ABC at the TCAs: Sure, we're flailing; let's cancel one of our few remaining hits!
Because the big news that was supposed to be the center of ABC's TCA executive session broke a few days ago, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee was reduced to talking about how his very Britishness renders him immensely susceptible to the charms of cross-dressing based comedy, then said it deeply gladdened him to know that the cross-dressing comedy in question, Work It, is widely seen as the worst new show of the season (and possibly of many, many seasons; I'll be covering every episode that airs). When he wasn't antagonizing critics, Lee was attempting to explain how a network that attracts so many "affluent female" viewers would be scheduling a bunch of comedies about how hard it is to be a man in today's modern world. His answer largely boiled down to, hey, women watch shows about men, too, and he kept ducking questions about why he's put so many shows with the exact same theme on the air, beyond saying they made him "cackle" with laughter. (If you'd seen some of these shows, you'd be skeptical, too.) At one point, he even semi-seriously compared Work It to Shakespeare. It was that kind of a session.
The big news, of course, was that Desperate Housewives is ending this season. From the point of view of seeming like a network that lets creators end their shows when they want to (since creator Marc Cherry asked to end the series after season eight or nine), this gives ABC a leg up (what with Lost doing the same thing a few years back). The sorts of serialized shows that most ambitious TV producers are interested in doing nowadays often do require end dates to come to a satisfying end, and this is another sign to them that ABC is willing to set those end dates. On the other hand, Desperate Housewives hasn't exactly been synonymous with "quality" for some time now, and the show remains one of ABC's biggest hits. If it can't turn the (very promising) Pan Am or the (less promising) G.C.B. into a hit, it's going to be in big trouble or begging Cherry to abruptly change course and give them another season.
Cherry, for his part, came out to answer reporters' questions about the end of the show, and he said all of the things someone who's hung onto a hit show for too long says, including the usual bit about how the final season will get back to the basics that made the show popular in the first place. Cherry mentioned that the final season will return to the feel of the first season's Mary Alice mystery, which is, conveniently enough, the time when the show was most relevant to most TV viewers. Cherry also said he was moving on to doing very different things (including redeveloping his pilot Hallelujah, which ABC passed on in the spring), so he wouldn't be doing a spinoff, even if he jokingly told Eva Longoria he'd love to put her in a van and have her drive around solving mysteries in his conversation with her about ending the show.
Other than that, though, it was a frustrating session for ABC. The network is launching so many new shows that it was hard to pin Lee down on much of anything (aside from his constant assertions that many of the network's new shows were "underrated"). In January, when some of these shows are hits and some are flops (or all are flops), it'll be easier to get a sense of who Lee is as a programmer and what he's going to do with the network. For now, though, it's all about wondering just how much he really does enjoy humor about cross-dressers.