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My accidental lunch with ABC's Steve McPherson - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 14th 2007 5:55PM
Steve McPherson of ABCAfter the TCA Lost session, the gathered reporters tried to get some one-on-ones with the stars and producers, but I decided to skip that and go straight to lunch (the closest I got to a one-on-one was when I saw Matthew Fox exit the bathroom as I was on my way in. Me: "Havin' fun?" Fox: "Yeaaaah." It was in a tone that told me that he'd have rather gotten a full-cavity body search at the airport than sit for that panel). So, there I was, sitting at a big empty table with an AOL colleague, innocently eating and chatting, when ABC President Steve McPherson sat down with two reporters in tow.

It seems that little bombshell the Lost producers dropped about an "endpoint" had the reporters all atwitter, as the two were peppering him with questions about it. Before we knew it the table was jam packed with reporters, asking McPherson if he knew about this endpoint and when it might be. When he speculated it might be after a seventh season, one reporter chimed in that "they said it might be after five." But McPherson was smooth throughout, telling everyone that he's been talking with the producers about an endpoint almost since the beginning of the series, and he didn't seem to be that concerned about it.

As the conversation turned from Lost to other shows, I decided to throw him a question about my favorite fall disappointment, The Nine.

I asked him if the producers of the soon-to-be-dead show told him what a second season and beyond would look like. He said they did; the plan was to have the mysteries of the initial robbery resolved at the end of the first season, then examine the lives of the survivors in the subsequent years. The show was based on a real case where a couple on their first date was attacked and robbed; the experience made such a strong bond between the two that they later married. See? You always learn by asking, boys and girls.

Part of why the show didn't open well was, of all things, the name of the show. It was originally supposed to be called Nine Lives, which he thought would explain things more (how, I don't know). But they went with The Nine, and it made the show more ambiguous to viewers. I just think people didn't want to deal with another serial after watching Lost, but I'm just a lowly reporter.

Anyway, for NBC's session on Wednesday, I hope to have Kevin Reilly sit down next to me so I can ask him about Kidnapped. I think I've just discovered a new interview method: accidental lunch partners. What do you think?

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I think the problem with most of the dramatic serials was that people felt like, if they missed an episode or two (especially at the beginning), they'd have no chance of catching up and didn't bother. I made a point to record all of the pilots of the new season and still missed a few.

January 15 2007 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It would have been great if you could have also asked Steve what he thought went wrong with "Daybreak"!

January 15 2007 at 2:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OK, time to drop names.

I once had the pleasure of an accidental lunch with Chi McBride. At the time I was a Promotion Manager for a FOX TV station.

Chi was legitimately interested in what it was I did. He was fascinated by all the cogs in the giant machine that is broadcasting. After all, all he did was "stand where they tell and say whet they tell me."

He was interested in someday starting a production company, and wanted to know everything he could about the steps between filming and airing an episode.

What a great lunch!

And he is a GIANT. A very large man.

January 14 2007 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gee I would have said more if I met Matthew Fox. Like the elevator scene he did on SNL.

January 14 2007 at 10:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"The Nine" evoked similarities to other popular numeral-titled mysteries like "Seven and 24. If the creators of "The Nine" had chosen simplicity rather than ambiguity, then a title like "Nine Lives" would certainly have made a difference in the initial response of viewers. Perhaps the same audience that sampled character dramas like "Six Degrees of Separation" would have taken an interest in it, rather than those interested in Lost and 24.

It made absolutely no sense why a drama that was supposedly based on relationships would be created as a serialized mystery, marketed as a serialized mystery and then surprise! revealed to be a serialized drama. And a boring one at that. The creators/producers of The Nine seemed unsure of their creation, and its no wonder that they were snubbed by their audience.

January 14 2007 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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