ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson is O-U-T! McPherson abruptly resigned from his position as boss of the network and studio late yesterday (presumably to avoid a day's worth of media crush), and ABC Family president Paul Lee will take over. McPherson took the position in 2004, the year Lost and Desperate Housewives, two of ABC's biggest franchises, began (McPherson inherited the shows from the previous regime, he wasn't responsible for developing them).
But since McPherson's time in the big chair, ABC has taken that potential and done very little with it. Under McPherson, ABC developed both successes (Grey's Anatomy, Dancing With the Stars) and mega-flops (Cavemen, Hank)—but never moved the needle too far in either direction, despite making what I consider to be some risky and creative moves that critics loved (Pushing Daisies and Life on Mars come to mind). McPherson's biggest programming legacy will be his inability to cash in on a successful show to pair with Lost. The Nine, Invasion, and FlashForward were all high-profile bombs, even though a built-in audience was sitting right there on a tee. Rumors abound that McPherson's departure came with a nudge, as The Daily Beast reports that he was "under fire" and wasn't exactly liked by his coworkers for his "abrasive demeanor."
The interesting thing is that ABC has made some serious headway in the past season, so his ousting could be more related to interpersonal issues than performance. Hits always overshadow bonehead decisions, and this past season saw the development of a competitive comedy block that includes Emmy nomination-hog Modern Family; a reality show that's now giving American Idol a run for its money in Dancing With the Stars; and a solid summer thanks to The Bachelorette.
McPherson is only the latest head honcho to leave his cushy job. NBC boss Jeff Zucker announced earlier this year that he will be stepping down as soon as Comcast's deal to purchase NBC/Universal is complete.
It ain't easy being a network executive. Oh wait, actually it is.