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Doing the `Idol' sidestep

ABC plans to program `Dancing With the Stars' around the monster Fox hit.

January 15, 2007|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, has decided to waltz around the competition this time.

The network president, often lauded for his bold and successful move to pit ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" against CBS powerhouse "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," announced Sunday that he will program his surprise reality hit "Dancing With the Stars" around the most popular show on television, Fox's "American Idol."

The ABC show, which pairs a celebrity with a dancing professional, will return to the schedule March 19. Its accompanying results show on Tuesday nights will air at 9, to stay out of "Idol's" way.

The programming decision was just one of a wide number of topics discussed by McPherson during an hourlong question and answer session Sunday morning as part of the television industry's mid-season press tour.

"We didn't want people to have to choose between 'Idol' and 'Dancing,' " said McPherson, whose remarks were preceded by a video clip of him from ABC's May upfront presentation dancing with one of his show's professionals to AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long."

Nevertheless, when the program returns, "Dancing With the Stars" will still face another formidable ratings opponent in Fox's hit serialized action show "24."

" '24,' I'm sure, is going to do great, but we'll do well as well," said McPherson. "There's a lot of good television on right now."

ABC's hit serialized drama "Lost" generated its own share of questions regarding its vibrancy after the network decided to air only six episodes during the fall. Once one of the hottest shows on television, "Lost" is still popular, but the program about a group of airplane crash survivors on a southern Pacific island has cooled in the ratings.

"Ideally, the way to do 'Lost' would be to air all of them straight," said McPherson. "Coming into next fall, there's a good chance we'll run all 22 that way."

McPherson acknowledged disappointment over poor showings by "The Nine" and "Six Degrees," both of which were pulled from the fall schedule fairly quickly. However, there's a chance either show could briefly reappear before summer, he added. McPherson said he would remain patient with "What About Brian," another lackluster performer.

"We pull things off so quickly these days," he pointed out.

The network president also noted the difficulty in launching comedies -- "Help Me Help You" is no longer on the schedule, and "Big Day" has gotten low ratings -- even as ABC has two new ones for the midseason called "The Knights of Prosperity" and "In Case of Emergency."

"I don't think the sitcom is dead," said McPherson. "I believe a comedy is due to explode."

ABC's comedies, however, may have a tough time exploding in their very tough Wednesday time slot. They are pitted against "American Idol" and NBC's "Deal or No Deal."

McPherson also took a quick swipe at Donald Trump and his ongoing and highly publicized feud with Rosie O'Donnell, one of the co-hosts of ABC's morning talk show "The View."

"The entire thing is a publicity stunt for 'The Apprentice,' " McPherson said. "My comments on it just feeds that desire."

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