Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: No Quotes from Day 6? (Well, not many, anyway…)

The greatest mystery surrounding ABC’s day of the TCA press tour is why they chose to make so little of it. Given that they had ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, DisneyXD, the outgoing SOAPNet, and the incoming Disney Junior to work with, it’s absolutely unforgivable that there were only five panels the entire damned day.

Day 6 began on a decidedly solemn note, as the giant screens in the ballroom aired the national moment of silence to commemorate the tragedy in Tucson, and, perhaps appropriately, things shifted directly into the introduction of new ABC News president Ben Sherwood. Next up, Paul Lee, the president of ABC Entertainment, took the stage for his executive session. After that, we had a “Winter Wipeout”-themed cocoa break, then came back into the ballroom for two more panels: one for the return of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” the next for the new ABC medical drama, “Off the Map.” Then came lunch revolving around the new Disney Junior animated series “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” followed by a panel for the new Disney Channel movie, “Lemonade Mouth,” which – beyond the music playing during the trailer – only held my interest when the very cute and very British actress Naomi Scott opened her mouth.

And that’s it.

Well, it wasn’t quite it. We had a cocktail party at 5 PM which was ostensibly “Off the Map”-themed (they offered a trio of tropical cocktails, but I am hard pressed to recall any hors d’oeuvres that had any particular South American flair), but it only featured stars from ABC’s mid-season shows, and even then there were several notable names missing from the guest list, the two most notable being Matthew Perry from “Mr. Sunshine” and Dana Delaney from “Body of Evidence.” Now, admittedly, my experiences with Mr. Perry during the summer tour make his absence neither surprising nor overly upsetting, but it was kind of a bummer that Ms. Delaney wasn’t there, as she’s always been a real sweetheart.

What I want to know is, why didn’t ABC offer panels for one or two of their existing shows, like CBS and NBC are doing with “The Good Wife” and “Community,” respectively?

I’ll give us them credit for setting up a “Cougar Town” set visit for us – that’s happening on the 12th – but I would’ve loved a panel for “Castle,” “The Middle,” or any number of current ABC series.

And why not have an evening function featuring folks from all of their series rather than just their midseason material? I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the fleeting chance to speak with Allison Janney about “Mr. Sunshine.” I’m just saying that the whole day felt like one big missed opportunity.

You know, I was originally going to try and offer up the top 6 quotes from Day 6’s panels, but it would feel forced, so I’m not going to waste your time or mine. I will, however, offer at least one which made me laugh…

“You know, when I was invited to come here, I thought, ‘I’ve been on the job for a few weeks. What could I possibly have to share with them about what’s going on inside ABC?’ And then I remembered that Paul Lee at Entertainment had been on the job all of 36 seconds last year when he came and spoke before you.”Ben Sherwood, President of ABC News

Hmmm. Come to think of it, that may just be funny because I was here last year for Paul Lee’s appearance. Oh, well.

Speaking of Lee, though, he did offer a few moments that might be of interest to you, so I’ll offer those, at least:

* He showed us an advance clip from this week’s “Modern Family.” The three Dunphy kids try to bring their parents breakfast in bed as a wedding anniversary present, only to find Phil and Claire in the throes of their own celebration. Luke gets the best line, observing that he’s not sure what game his mother and father were playing, “but it looked like Dad was winning.”

* He confirmed that the network has already picked up a few new shows. There’s a character-driven procedural from Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and two comedies, one from Chris Moynihan (“100 Questions”) called “Man Up” and one from Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen (“Friends”) called “Smothered.”

* He’s not concerned about the ratings drop-off from “Modern Family” to “Cougar Town.” “Look, does the position after ‘Modern Family’ provide for us a great launch pad for what we consider to be strong comedies into the future? Yeah, of course it does,” he admitted. “I mean, otherwise we wouldn’t have put the Matt Perry show (‘Mr. Sunshine’) there, and we think that’s a good place to put it. In the long term, do we have ambitions that ‘Cougar Town’ could on its own start an hour? We would love to see it do that. Nevertheless, nobody looks at our Wednesday at 9:00 and 9:30 and doesn’t feel that’s a great hour of television, and those are very good ratings.”

* He’s very excited about the network’s future with Marvel Comics adaptations. “I for one am thrilled that we have Marvel within our family,” he said. It’s a superb opportunity for us. And ‘Jessica Jones,’ which we have Melissa Rosenberg doing, and ‘The Hulk,’ which Guillermo Del Toro is helping us with, these are A list showrunners that we think is critical. I mean, if you’re going to bring back a franchise, I think, it’s easier to launch a well known franchise. You have the following wind of a well known name. But what really distinguishes the one that survives are the quality of the shows, so that’s why a Barry Jossen at the studio — and we have done as much as we can to really get what we consider to be A list showrunners for that. So, yeah, we’ve got a little glint in our eye that we would love to make a Marvel franchise work on the network, and we’ll see how it goes. We don’t necessarily have to do it on cycle. We certainly would like to do it with a huge amount of support and, you know, this is one of the things I think our company does better than other companies that I’ve worked for in the past, is that you can get the whole company behind an idea and that if it works, you can then make that idea live in theme parks and in retail stores and beyond. So I definitely have a glint in my eye that I would love to make that happen, and we have the properties to do it. And they probably won’t be the only two Marvel things that we do going forward.”

Beyond that, though, I really can’t say as I have anything to offer you of interest about the other panels. I had a nice chat with Jason George, late of “Eli Stone,” who hails from my home area of Hampton Roads, so for his sake, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that “Off the Map” turns into a mid-season success. I also had brief conversations with a few “Wipeout” folks, including co-host Jill Wagner and executive producer Matt Kunitz, so look for those to turn up in the near future. Otherwise, though, I got nothin’.

See you guys tomorrow for Fox. Trust me, it’ll be awesome.

  

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