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TCA: ABC's Lee Says 'There's Still a Lot of Life Left' in 'Dancing With the Stars'

Net will continue with two cycles a season, though return to normal casting 1/10/2013 03:04:25 PM Eastern

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Coverage: TCA Winter Press Tour 2013

Pasadena, Calif. -- ABC knows it has work to do. Paul Lee,
president of ABC Entertainment Group, opened his executive session at the
Television Critics Association winter press tour by saying, "We have a lot
to shout about, and we also have a lot to do."

Lee expressed disappointment that ABC -- along with the rest
of the broadcast networks -- didn't launch any big breakout hits this fall. Another
disappointment was the all-star edition of Dancing With the Stars,
which failed to inject the aging series with a ratings boost, with
its finale down 27% over last fall with adults 18-49.

"Turns out people like to see bad dancing as much as
much as they do good dancing," Lee said of the format.

He expressed confidence in the franchise, however,
confirming that ABC will continue with two cycles a year next season, though it
will return to normal casting.

"I think we have the ability for casting fresh to bring in
younger audiences again," he said. "We think there's a lot of life left in
it."

Other highlights from the session:

On the future of Tuesday comedies:

ABC has taken the unusual move of double-running Happy
Endings
 and Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 on
Sunday at 10 p.m. and Tuesday at 9 p.m. to try to increase the exposure of the
two comedies, who have struggled in the ratings since moving from Wednesdays
after Modern Family.

"We love those two shows. They are incredibly distinctive," Lee said. "So we really thought this is a really nice place and a way slightly a
cable play, if you think about it for us to use these slots to raise
sampling on those shows and get people to see them."

As for if the shows would be renewed if ratings continue at
their current low levels, Lee said, "we haven't made any of those
decisions yet."

On the 'bi-polar' response to Nashville:

Lee said he wasn't surprised that Nashville was
the fall drama that earned a full-season order, but called the audience response to it
"bi-polar."

"We were thrilled to see some strong Millennial numbers for Nashville,
the 18-34 numbers, but we really want to build those 35-49 numbers as we
go through the season, and you'll see us doing that as we support that
show," he said.

ABC's strategy to grow the series going forward is exposure
on multiple platforms (a marathon of season one episodes aired on CMT last
Sunday); Lee also expressed hope that the series' Golden Globe nominations
would draw additional attention. "That in itself is going to help us to bring the older audiences in, to realize this is a great show."

On multi-camera comedy:

While ABC's primary focus is single-camera comedies, Lee
reiterated the network's commitment to multi-camera comedy on Friday, where it
has the block of Last Man Standing and Malibu Country.

"We took a different approach, which was, why don't we go for Friday, which still has a slightly older audience and a lot of kids there, and why don't we look for shows that can really fulfill that need," he said. "we feel that is a really good first
step for us."

On the failure of Last Resort:

Shawn Ryan's action drama Last Resort was a
bit off-brand for the female-skewing ABC this fall (and ultimately canceled)
and Lee said he learned that if the network does a more male-focused show in
the future, it has to appeal to its core audience of women as well.

"It was a male show. We had a very passionate male audience. We did not connect with the relationships to the women," he said. "if we do shows that guys like that women don't want to come to, then that doesn't work for us."

On ABC's Joss Whedon pilot S.H.I.E.L.D:

Joss Whedon's much-buzzed-about pilot for S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be a sure lock for a series order at ABC, with Lee saying that Whedon will be "very engaged with the series" should it get a pick-up and even speculating as to where it could be scheduled.

"There's no question S.H.I.E.L.D. could go anywhere, it could go at
8 p.m., it absolutely go on Sunday, but it could go at 9 p.m. too," he said. "It's a very good script. It's very Joss. You know how Joss
is so high-low. He's able to be intense and epic and suddenly silly."

Also weighing in the pilot's favor is the chance for corporate synergy, given The Walt Disney Co.'s ownership of both Marvel Entertainment and ABC.

"We're developing a lot of Marvel shows," Lee said. "You're seeing us as
a network, we did it with Once [Upon a Time], and we're doing it with S.H.I.E.L.D., doing shows
that can really help the wider Walt Disney Company."

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