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ABC's Steve McPherson: Out, and it's a shock

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  Interesting executive development on the eve of TCA: ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson is out; ABC Family Channel chief Paul Lee is in. 

  This is, of course, a shock and absolutely no one - no one - saw it coming. Oh sure - "rumors" of clashes with Anne Sweeney and not enough new hits to replace "Desperate Housewives," and so on.

  But the simple fact is that the press and industry have sharpened their knives on presumably "vulnerable" execs like Jeff Zucker for so long, they forgot that internal mishigas actually happens at other networks as well.

   McPherson released a statement last night - brief and clearly and unhappy one - saying he "wished well" the wonderful people he worked with over the last decade; Sweeney annd Disney chief Bob Iger were persumably not the people he meant.

  What happened?  We'll find out eventually but the Wednesday morning quarterbacking seems to be rallying around the presumption that Lee made ABCF "hot," while Mac has made ABC not. 

  My read? All about money.  Mac was a big spender at a time when big spending is right up  there in terms of moral depravity with animal creulty and spousal abuse. Network executives are not measured by "hits" but by "budgets."  Plus,  Mac had rough bedside manners: Blustery, smart, and a speak-your-mind kinda guy, the press - bizarrely - seemed to dislike him, preferring the smooth buttery tones of Les Moonves. 

   I'm also fascinated to read in certain places that Mac had failed to create new replacements while NBC has "interesting pilots..." Presumably the source who supplied that qote to someone works for NBC. 

  I wonder what people would call "Castle," "Modern Family, "Cougar Town,  and "The Middle?"

  Chicken liver, I suppose.

  In fact, Mac did one of the hardest things possible  in all of television - launch three new highly regarded sitcoms on a night that had been a deathtrap for ABC for years. 

 Mac didn't develop "Lost" - that honor goes to predecessors - but he did shepherd the show, nurture it, protect it, give it the budgets it needed and the creative freedom is required.  The result was one of the greatest shows in TV history. 

   I liked the guy and respected  him: He gave ABC a sense of cool intelligence, believe or not, and a sense that - even if a show ultimately failed - nothing that got past him would be boilerplate or stupid.

  "Ugly Betty?"

  "Pushing Daises?''


  Those were Mac shows and they were among the best of the decade.

  He was, simply, a very very good creative executive - with a sense of style that bled onto the screen. And he was deeply attuned to presentation and appearance; the product never looked shoddy, which it often has on NBC, for example, over the last few years.

  Anyway, life goes on. Mac doesn't have to talk to the press at TCA this week. I'll bet he's actually happy about that: His TCA outings here always seemed like visits to the dentist, as the nice man in the white coat held a pair of plyers as he prepared to remove the offending molar.

  Next stop for Mac? Almost certainly his own production company, plus he has his own wine label. The future does not look grim. Another story for ABC  - about to unveil Mac's very last lineup. Too bad he won't be around to protect that.


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