ABC Boss Talks About S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Slow Start, Once's Take on Frozen, Jilted Trophy Wife and More

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ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee held court at the Television Critics Assoc. summer press tour on Monday morning, where he fielded questions about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s sophomore mission, Once Upon a Time‘s imminent riff on Frozen, the network’s treatment of Trophy Wife and the impressive diversity on tap for the 2014-15 TV season.

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Addressing the topic of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s freshman run — which tread a lot of water until the big Captain America 2 crossover took shape — Lee acknowledged, “It took time to find our sea legs, but once we did… it brought a whole load of creativity to our back 9.” Lee said that Season 1′s final stretch of episodes — which dismantled the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization and then named Agent Coulson as Director of its reboot — “triggered a whole lot of [Season 2] storylines that we’re reading at the moment, and I’m loving those scripts. I feel good.”

Other topics tackled by Lee during his TCA appearance:

* Lee touted Once Upon a Time‘s integration of Frozen characters as a “wonderful asset,” and noted that Disney chief creative officer John Lasseter has been on set in Vancouver and is “integrally related” to what the ABC series has in store for Elsa, Anna et al. All told, Lee hailed Once as “a greatly underrated show,” possibly due to its reputation as “a big family show.”

* Lee expects The Goldbergs — now airing on Wednesdays — to be “discovered by a lot more people” in Season 2. As for Trophy Wife, a new comedy from last season that failed to earn renewal, Lee said the ratings “always disappointed,” even when they sampled reruns on Wednesdays. “We tried hard toward the end of the season to create promotable episodes,” he said, “but we really couldn’t bring people to it.”

* Though admittedly “disappointed” with summer singing show Rising Star‘s early ratings, Lee posited that “the episodes now are really high-quality. So let’s see where it goes.”

* When reporters commended the greater racial diversity represented by ABC’s current line-up, Lee said it’s not only the network’s “mission statement to reflect America” but “our job. When [creatives] bring you authentic, relatable stories, you have no other option but to pick them up.” Lee went on to say that “if you look at shows now that lack diversity, they feel dated, because America doesn’t look like that anymore.” On related-ish notes, Lee defended the new sitcom titles black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat (about an Asian family) as being the product of the “powerful voices” behind the respective programs. “You always want a title that will catch the eye and catch the imagination,” he added, “and those both do.”

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35 Comments
  1. ... says:

    So disappointed about the lack of questions regarding The Neighbors, especially since Trophy Wife was addressed at upfronts and had multiple questions during the TCA exec session.

    • Zack Quinti says:

      Rising Star ” the episodes now are really high-quality” HA HA HA HA HA good joke that is.

    • theduck says:

      Unfortunately, it was a miracle that The Neighbors survived its first season, and the ratings didn’t justify a third season. And it had nowhere near the buzz Trophy Wife had – there was no impetus to ask the question because no one cared. (I say this not to be snarky but to point out reality. I thought The Neighbors was a criminally underrated show: it had a lot of heart and it was frequently laugh-out-loud funny. It started badly and just never recovered.)

  2. JJM says:

    Would like to hear some answers on perhaps whether they’re approaching shows like Castle as a final season? Grey’s new night and possible final season? Future on Scandal and how the exit of Columbus Short could effect it? Whether Agent Carter could expand further from a mini series? Admitting that Once Upon A Time In Wonderland was also a complete tank? If Revenge tanks further will it finally be put out of it’s Misery? Honestly, the wrong network president stepped down.

  3. Mike R says:

    Sorry, but sampling reruns on a Wednesday night was never going to give an accurate assessment of how it would have actually done if ABC had put it on Wednesday night to begin with.

    • Et. Al says:

      He’s a moron. It’s a miracle he still has a job.

    • c-mo says:

      Well said! The sampling on Wednesday night was their feeble attempt to show that they “tried”…grrrr! Too bad the TW producers aren’t also in talks with Yahoo, it was a great show that ended way too soon.

  4. Kvivik says:

    On related-ish notes, Lee defended the new sitcom titles black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat (about an Asian family) as being the product of the “powerful voices” behind the respective programs. “You always want a title that will catch the eye and catch the imagination,” he added, “and those both do.”

    Yes, and they also make me want to NOT watch them. If Laurence Fishburne weren’t in it, I wouldn’t even check out ‘black-ish’.
    And I find ‘fish out of water’ comedies that focus on culture change to be demeaning and disrespectful of the cultures of the foreign ‘fish’. That one is a definate ‘no’ on my viewing calendar.

    • Reality says:

      The problem is that every time a diverse show (be it race or something else) gets cancelled, it becomes more difficult for the next diverse show that comes along. This is not some far-fetched conspiracy theory, this is a fact. Network execs look for something to blame: If the cast was made up of mostly or all people of color, they blame that. If a main character was gay or identified with the LGBTQ community, they blame that. If sitcoms as a collective are not doing well, they blame it on people not liking comedy instead of not liking the bad content produced. Even insiders and Eva Longoria have said this is how it works.

