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FROM THE TELEVISION CRITICS ASSN.

After big push, ABC pushes 'Emily' aside

Heather Graham's sitcom only debuted Jan. 9, but it won't air again. Why not? The network has its reasons.

January 23, 2006|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

Oh, ABC, you cruel, cruel tease, making us believe you so loved Emily and all of her "Reasons Why Not." You plastered your affection on billboards everywhere only to abandon her after just one showing. Yes, it's true, Heather Graham's first television series will not grace ABC's Monday night lineup anymore, Steve McPherson, ABC's president of prime-time entertainment, told a gathering of television critics in Pasadena on Saturday.

"We'd spent the majority of the big, long-lead advertising money before we even saw a script, unfortunately, given the way production schedules work," he said. "And you know, creatively, we just did not get the show where it needed to be."

"Emily" premiered Jan. 9, followed by the network's second stab at "Jake in Progress," and by Jan. 16 they were both gone. Never mind that the much-hyped night was the inaugural of ABC's foray into all things romantic, from swapping spouses to soul-searching singles to the big bachelor showdown.

Although "miss-hires and mishaps" contributed to "Emily's" demise, McPherson assured, he still has love in his heart for John Stamos' "Jake." The single-camera comedy will return to the prime-time schedule sooner or later, McPherson said.

"I have a crush on John Stamos," he joked. "I really believe in that show. They've done a great job of expanding the cast, making the world a broader-appeal audience show. It's the tough thing about this business. You gotta go with your gut and love everything you do and be passionate about it and try to find a place for it to work."

Another series that McPherson still feels warm and fuzzy about is "Invasion," Shaun Cassidy's freshman sci-fi thriller, which attracts enough viewers to stay on the air but has not been able to hang on to the legions its lead-in, "Lost," brings on Wednesdays.

It is "doing the best work it has ever done," McPherson said. "Why it's not holding onto the 'Lost' audience: There's a lot of people saying to me that one hour of 'Lost' is such an intense experience.... I think it's a great example for us when to be patient and when to fold them. We think [Cassidy] has done an amazing job of not only creating that world but then reacting to what was working and wasn't working on the fly."

"Commander in Chief" -- not so hot. Since the drama starring Geena Davis returned from the December hiatus, it has taken a ratings beating, acknowledged McPherson. Davis picked up a Golden Globe for her role last week and the show was nominated for best drama.

"We're hopeful that ['Commander' and 'Invasion'] can be assets for us in the future, but we're realistic that it's been tough sledding," the lovelorn McPherson added.

Asked how he was feeling about the network's favorite ladies, the "Desperate Housewives" that some critics have become bored with, McPherson stood by his Wisteria Lane women. The show won its second Golden Globe last week.

"We answered so many questions at the end of the year that when we came back, there were some things [creator Marc Cherry] just wanted to touch on, and I think we got away from the heart and soul of that show," McPherson said. "I think Marc was ... kind of figuring out where to go next.... There's momentum getting back into it. I don't look it as a slump because clearly America still loves this show."

Later, McPherson contradicted his admission that the show's producers were a bit stumped at the beginning of the second season when he said that the writers of "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" are "incredibly diligent about how they're mapping their future. They lay out things for multiple episodes, multiple arcs, multiple years. Some of those meetings are the best meetings I have."

Ah, to be young and in love.

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