BEVERLY HILLS, CA–Press tour is getting a lot more literal.
Take the elephant in the room at ABC Day of the two week network press event. Disney/ABC executive VP Kevin Brockman (left) actually walked out before critics carrying a large pink stuffed elephant. Then he basically said the lid would we slammed shut on questions about Stephen McPherson and his abrupt departure from the network. There would be nothing more on this than what the network released last week, said Brockman.
The plush toy ploy worked. Critics basically followed orders. Where media consultants failed in the past, Brockman achieved with an arcade prize.
The veteran PR man then introduced the new ABC entertainment president, Paul Lee (below). The British-born, Oxford educated executive stuck to the script and did not comment on his predecessor. He stayed cool, doffing his jacket, keeping it casual.
For the past six years, Lee’s been the guiding hand at Disney’s youth cable channel ABC Family and, before that, he ran BBC America. “I’ve just spent the last six years trying to channel not only my inner American,” he told critics, “but also my inner female teen.” Later in the scrum, he said he was kinda glad to leave that inner teen behind.
Where McPherson always seemed like he was one pointed question away from an assault charge, Lee was disarmingly dispassionate. He spoke about running the ABC gig past his Irish-born wife. He said he was at the beach when the offer came through. He called ABC “one of the premiere iconic storytelling brands.”
And that was about all he said. As he said, he’s only been on the job 36 hours. He did say–amid some speculation that the ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine might be bumped up from mid-season to fall–that he is not making changes and is committed to McPherson’s schedule this fall. “These are rockets,” he said, “they have to be fuelled, filled, loaded and launched.” Then he seemed to think that analogy made him sound like a dork, a notion he caught before we did.
Lee may be just on the job but he’s already reached out to his new showrunners. Former NBC programming executive Warren Littlefield, who is among the executive producers of the new ABC drama My Generation, says Lee called him Friday to say he loved the show and to book a lunch.