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ABC's show runners talk about pitching, network notes, and Internet scrutiny - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 15th 2007 11:45AM
ABC logoFor the last session of the day yesterday, ABC decided to do something a little different and put the executive producers of their biggest hour-long shows up on stage. On the panel were Jon Robin Baitz and Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters), Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives), Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy), Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (Lost), Jenny Bicks (Men in Trees) and Silvio Horta (Ugly Betty).

They answered questions about what it's like to run their shows, from the pilot process to network notes to the writing process to Internet fan scrutiny. Because the reporters were so eager to ask them questions, no more than one or two EPs answered a question at any one time before the next one was asked (and, believe me, if you don't blurt out your question and just keep talking until everyone else stops, you'll never get your question out). The funniest panelist was Cherry, who had something funny to say at almost every turn. The best lines, funny and otherwise, are after the jump.

  • Cuse on the highly-competitive pilot process: "It's a place where failure is a high likelihood. I don't think it's the ideal way to nurture something creatively."
  • Cherry said he wrote the Housewives pilot on spec instead of pitching the idea like most creators do. This gave him a chance to revise, bounce ideas off friends, and have a fully-formed vision of the show when he approached the network. To him, this reduced the chance that the network could change his show too much.
  • It's not that they didn't give him notes. In the pilot, when Eva Longoria's character is shown in the afterglow of sex with her 17-year-old gardener, the network was upset that she was smoking. "'So you're good with the statutory rape then?'," Cherry exasperatingly recalled asking them at the time. "That was odd."
  • More on network "notes": Bicks said that one time she was told she could "trade an ass for a crap" by the network. Baitz felt it was "sort of like having your mom talk to you."
  • Not all notes are silly. Lindelof recalled that the plan was to kill Jack at the end of the first episode of Lost. Steve McPherson told them that while that move was dark and daring, doing such a thing would completely lose the trust of the audience. So they didn't kill Jack... that one worked out well, didn't it?
  • Cherry on Internet fan scrutiny: "I was broke. People not liking the 23nd season of your hit show, piece of cake. It's part of the journey." None of the showrunners tend to look at message boards or website reviews of shows, though.
  • When a reporter started her question by saying, "Executive producer titles are given out like candy these days," Lindelof got a big laugh when he shot back, "You want one? Here, welcome to Lost. Now, where the fuck is the island?"
  • When a reporter asked Lindelof how he felt about having one of his leads shoot two other characters, he responded with: "Well, as long as one of them is Michelle Rodriguez, that's fine." He immediately added a "just kidding" to that statement.
  • Rhimes on how roles develop based on the actors that play them: "Dr. McDreamy wasn't Dr. McDreamy until we cast Patrick Dempsey in the part."
  • Most of the creators said they couldn't bear to see their shows being done by anyone else. The only one who didn't was Baitz, who made his name writing plays. Riffing off someone's question about Aaron Sorkin leaving after four years of The West Wing, he said, "I can't see doing this for more than four years. I'd like to go back to doing plays and the theater." Cherry came back with, "Poverty is that alluring, isn't it?" Baitz said yes, adding, "I can understand Aaron getting on that plane to Vegas," referring to Sorkin's drug bust incident.

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Naw, killing off Jack the first episode would have been a mistake. Killing him off - or Sawyer - in 2006's "fall finale" would've been awesome, though. Just the shot in the arm the show needs.

January 15 2007 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Should've killed off Jack. Sigh.

January 15 2007 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Marc Cherry is awesome. I'm so glad he's added the funny and dark back to DH.

January 15 2007 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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