Live from press tour: ABC chief Paul Lee on the state of the network

paul-lee2-abc.jpgThe network portion of the winter TV critics press tour kicked off Monday (Jan. 10) with ABC.

We're live-blogging ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee's session with reporters. Here's what he had to say about the state of the network.

9:28 a.m. PT: Lee engenders a little goodwill before taking the stage with a clip from this week's "Modern Family," in which the kids walk in on Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) while they're having sex. Good stuff.

9:30 a.m. Whoo-hoo! "Modern Family," "Cougar Town" and "The Middle" are all getting picked up for next season.

9:32 a.m. Lee says he wants to make ABC's brand "smart with heart" and to foster a "showrunner culture" at the network, where producers get to do more or less what they envision.

9:35 a.m. "Body of Proof" was delayed from fall till the end of March so it would have "a launchpad" -- a place on the schedule that it could actually do well. "With marketing, it takes time."

9:37 a.m. Also getting picked up, by the way: "Castle," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice."

9:38 a.m. Re the "showrunner culture," Lee says that shows on ABC need to be on-brand for the network, but within that, his job is to "empower" producers to do good work. "They're the guys writing the lines ... they're the ones creating the shows, and in my estimation, if we can be a great home for them, we can make great television."

9:40 a.m. ABC is in the early stages of pilot season, Lee says. He notes a character/procedural show from Shonda Rhimes and two comedies, one called "Man Up" and one called "Smothered," that have already been ordered to pilot.

9:42 a.m. Question about the usually fairly steep dropoff from "Modern Family" to "Cougar Town." Lee says he's plenty pleased with "CT's" ratings, and in the long term hopes that it might be able to launch an hour.

9:45 a.m. Discussing "V," Lee says a short season = quality control. He also thinks amping up the action level has helped, though saying that it did "a nice number" in its premiere is a bit of a stretch.

9:47 a.m. How will the Disney-Marvel partnership affect ABC? Two shows -- a Hulk series and "Jessica Jones" -- are in development. "We have a little glint in our eye that we would love to make a Marvel series work," Lee says. The shows have to be good, of course, but he also likes the idea of all the cross-promotional opportunities that can happen within Disney.

9:49 a.m. "Does the audience have an appetite for comedy at 10 o'clock? ... Yes, we know that it true," Lee says. ABC is doing it a little later this season because it thought "Happy Endings" was a good fit with "Cougar Town" as a lead-in, and he didn't want to create "an island" of comedy elsewhere on the schedule. He hopes to have another night of comedy on the schedule in the future.

9:52 a.m. Lee didn't have much to do with the development or pickup of this season's shows, but he reiterates that going forward, he wants to encourage risk-taking within what he considers the ABC brand. He acknowledges that doing that can lead to "spectacular" failures, but he also thinks the biggest successes can come from that.

9:58 a.m. Lee is a fan of "Glee" and "The Good Wife" and thinks they could work on ABC. He also loves "Dancing With the Stars." Watching the show in person, he says, is like "going to the circus."

9:59 a.m. So if "Dancing" is so good, why did "Skating With the Stars" tank? They may have been too similar, he says: "If you finish a great novel one night, you don't want to start the next one right away." The comparison of a show "at the height of its power" with a brand-new show is also tough.

10:01 a.m. How much life is left in "The Bachelor"? Lee is kind of amazed at how it's been revived, and promises that this season will be "delicious."

10:02 a.m. Not on the early pickup list? "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters." No decision yet, but he's pleased with how they've done so far. He also implies that a pickup for "Housewives" is mostly a matter of getting contracts signed.
Photo/Video credit: ABC