      I would urge everyone to watch at least two of the diverse shows coming this fall, because if they tank, don’t expect to see that many at once for a while. Of course, don’t watch if they are actually offensive, but from what I’ve read about “Fresh Off the Boat,” the title is the only offensive part (not to mention it’s the name of creator Eddie Haung’s memoir about immigrating to America). You just won’t know until you watch.

      • Ally Oop says:

        I wish they had kept the name “Far East Orlando”. Sounded much better, The show does look great though, especially the mother character. Worst titles this year for new shows are Black-ish, Selfie, How to Get Away with Murder, Fresh off the Boat and Jane the Virgin.

        • Reality says:

          Apparently Eddie Haung led a twitter campaign to get the title changed to “Fresh off the Boat.” But I do agree it’s not a good title, along with the others you pointed out. ABC seems to have the most trouble with naming their shows: Trophy Wife, Cougar Town, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, Family Tools, Man Up!, Mr. Sunshine and How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life).

  5. Jared says:

    S.H.I.E.L.D never lived up to the hype and I doubt S2 will hold up much better. The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife would have been great companion series to The Middle and Modern Family but because of scheduling were never given the oppurtunity.

    • Gus T.T. Showbiz says:

      I am curious if you watched all of season 1? I’ll agree that the first half of season one did not live up to the expectations that I had for it. But, the second half was very good and only got better as it went along and the finale set up what should be a great start to season 2. I expect season 2 to come out of the gate swinging since they don’t have to spend so much time setting up their backstories and such.

    • Drew says:

      I agree. There was a big event at the end of season 1, but it never actually made SHIELD good. The characters were still flat and boring. The writing was still weak. And the show still looked… Plastic. Fake. Cartoonish.
      I can’t find the exact right word to use, but it looks wrong.

  6. Mary says:

    Once Upon a Time WAS a family show. It’s not any more.

  7. HAP says:

    That was a self-serving answer about Trophy Wife. It constantly bested time slot competitor The Mindy Project. What really happened here is the cost of the show given the cast involved.

  8. Boiler says:

    I find it difficult to trust anything this guy says. His comments about trophy Wife are ludicrous…don’t even remember it on Wednesday. He really thinks Rising Star is quality, give us a break. Even though the majority of shows I watch are ABC I have never seen a network treat so many of their shows like crap. Was he asked what he sees for shows like Castle, Nashville, Revenge and why do we need a Shonda night?

  9. Brandy says:

    Trophy Wife’s failure is SUCH a shame. I blame the bad title almost as much as the bad timeslot.

    • prish says:

      The title would keep some from viewing, for sure. Maybe, Third’s a Charm or #3 would have been better. The title did not reflect what the show was about. Just StepMom, or StepMom in Training would have worked.

  10. Ana says:

    Definitely agree on Once being underrated.
    Other than that I understand way too little about network politics to be able to make an assessment on how well a network president does his job – ill leave that to the pros.
    I’m one of those fans that loves the writing on Once and is invested in the regular characters. The fact that Frozen will feature in the show is not the reason why I’m gonna watch S4. I’m hoping whatever storyline the characters from Frozen will lead to will actually shed more light on the characters we already know and love. Namely the regulars.

  11. I really think TV network executives should be held more accountable for their bad decisions. They commission the shows, fiddle around with them and decide when to schedule them. And then when ratings suck they get to keep their jobs while everyone else involved with a failed show is sacked. Doesn’t seem exactly fair to me.

  12. cjeffery7 says:

    “create promotable episodes [of Trophy WIfe],” is everything that’s wrong with big 5 network television. the quality of the show should speak for itself. if it’s written properly, and well, it’ll be promotable. he’s just p***y footing around the truth that Trophy Wife was completely mishandled.

  13. Ann says:

    What ABC needed to do to save Trophy Wife was change the title to something less demeaning. Then put it after Modern Family. What I’ve told people is that Trophy Wife is like a female-centric version of the first season of Modern Family.

  14. Cideric Rhyes says:

    I am a female, I watched an episode or 2 of Trophy Wife. I thought it was one of those not so funny quirky comedies. I am glad it is not coming back.

  15. Moment says:

    I can’t blame the producers, Frozen grossed over $1.2 billion in the boxoffice. If there’s one thing that will draw the extra viewers, and get it a 5th season, this will be it. It’s not like they’re stretching Frozen out for an entire season, it’ll be for the first half only.

  16. Jerry says:

    ^^ This. Oh, you’re adding how many new characters from Frozen into the next season? Plus apparently the Knave? I do enjoy more background set dressings!

    They have such a wide cast of characters they barely use as is. No reason to bring in more.

    In the midseason finale this year when they were fighting Pan in Storybrooke I laughed at the tiny crowd assembled to help when we have met so many more characters.

    And then Ruby comes back midseason and spoke what, two lines?

  17. Boiler says:

    Agreed. I have heard more buzz about OUAT just because Frozen characters being added

  18. prish says:

    It will bring the younger viewers, most likely.

  19. Ally Oop says:

    I tried getting into Once in both the first and second seasons and it was okay, just not must watch so I dropped it. However, as I have Frozen addicts in my household (my 3 and 5 year old daughters) I will be watching the Once for at least the first half of next season.

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