August 7, 2011


As part of the TCA Press Tour presentation for ABC Entertainment Group, President Paul Lee took some time to talk about their new high-concept dramas, Pan Am and Once Upon A Time, their slick reboot of Charlie’s Angels, their upcoming comedy series, and the announcement of the final season of Desperate Housewives. Here are the most interesting points:

  • ABC currently has the #1 comedy in America with Modern Family, and Grey’s Anatomy is still their #1 drama series.
  • Pan Am is a passion project for creator/executive producer/writer Jack Orman (E.R.) and executive producer/director Tommy Schlamme (The West Wing) and promises to be romantic, sexy and adventurous.
  • Charlie’s Angels will capitalize on their built-in audience, while still modernizing the story in unexpected ways.
  • Although Once Upon A Time is a very ambitious piece of storytelling, the network has been reassured in the ability to sustain it for series, after seeing Episodes 2 and 3. And surprisingly, the pilot was made for essentially the same cost as a normal pilot.
  • The upcoming Season 8 will be the last season of Desperate Housewives, which will have its final arc built through 22 episodes. They have also started to redevelop Hallelujah with Housewives creator Marc Cherry, for a possible series pick-up.
  • ABC is developing the Marvel properties The Incredible Hulk and Jessica Jones for possible TV series.
  • The network is very pleased with their mid-season comedy and drama series, which include Apartment 23, Work It, Scandal, The River, Missing and G.C.B.

Hit the jump for more of what he had to say:

Question: What do you see for Pan Am and Charlie’s Angels?

charlies-angels-tv-show-image-abc-02PAUL LEE: The critical determinant of any show is how good it is. The real sweetness of having a show like Charlie’s Angels is that it has two different generations that know it and have fallen in love with it, in different ways. It does have a built-in audience. When I talked about the competitive landscape of the Fall, it’s great to have the leg up that Tim Allen can give you (with Last Man Standing), or that Pan Am and Charlie’s Angels can give you. You know people are going to be expecting those shows and looking forward to them. On the other hand, the proof will be in the pudding.

When people first read the description of Pan Am, it seemed like it might be a cheap, glossy, silly show, but you’ve got Tommy Schlamme and Jack Orman working on it. Were they attached from the beginning?

LEE: Yeah, this is their passion project, and there is nothing cheap, glossy, or shallow about the show. It’s a beautifully made show. I’m an ex-director and what I love about the show is that, between Jack and Tommy, you have such a balance of words and pictures. This show was conceived as a whole world, but it was also conceived as a set of stories that are romantic, sexy and adventurous. We have seen the scripts for Episodes 2, 3 and 4 now, and they’re every bit as classy as the original. I’m very proud of this show. We just sold that to the UK. I think it’s going to be on BBC there.

How do you feel Last Man Standing, Man Up! and Work It represent your comic philosophy?

apartment-23-tv-show-promo-image-01LEE: Apartment 23 and Suburgatory represent our comic philosophy just as much. Those two shows are about empowered women, of different sorts. We’ve also got a couple of that look at the plight of men, but in very different ways. Tim Allen’s approach to that is that he is an incredibly empowered guy. Unlike Home Improvement, where he was in his own world, he is really in a world surrounded by and outnumbered by the women around him. That was very much Tim’s take on it, and Jack Burditt, who I love, did the script. We are a network that’s dominated, certainly in terms of the value of our sales, with affluent women’s audiences, so to look at men in a women’s world was a very interesting take on it. As far as Work It is concerned, I’m a Brit, so it’s in my contract that I have to do a cross-dressing show every year. I was brought up on Monty Python. What can I do?

The River is a very strong pilot, but it does not seem like a story that lends itself to an open-ended, five or seven year series. What exactly are your plans for sustaining that?

LEE: We’ve had a glimpse of the outline, and the second episode has got so much heart to it, but also has the same measure of intensity as the pilot. Steven Spielberg is really engaged with it. I do think there is a lot of life in this show. But, we stumble all the time. It’s not the sort of show that we’ve done before. I love it, and I really think this is a sustainable idea.

once-upon-a-time-tv-show-image-abc-01How did Once Upon a Time come about?

LEE: It was a fabulous idea, but we thought, “Can they pull it off?” Interestingly, we went into January, still thinking it was a great idea, but without having yet gotten the narrative thrust. And then, Adam [Horowitz] and Eddie [Kitsis] brought their attention to it with their godfather behind the scenes, Damon Lindelof, and they suddenly created this story that moved you, with two worlds that fascinated you. By the end of January, we had fallen in love with it. It had moved to the front of the pack. And then, there was the question of, “How do you actually bring about a world as ambitious as this one on the television screen?” After all, we live in a world where people’s television screens are much bigger. Because you can watch whenever and wherever you like, appointment television becomes more important. What they did was change the rules and bring in a show that really is appointment television.

Rookie Blue has been a really strong performer in the summer. Has there been any thought about moving it into the Fall season, at some point?

LEE: It’s a very canny thought, and I certainly want to break down this notion that somehow you have nice, but lower-cost co-productions that go in the summer. But, the timing is an issue. I have to say that it’s a really good series, and I would not be anything but happy to see it in the season. It’s absolutely a good idea.

paul-lee-imageIs there a future for Combat Hospital?

LEE: We haven’t made a decision on that yet. The creative was good, but we haven’t looked at it.

Is there any future for Hallelujah from Marc Cherry?

LEE: I love that idea, and we have started to redevelop it, so we’ll see where that goes. Of course, I’m a huge fan of Marc. It’s a subject that went somewhere no one else had gone recently. G.C.B. took it from a different direction. It’s a really interesting idea, and we’re redeveloping it.

Do you have a time frame for it?

LEE: Yeah, we’re redeveloping for this season. It’s certainly not something we’ll do out of season, but we’re redeveloping for this season, and we’ll see where it goes.

Do you have any updates on the Incredible Hulk TV series or Jessica Jones. Also, are there any other Marvel properties that you’re currently looking at for development?

LEE: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say. We’ve got this really cool storyline with a Marvel character that appears in Castle this year. There’s one episode with a Marvel superhero character. But, we’re extremely excited by having Marvel in the fold. We’re aggressively developing both Jessica Jones and The Hulk. Hopefully, we’ll have two very good choices to look at, when we come around to the pilot season next year. If we got The Hulk, my kids would finally be proud of me.