Friday, January 16, 2009

Dispatch from press tour: ABC president talks 'Grey's ghost, unhappy actors, canceled shows and more

ABC president Steve McPherson's executive session on the press tour's last day was lively enough, with talk about the ghost sex storyline on "Grey's Anatomy," the cancellation of shows like "Pushing Daisies" and more, that it would have been worth covering anyway. But the scrum with reporters after the press conference was remarkably contentious once reporters started asking about unrest on the set of "Grey's."

Here are a few excerpts from the scrum:
Why are so many "Grey's Anatomy" actors jumping ship?

Which actors have jumped ship?

Melissa George.

Melissa George was a guest for one episode.

So many guests are just leaving. And she was more than one episode.

I'm not going to answer the question. It's an absurd question. The only person who has left the show was Isaiah Washington.

Brooke Smith.

(At this point, McPherson's eyes narrow as he turns his head and exhales in disgust.)

Melissa had contracted for 8 and wasn't on all of them.

She didn't contract for that many episodes

That's what she says.

We all know what everybody says when they leave the show. They want to say what's best for them.

It was more than one.

I think it was three episodes. She was talked about in one, and she was in two others.

(IMDB says she was in five, and I can think of at least four off the top of my head.)

Brooke Smith was in the opening credits at the start of the season. Was that, did you just not like the character or the story?

Yeah, the character was not working for us, and the dynamic with the relationship was not working for us. We feel Sara is such a dynamic character, and an amazing actress and we just weren't seeing the excitement out of that relationship. There was some mention that we were upset by the lesbian nature, but she is going to be in a dedicated lesbian relationship on the show. So, again, that was an actress who was trying to talk about something in the manner that would serve her in the manner.

There's been a lot of talk about T.R. Knight being unhappy and wanting to leave the show.

I'm not going to comment on behind the scenes stuff. Stuff gets said that spreads, stuff that's wrong.

Do you expect him to be with the show next season?

Yes.

Do you expect "Grey's" to be back next season?

That's the last question. (He starts walking away, shaking his head.) It's the number three show on television.
Things were tamer in the session, where the topics covered included:

• On the "Izzie has sex with a ghost" story from "Grey's": "It's not a ghost, which you'll learn. When you get to the end of the season, you'll see what everything she had in mind. It might not be your cup of tea, but you'll be surprised at how insightful and actually smart the story line is."

• On the failure of shows like "Pushing Daisies" and "Dirty Sexy Money" that ABC didn't bring back immediately after the writers strike last season: "We could have probably gotten maybe 2 or 3 episodes of the Wednesday night shows on the air in the spring. What we were worried about then was, we were looking at the SAG strike, and that it could start in the summer and completely disintegrate the fall. So we made the gamble, hindsight is 20/20, clearly people did not come back to them the way we had hoped. I don't know that we had a better option. I just wish the strike hadn't happened at all."

(McPherson later said that he would love to find a way to air the remaining episodes of those shows and "Eli Stone," but that a number of financial and rights issues had to be resolved first, even just to put them all up on ABC.com.)

• On the ratings for "Scrubs" so far and whether he might want to keep the show going after Zach Braff leaves at the end of this season, McPherson said he was mostly pleased with the ratings but is waiting for more data. And while he and "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence continue to talk about another year for the show, "It would be hard to do it without Zach."

• On whether this is at last, at long last, the final season for "According to Jim": "Don't you think we should leave that open? 'Jim' has been an amazing asset for us... I think this is probably the final run, but you never say never."

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It's not a ghost, which you'll learn."

Gee, thanks for the spoiler. TOTALLY kidding!!

Seriously, though, I think it's ridiculous for McPherson to act like people were out of line for asking questions about the behind the scenes of Grey's. Not only are they valid questions, but he made the situation worse by acting evasive and not having his facts straight.

Anonymous said...

What's also weird is that ABC showed a promo for Grey's last Tuesday night during Scrubs(I assume to relaunch the spring epis) and Brooke Smith was in it. (I reversed my DVR to confirm it) What, is ABC too cheap to recut a promo or do they just not care?

Justin said...

"'Jim' has been an amazing asset for us"

Huh. I suppose that's true, in a way. But it's also a laughingstock. So it seems to me it would do more harm than good.

But I guess that's why he's making the big bucks. To do unpleasant things like defend According to Jim.

Linda said...

Holy cow, that's a defensive dude. That spin on Melissa George is freaking insane, and if Brooke Smith was just making herself look good, why did Patrick Dempsey look like he was going to throw up when he recited the network line on her departure on "Ellen"?

I'm really glad that scrum happened; that's some tenacious reporting.

dez said...

(McPherson later said that he would love to find a way to air the remaining episodes of those shows and "Eli Stone," but that a number of financial and rights issues had to be resolved first, even just to put them all up on ABC.com.)

...the hell? If they didn't cancel the shows, they'd be able to run them, correct? So what's the prob? I want my remaining PD and DSM, thankyouverymuchyoujackass!

David J. Loehr said...

