ABC President Paul Lee took the stage at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday to (somewhat) openly discuss the network's diverse slate of new programming, the success of The Goldbergs, and more. With a focus on moving forward, Lee is looking forward to the fall season, which is perhaps why he didn't really address the recent cancellation of beloved freshman sitcom Trophy Wife. Here's what he had to say.
On the diversity of the network's fall slate:
ABC is currently the most diverse of the four major broadcast networks, and the addition of new series Cristela, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, and How To Get Away With Murder will only increase that diversity in the 2014-2015 TV season. Lee said the effort is all about authenticity, not gimmick; ABC wants to reflect what America really looks like, and Lee believes shows that lack diversity feel dated "because America doesn't look that way anymore." He also praised the network's new shows for being accessible. "We picked them up because they're great television," he said. "We embrace it. We love having a diverse slate, but we think these shows are deeply relatable."
On the decision to air bridge the gap between half-seasons of established shows with shorter-run new shows:
Lee hopes that the network's decision to split Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Once Upon a Time into fall and spring half-seasons will make the shows more accessible, and compared the approach to the way cable series operate. Both shows will air long strings of episodes without interruption—something that S.H.I.E.L.D. fans should be happy to hear, given that Season 1 was confusingly scheduled around the releases of two different Marvel films—as well as definitive fall finales and spring premieres. Marvel's Agent Carter and musical fairytale Galavant will then bridge the gaps between half-seasons by completing their runs while S.H.I.E.L.D. and OUAT are on hiatus, something Lee wishes the network had done with Once Upon a a Time in Wonderland: "I would have given that show a better chance by doing what we're doing with Galavant and putting it in the gap."
On whether the network will release Galavant's music for purchase, à la Glee:
While there's currently no plan in place to release the music on a weekly basis, Lee was quick to praise Galavant songwriter Alan Menken: "[He] is a genius. He's creating one new glorious song after another." Lee said that ABC does hope to use the music "beyond the show," though he didn't elaborate on how.
On Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter:
On the success of a series based on title alone:
When asked whether or not ABC is worried about the success of its new shows due to some unfortunate titles (some critics believe that Trophy Wife struggled to find an audience because it was named Trophy Wife), Lee pointed out that Fresh Off the Boat, about a Chinese family that relocates to Florida to run a restaurant, has the same title as the book it's based on, a memoir by chef Eddie Huang. Black-ish, he said, came straight from Anthony Anderson. Lee backed both titles, noting that ABC strives to name its shows in a way that will "catch the eye and capture the imagination." Surprisingly, he said nothing about the poorly titled Selfie.
On the same subject, during the panel discussion for new drama How to Get Away With Murder, series creator Shonda Rhimes shut down a silly discussion about the length of the show's title by noting that she doesn't consider Twitter hashtags when she's writing a show. #BURN
On the cancellation of Trophy Wife and the success of The Goldbergs:
After it was implied by a reporter that ABC ignored an oft-repeated call to use Modern Family as a launching pad for the late freshman comedy Trophy Wife, Lee avoided explaining the logic behind the network's decision. "We were always disappointed throughout the year ... not to get a pulse where we put [Trophy Wife]," he said. "We tried hard to create really promotable episodes and still couldn’t bring any people to it. We did try some repeats [on Wednesdays]. Wherever we put it, it just didn’t connect with an audience."
Later in the session, the subject came up once again, but Lee evaded further Trophy Wife questions by choosing instead to discuss how proud he is of The Goldbergs: "It was sad not to get an audience for [Trophy Wife], but it was extremely gratifying to get an audience for Goldbergs. I truly believe Goldbergs is going to be an asset on this network for many, many years to come," he said, noting that it's the network's goal to build two or three "assets" every year. It's a shame that ABC didn't realize Trophy Wife could have joined Goldbergs and S.H.I.E.L.D. as one of those assets if it'd only had more of a chance.
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