of a year.

And, while we're at it, McPherson also gets credit for "CSI: The Mothership." That show was developed at ABC-parent Disney when McPherson headed its TV production operation, then called Touchstone. But the big cheeses at ABC at the time decided they didn't want "CSI," and suit at Disney decided they couldn't make enough money off it domestically and internationally after it was sold to CBS, so the studio bailed on it and CBS is now overseeing production of the show. Some of these same people may even still be around; heck, they might get to decide who will be McPherson's successor -- presumed to be Paul Lee, who you might remember as the first head of BBC America, but who most recently has been tearing up the cable-niche ratings as head of ABC Family.

Several stories about McPherson's exit noted the network finished the 2009-10 TV season that just wrapped in third place -- fewer than 200,000 viewers ahead of the new perennially mired-in-fourth-place network NBC. Those reports forgot to mention NBC had an Olympics cycle during that TV season which clocked some of the biggest TV audiences in recorded history.

Late Tuesday, McPherson issued another statement saying he would announce his future plans soon, including "a new entrepreneurial venture in the spirits business" and "a new media company."

McPherson already has a wine label called Promise, which is a Cabernet produced in Napa Valley, Calif.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  July 27, 2010; 11:03 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Comments

McPherson's successor -- presumed to be Paul Lee, who you might remember as the first head of BBC America, but who most recently has been tearing up the cable-niche ratings as head of ABC Family.

I'm scared - does this mean we can expect new shows that resemble The Secret Life of the American Teenager? I see clips on The Soup and that show is straight out crazy.

Posted by: Lizka | July 28, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Your piece on ABC's McPherson is the funniest thing I've read in a long time. I loved it!

Posted by: jimh4 | July 28, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

'Modern Family" which is about the only new hit series to come out of this past TV season'.

I'm confused. Wasn't Glee a new hit series last year?

Posted by: Iceman_63 | July 28, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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