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ABC entertainment president addresses Leno situation

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Kimmel_l Jimmy Kimmel (“disguised” as a journalist) made a surprise appearance today at ABC’s Beverly Hills TV critics association gathering in Beverly Hills, prompting entertainment president Steve McPherson to address the biggest question facing late night TV since Johnny Carson abdicated his post: will Jay Leno ditch NBC in 2010 and replace Nightline at 11:30 p.m. on ABC?

From under a baseball cap that cast a shadow across his face, Kimmel asked whether ABC is actively courting Leno for a new late-night show that would replace the network’s aging Nightline. “To me, the question should be for NBC. I can’t believe they’d let the guy go at the top of his game,” McPherson told reporters. “If it happens, I’ll guess we’ll look at it at the time, and Jimmy will be involved in those discussions.”

McPherson also addressed the ongoing brouhaha regarding Grey’s Anatomy and Katherine Heigl. Two sources have confirmed to EW.com that the show has considered killing her character off in the coming season given her outspoken comments about the current Emmy race (“I feel I wasn’t given the material…to warrant a nomination”). But McPherson reassured reporters that “she is absolutely staying on the show.” “We have an unbelievable storyline for her this year and we’re really excited about that,” he said.

Other highlights:

  • McPherson took the unusual step of rallying for the competition by saying he hopes viewers will return to the networks this fall. “None of us foresaw the winter interlude,” he said of the 100-day writers’ strike. “It’s important for the networks to get the viewers back and get them excited about our programming. I’m rooting for all of broadcast TV.”
  • The exec promised that Katie Holmes will sing and dance when she makes a one-episode guest appearance on Eli Stone next season, and that Kate Walsh will spend less time chatting in the break room and more time performing surgery in the second season of Private Practice. “The best episode last season was when the baby was switched,” McPherson said. “There were those moral and ethical dilemmas. We’ll get Kate back to doing surgeries and we’ll have more interaction with the hospital. The show works best when it is laid over the pallet of medical stories.”
  • ABC may find new opportunities for Scrubs creators/stars Bill Lawrence and Zach Braff once the comedy wraps its run on the network, but he still thinks there’s “great growth” for the single-camera comedy now that it’s on ABC, despite the fact it floundered in far too many timeslots on NBC.
  • Just because The Bachelor isn’t on the fall schedule doesn’t mean that the net has given up on the (aging) franchise. “Casting is critical,” he says. “We want to make sure we don’t put it on and then find the guy. It’s also an advantage that we don’t need it (for fall).”
  • The summer series Wipeout will come back for another run in 2009. “There’s no question it will go forward,” McPherson says. “I’d love to have a summer asset like CBS has Big Brother.”
  • Premiere dates for ABC’s fall season are as follows: Dancing with the Stars returns with a two-hour premiere on Sept. 22; Grey’s Anatomy bows with a two-hour episode on Sept. 25; Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters come back Sept. 28; and Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, and Dirty Sexy Money return Oct. 1.

Other highlights:

  • McPherson took the unusual step of rallying for the competition by saying he hopes viewers will return to the networks this fall. “None of us foresaw the winter interlude,” he said of the 100-day writers’ strike. “It’s important for the networks to get the viewers back and get them excited about our programming. I’m rooting for all of broadcast TV.”
  • The exec promised that Katie Holmes will sing and dance when she makes a one-episode guest appearance on Eli Stone next season, and that Kate Walsh will spend less time chatting in the break room and more time performing surgery in the second season of Private Practice. “The best episode last season was when the baby was switched,” McPherson said. “There were those moral and ethical dilemmas. We’ll get Kate back to doing surgeries and we’ll have more interaction with the hospital. The show works best when it is laid over the pallet of medical stories.”
  • ABC may find new opportunities for Scrubs creators/stars Bill Lawrence and Zach Braff once the comedy wraps its run on the network, but he still thinks there’s “great growth” for the single-camera comedy now that it’s on ABC, despite the fact it floundered in far too many timeslots on NBC.
  • Just because The Bachelor isn’t on the fall schedule doesn’t mean that the net has given up on the (aging) franchise. “Casting is critical,” he says. “We want to make sure we don’t put it on and then find the guy. It’s also an advantage that we don’t need it (for fall).”
  • The summer series Wipeout will come back for another run in 2009. “There’s no question it will go forward,” McPherson says. “I’d love to have a summer asset like CBS has Big Brother.”
  • Premiere dates for ABC’s fall season are as follows: Dancing with the Stars returns with a two-hour premiere on Sept. 22; Grey’s Anatomy bows with a two-hour episode on Sept. 25; Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters come back Sept. 28; and Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, and Dirty Sexy Money return Oct. 1.