I think my favorite line is, "It might not be your cup of tea, but you'll be surprised at how insightful and actually smart and the story line is."

Um, no, I should watch because I know the story is smart. I shouldn't be surprised at the end that it was "actually smart." That's not the kind of surprise I look for in a story.

Not that I've ever much cared for Grey's at all, but still...

dark tyler said...

This was hilarious. Especially the part in the end where he talks to himself.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

To be fair, "Do you expect "Grey's" to be back next season?" is a very stupid question.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, I think the hostility of that scrum owed at least a little bit to how a few of the questions were phrased. But you could also tell that McPherson is really, really tired of talking about backstage drama on that show.

Craig Ranapia said...

OK, I don't talk fluent executive spin but did Steve McPherson just call Brooke Smith and Melissa George unprofessional liars?

And if the character of Erica Hahn "wasn't working", perhaps the folks in the writers' room should be reflecting on the idea that actors can only work with what they're given. And I think it would have been much more interesting if Hahn had found McSleazy eminently resistible because she had some taste and self-respect, rather than being some emotionally constipated lesbian who uses her work as her closet.

And I'm not one of those people who has an aneurysm at the through of gay/lesbian relationships on television. But whether it was intentional or not, it just came out of nowhere and felt like a media stunt rather than organic storytelling.

Final thought: Considering that Hahn had previously been written as the kind of "cut-throat bitch" (apologies to 'House') that could even make Christina and Bailey nervous, the show sure didn't work hard to resist the stereotype of Lesbian = bitter, angry man-hating shrew.

Mo Ryan said...

Does McPherson watch his own network? No wonder the scrum degenerated. One of the first answers out of his mouth is either just patently absurd.

Melissa George was never contracted to be in just one episode. I'm sure the INTERNS at ABC know that. What the hell?

And of course he thinks According to Jim deserves to keep going. Apparently he doesn't watch ABC so he doesn't know how awful it is.

I think the best part is him casting aspersions on actors who have left Grey's. Stay classy, Steve. And if he's trying to avert more drama about the show, why trash those actors' credibility?

Shee-ush.

Muckbeast said...

According to Jim is a great show. It is only the blogs and critics that think it is terrible.

It is a lot better than the hot mess Pushing Daisies. That show is trash.

-Michael
Muckbeast - Game Design and Online Worlds
http://www.muckbeast.com

Pamela Jaye said...

Craig, great spin

Alan, thanks for sharing this.... um... fairy tale? delusion?
much fun
mcpherson couuld run for office

Pamela Jaye said...

sorry typos - duck on chest

MCB said...

"It might not be your cup of tea, but you'll be surprised at how insightful and actually smart and the story line is."

David J. Loehr, that was my favorite line too. So his suggestion for viewers is to stick out a stupid storyline on the assumption that it's "actually" going to make sense at some point?

Sorry, McPherson. The Grey's team is no longer entitled to a "well, let's see how this plays out" pass. They used up their last one on the George/Izzie "romance."

And honestly, is there anything they can do to redeem a storyline involving ghost sex? I guess it would kind of make sense if Izzie ends up having a mental illness or a brain tumor and is hallucinating, but a last minute "hey, it's not what you thought!" twist isn't enough to make up for several weird, uncomfortable, bad episodes. (See also the season of "Angel" where Cordelia slept with Angel's annoying teenage son. By the time we found out that she was "actually" possessed, the whole storyline was so deep in WTF territory that the big reveal couldn't save it.)

Dave T said...

According to Jim is a great show. It is only the blogs and critics that think it is terrible.

I wouldn't say "great," but it's certainly good. Belushi's described it pretty well: it's about a real man and a real woman. People dump on it because they think they're supposed to, which you can tell because they always snark, yet they never say WHY they think it's bad.

I'm not a fan of their "Lucy" style slapstick, but it always makes me laugh, and they do some very "touching moments" (especially with Jim and his future-son) without being sappy or cliche.

As for Grey's, my problem isn't with gay characters, it's that the "suddenly lesbian" thing seems cheap to me, like a desperate publicity stunt.

Pamela Jaye said...

that's it! Izzie is possessed!
(hey, it makes as much sense as anything else on this show)

that said, this week's ep was fairly good - aside from Izzie. apparently she's decided to "break up with" the non-ghost of Denny. Denny doesn't seem to be about to go quietly.
sigh
Can't ABC just fire him like everyone else?
or maybe kill Hahn and bring her back? Torres, Sadie and the ghost of Hahn could have a three way...
I think I may have watched too much HIMYM or listened to Mark too much

ingrity - something that, if you added "te" ABC execs would have none of
but i can't complain too much - they *are* promoting Scrubs...

Anonymous said...

greys is the worst show on tv.

Jennifer said...

He has GOT to be kidding that they aren't legally allowed to air their own canceled shows, even on their own website. What a bunch of BULL.

I do, however, suspect it would be utterly legal for them to set the recordings on FIRE.

I'm not a Gray's fan, but they must be ready to bitchslap right now.

