TCA: ABC's Lee 'Optimistic' for Resolution of 'Modern Family' Cast Dispute
Entertainment chief also addresses scheduling swap of 'The Neighbors,' 'Suburgatory'
By Andrea Morabito -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/27/2012 2:00:42 PMComplete Coverage: TCA Summer Press Tour 2012
Los Angeles - ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee said he is hopeful for a resolution to the Modern Family cast's salary dispute and still expects the hit comedy's fourth season to premiere as scheduled on Sept. 26.
"We're in the middle of negotiations at the moment and we're hopeful, we're optimistic we'll be able to resolve it," Lee said during ABC's executive session at the TCA press tour here Friday.
All six of Modern Family's adult cast members -- Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara -- have sued its studio, 20th Century Fox Television, in a bid for higher salaries, according to multiple reports, and the dispute caused the series' first scheduled table read to be canceled on Tuesday. Lee declined to answer any further questions on the dispute during a post-session scrum with reporters.
Lee also addressed the scheduling move of The Neighbors to Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., saying the time period "suited the show better" than the post-Modern Family slot, as well as lowers expectations for ratings retention out of the top-rated comedy.
"I did want to protect it," he said. "There's so much pressure at 9:30 after Modern Family. Suburgatory is such a good show, we think that's going to be a really good bridge for Modern Family through to Nashville. Maybe a better bridge than Neighbors."
As for ABC's low-rated summer reality launch The Glass House, which got a publicity assist from a high-profile lawsuit filed by CBS claiming it was too similar to Big Brother, Lee said the effort was "totally worth it" and said the lawsuit is over.
During the session Lee addressed the need for ABC to refresh its aging drama franchises and admitted to having "a pretty good year" and is heading into this season with "more returning shows than we had a right to hope for." Its longest-running current drama, Grey's Anatomy, saw another cast member, Eric Dane, depart this week, and though Lee deferred questions of further cast departures to creator Shonda Rhimes, he did say, "I think we've seen the major moves."
As for Rhimes' other veteran drama, Private Practice, Lee wouldn't classify its upcoming sixth season as its last, despite its 13-episode order and news that star Kate Walsh would move on after that, and said the network is looking at options to continue the series without Walsh.
"Private Practice is a great show," Lee said. "We did the flip from Thursday to Tuesday and it actually increased ratings on both time slots, we think that's got a lot of energy, we'd like to see that continue."
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