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TCA: ABC's Lee 'Optimistic' for Resolution of 'Modern Family' Cast Dispute

Entertainment chief also addresses scheduling swap of 'The Neighbors,' 'Suburgatory' 7/27/2012 02:00:42 PM Eastern

Complete
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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