Matt S. said...

He is right when he says that According to Jim has been an amazing asset for them over the years...the last 2 or 3 years in a row its been used as a time slot hole filler (as in we have nothing we can throw into this timeslot---quick lets get those 18 or so eps of According to Jim ready to roll.)

and except for this past season, it almost always does a surprisingly decent (or at least non embarassing) number, especially for a last minute hole filler.

Personally (and i hate to admit that i do watch it) but I;ve enjoyed it off and on over the years, (like what Dave T said, its very very very old school slapstick, but i do credit those eps that have had Jim dealing with issues with his abandonment by his father and how that affects his relationships esp with his son who's not what exactly in Jim's ideal. those handful of eps were surprisingly straight foward and obviously meaningful to Belushi.)

However I do think it should've ended in spring of '07.

the season before last---having his wife get pregnent again this last year was a horrible horrible idea and I really feel they were just stretching for any ideas this last season---

I know i know what ideas? the show never had any ideas etc, etc, etc, but the show use to specialize in those "liar"plotline where one character lies to another and the other figures it out and tries to use that info against the other to get something or other...and just about every other ep (the ones not concerning they're kids) used that formula the same way Three's Company used to use their overheard/wrong idea plotline in ever ep

...and the Jim writers managed to come up with some ok spins on that liar vs liar plotline...but this past season even that felt strained and tired. they should really let it go and try to find another sitcom that they can run into the ground. Sometimes I wished the abc execs had decided to keep George Lopez or at least LESS THAN PERFECT which was very underrated.

Craig Ranapia said...

Pamela Jaye wrote:
Craig, great spin

I'm not sure was I was "spinning". Seriously, I was just hoping that there was a more chatritable interpretation of McPherson's world sewage directed at Melissa George (who is literate enough to read contracts, and would get nothing out of lying about it) and Brooke Smith -- who doesn't bear any responsibility for the badly misconceived character she was hired to play.

Maura said...

On the "Izzie has sex with a ghost" story from "Grey's": "It's not a ghost, which you'll learn. When you get to the end of the season, you'll see what everything she had in mind. It might not be your cup of tea, but you'll be surprised at how insightful and actually smart the story line is."

Does anyone actually think it is a ghost? I don't watch Grey's, but it's impossible not to know about this storyline if you follow television. I assumed Izzie has been hallucinating or dreaming. Unless the Winchester boys pop up later in the season.

Nicole said...

And honestly, is there anything they can do to redeem a storyline involving ghost sex?

Yes, bring in Patrick Swayze.

I haven't ever watched According to Jim, but while critics may hate it, it probably isn't any worse than Grey's Anatomy at this point.

McPherson was entirely too defensive talking about television shows. He was acting as if he was being cross examined at trial.

Anonymous said...

My assumption about Izzie all along has been that she's hallucinating or something along that line. Now, though, I have a question about that. In the last scene of last week's episode, Izzie trots off happily to get some tequila to share with Karev, and Denny enters the frame where Karev is sitting on the bed and says "We have to talk" (or something.) Now, to my way of thinking, if Izzie is hallucinating, then she's the source of this imaginary Denny, and that source left the room when Izzie did. So either Grey's is breaking its own rules, or they don't care about the integrity of their storytelling, or something else is going on.

Elle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

No spoilers, guys, and stuff Shonda said to Ausiello qualifies.

Anonymous said...

Amazingly defensive when faced with the truth. What an..asterisk. Still holding a grudge about Pushing Daisies. But Lost and Grey's are why I still tune into this network.

Anonymous said...

Rather than insist on avoiding all questions about 'Greys' Behind-The-Scenes, how about McPherson force the writers to resolve the story-lines that have been drug out so long that the viewers are losing interest? Really?! It takes 14 episodes to diagnose Izzie with some brain problem? Also, McPherson should pay more attention to his shows, as Melissa George was on more than 1 or 2 episodes. Though, with this interview, it confirms my theory that the "powers that be" had a huge problem with Brooke Smith- either her character, or her as a person, because it is obvious that her departure was not planned pre-season. I think this show has had a "Heroes" type of season thus far, in that we're half-way into the season, and not a single question has been answered. I find it odd that the writers are taking 1 story-line for each character, and making that last all season long. This way, they won't have to do the jobs they are paid for, and produce a quality season full of various story-lines. This is a weekly show, not a mini-series that focuses on one issue at a time.

Pamela Jaye said...

David J. Loehr, that was my favorite line too. So his suggestion for viewers is to stick out a stupid storyline on the assumption that it's "actually" going to make sense at some point?


*of course* it is!
Since Burke got kicked out... er left SGH, he's tired of cardiology and, together with Tru Davies, has been studying the science of reanimation.

So Denny's not a ghost - he's actually alive. Burke, and his alter ego, Isaiah, is using him to get back at ABC for firing him, by totally destroying any credibility, and therefore viewers and ratings, that the show has left.

(lucky for me I chose Burke - I still had to fish for a motivation there.)