[01/17/14 - 11:25 AM]
ABC at TCA: Lee Talks Regrets on "Wonderland," Finding Sea Legs on "S.H.I.E.L.D."
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was not surprisingly a hot topic during ABC's executive session at the TCA Winter Press Tour. "It's obviously disappointing that we started with a very high number and it came down," Paul Lee - President, ABC Entertainment Group - told reporters during his opening remarks. Adding, "It took a little bit of time to find our sea legs, but now the show is really doing well. I mean, creatively, we are loving what we're seeing for the back nine."

The executive went on to announce Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif character from the Thor movies will guest star on episode 15. "And that's going to be absolutely integral to that hour of television... And then there's going to be this really cool arc to the end of [the season], and you're going to find out who the Clairvoyant is, and it's going to be very, very cool."

Lee was likewise bullish on another Marvel property, "Agent Carter." "The script's come in. It's a really good script written by [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely who are great. Also, Tara [Butters] and Michele [Fazekas] are on that one. So that one certainly has a chance to be on the network." Markus and McFeely co-wrote both of the recent Captain America movies while Butters and Fazekas currently serve as showrunners on the upcoming drama "Resurrection" (premiering Sunday, March 9).

Also getting shout outs on the development side were Dan Fogelman's musical comedy pilot "Galavant" ("He's found the most spectacular Monty Python castles in Wales that he's going to have a great time with.") and its straight-to-series import of Australia's "Secrets & Lies" ("I don't know if [we're] aiming for fall. We really haven't laid that out. We're certainly aiming for the next financial year for it.").

On the flip side, Lee reflected on the Alphabet's various misfires, including "Lucky 7" ("We marketed it very early and didn't get a response from it as an idea. It was a really excellent piece of television. And we were sorry to see it go, but we did want to take risks."); "The Assets" ("That one was actually a great experiment [with their news division] and we're going to continue with that experiment even though the show didn't work."); and "Killer Women" ("We're ending [it] slightly early so that we can bring in and give a great launch to 'Mind Games,' because we think Christian Slater and Steve Zahn are really special and we want that "Bachelor" lead-in.").

He also took responsibility for "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland's" struggles. "I think I originally planned it to exactly do that, go into the gap period [of the parent series]. And I should have done that, because I think that would have been a natural audience to go through there... And what we didn't want to do is play defense on Thursday when we wanted to play offense. But in retrospect, I think it would have done better there and I should have stuck to the earlier idea."

Lee added that he's proud of Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, saying, "We're looking at the Wicked Witch of the West, which is going to be much a part of the back nine on 'Once Upon a Time.' We're loving that. We think they did a great job on 'Wonderland.' And we feel immensely proud amongst some of our incredibly powerful overalls that we've got the Adam and Eddy brains and hearts, because on this network, our overalls have to have hearts and those guys have hearts."

Overall, Lee admitted that going forward, "We have to focus on Tuesday at 10:00 and get that one right. We have to focus on Thursday at 8:00. We have to focus on Sunday at 10:00. But you're starting to see building blocks right away across the network."

And as far as pilot season goes, Lee declared, "I'm a gradualist, for good or ill, and we are gradually moving off it," citing the upcoming "Black Box" (premiering Thursday, April 24) and the aforementioned "Secrets & Lies" as examples. "But it's equally true, as Nina [Tassler] said, I think extremely well, that the focus and the deadlines that pilots bring have been extremely successful for American television for 50 years."

  [january 2014]  


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