Channing Dungey was named president of ABC Entertainment in February 2016, becoming the first black president — male or female — of a major broadcast entertainment division in TV history. But honeymoons, hosannas, or even shattered glass ceilings mean nothing in this gig. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately grind that demands hits, buzz and profits. (Hey, at least the pay is good.)
This will be Dungey’s first fall lineup completely designed and implemented by her, and so that “what have you done for me lately” question starts right about now.
Meanwhile, there are the constant fires, some small, some infernos — and Dungey nearly got one of those in June when production on “Bachelor in Paradise” was suspended following reports of contestant misconduct. (Production resumed following an internal investigation by Warner Bros. that was reported to have turned up nothing especially improper.)
Dungey met reporters here Sunday to answer all the questions, but first she insisted to everyone — convincingly, by the way — that she still “loves” her job.
Nevertheless, those pressures loom: ABC still needs that big, buzzy hit like NBC’s “This is Us” and still needs profits (she declined to say whether the network was in fact profitable), requiring her to balance corporate requisites with creative ones. ABC increasingly buys shows from Disney’s own stable of producers, limiting both the shopping list and a shot for that great mythic breakout.
ABC Sunday trotted out a handful of new shows for the biannual tire kick at the TV Critics’ tour. Some look promising — see: “The Mayor” — and some look like works in progress (the latest Marvel superhero series, “The Inhumans,” for instance.)
As always, audiences hold final judgment.
Meanwhile, those little fires: Dungey declined to state the reasons for “Paradise’s” reinstatement, deferring those to Warner. She also denied that ABC had killed long-running series “Last Man Standing” because of its decided conservative red-state slant. The cancellation prompted a ferocious audience backlash, even one from star Tim Allen.
“Politics had nothing to do with it,” she said. “We have actors on our shows who have all sorts of different political views. Tim Allen is a valuable part of the Disney/ABC family. He has been for a very, very long time. ‘Last Man Standing’ was a show several years running that had come up to the very end in terms of renewal [and] unfortunately we weren’t able to create room for it on the schedule, which was a disappointment to me [but] Tim Allen’s personal politics had nothing whatsoever to do with this.”
She was also asked about Roseanne Barr’s tweeting habits — the star of the reboot has vigorously embraced the alt-right — and said that Barr’s own son had taken control of her Twitter feed.
The question followed whether the “Roseanne” reboot would embrace her politics or just be an extension of the jangled mess that “Roseanne’s” ninth and final season turned into all those years ago (the reboot arrives this October).
Nothing to worry about there either, per Dungey: “I just try to worry about the things I can control,” she said, adding, “What we’ve heard from Roseanne is that she is very excited about the show and wants to be focused on the show.
“We’ve now heard the broad strokes of the creative for these eight episodes and feel very confident that it is going to be returning to the show that everyone knew and loved.”
Then, of course, “American Idol.” The long-running Fox hit returns to the air on ABC next year and while Dungey declined to offer many details about the ABC version, she did indicate that Fox has already done the show. Returning viewers, in other words, shouldn’t be too surprised by what they see.
The network did pay Katy Perry a reported $25 million to become a judge — a figure she declined to confirm — but someone wanted to know if that huge figure would mean the show would have to cut back elsewhere. Ryan Seacrest was late to join because — again, per reports — ABC had to short him on the salary offer after Perry’s huge payday.
“She is an enormous star, has great presence [and] understands talent, [but] as I was saying before, this is a business, so we need to make sure that we make the right decision so that the show can actually be financially viable.
“My hope is that ‘American Idol’ is going to have a home on our schedule for quite some time to come.”