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Live Press Tour Diary Day 2: ABC!

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Executive Session

9 am: Waiting for ABC boss Stephen McPherson to get this party started….

9:02 am: We’re taking bets on how many minutes will pass during the Q&A portion before someone asks him whether Katherine Heigl is getting killed off Grey’s. I’ve got $5 that says it’ll happen within the first 15 minutes.

9:12 am: McPherson says that there will be no big Lost announcements this morning, unlike last year when he broke the news that Michael was returning. (He also assured us that they weren’t holding some big scoop for ComicCon either.)

9:15 am: OMG! Jimmy Kimmell, disguised as a reporter, just asked the first question: “Is it true that ABC is actively courting Jay Leno?” Too funny.

9:16 am: Question about Scrubs continuing on beyond this season with a new group of interns stepping in for Zach Braff and Co. “We do think there’s an opportunity after that — whether any or all of the cast is a part of it,” he says. “We do think it will be more than a one-season situation.”

9:20 am: A reporter asks, “How will you improve Private Practice?” Ouch! McPherson responds that the Grey’s spin-off will focus more on medical stories and less on “soapy” plots, which he says is “not what Shonda does well.” Double ouch! “The best episodes of the show [featured] unbelievable medical dramas,” he continues. “We’re going to get Kate’s character back to doing surgery… and more interaction with the hospital.” (BTW, I watched the premiere last night. My verdict: Still pretty soapy!)

9:23 am: McPherson assures us that, “We’re not changing the tone of Pushing Daisies.”

9:28 am: The “Heigl” question gets asked — but I’m out $5 since it happened 17 minutes in! “She won an Emmy last year. She’s a fantastic actress. I think it’s unfortunate when there’s any kind of turmoil on a show…. [But] she’s absolutely staying with the show. There’s an outstanding story [planned] for her this season.”

9:31 am: A question about my Katie Holmes scoop! McPherson reveals that she does some “singing and dancing” on Eli Stone.

9:33 am: McPherson confirms that the show-runner switch at Dirty Sexy Money was prompted by an early screening of the Season 2 premiere. “I don’t think [it was] what anybody wanted,” he admits. “We felt like there were elements that needed to be changed.”

9:42 am: McPherson concedes he was disappointed by the most recent cycle of Dancing With the Stars. The cast was “nice and sweet… there wasn’t a whole lot going on.” He adds that the show would have benefited from a little “more controversy.”

9:49 am: The strike forced Lost to “push some storylines into next year.” Maybe we’ll get those Libby episodes we were promised.

9:51 am: The Bachelor will be back next season, but “we don’t need it on the fall schedule.”

9:52 am: It was David E. Kelley’s decision to end Boston Legal this coming season after 13 episodes.

(For more on the ABC exec session, check out Lynette Rice’s report at Hollywood Insider.)

Eli Stone Panel

10:51 am: Wow, the first question isn’t about Katie Holmes! It’s about whether George Michael will be back. “We’re talking about him doing a possible Christmas episode,” says exec producer Greg Berlanti.

10:52 am: Even though his aneurysm has been removed, Eli will still have visions this season. “He re-chooses his superpower,” says Berlanti.

10:53 am: Spoiler alert! It’s hinted that the Maggie/Eli/Taylor triangle will be further complicated by a third woman this season.

10:58 am: Finally, the requisite Holmes Q. Berlanti says he “begged” her to do the role because “we really wanted to bring eyeballs to the show.” She’ll play an attorney in this season’s second episode, but “she doesn’t practice law in the episode.” He adds that “it’s not a one, two-scene thing.”

11:11 am: Ugh. Fellow EP Marc Guggenheim won’t rule out someone from Dancing With the Stars (the show’s new lead-in) popping up in Eli’s visions. Please. God. No.

11:17 am: Um, awkward! A reporter asks leading man Jonny Lee Miller whether he’d ever ask his ex, Angelina Jolie, to make a cameo. He pauses for a moment, as if in shock that someone just asked him that question, before responding, “You’d have to ask her.”

Lunch

1:10 pm: What do the networks have against vegetarians? Seriously.

Life on Mars Panel

1:58 pm: Confession: I’ve never seen the original British version. Don’t judge me!

2:01 pm: The show is undergoing some retooling — including lots of recasts — so the panel is tiny. It’s just the producers, Jason O’Mara and Christopher Moltisanti Michael Imperioli.

2:05 pm: “We absolutely know where this [show] is going,” insists EP Josh Appelbaum, adding that “it’s not a time travel show. Yes, it’s about a guy who woke up in 1973, but it’s not about jumping back and forth.”

2:10 pm: The decision to relocate Mars to New York led to many of the casting changes, says Appelbaum. O’Mara is the only actor from the original pilot who wasn’t fired.

2:13 pm: Imperioli has never seen the original (see, it’s not just me!), but says “the idea of doing New York detectives in 1973 really appealed to me.” Wait a second, what’s this show about again?

2:15 pm: You know what time it is, Ausholes? It’s time to hand out our first “Whatchoo Talkin’ Bout Willis” award of the tour! The prize goes to the reporter who asked producers, “If it’s set in New York, why is it called Life on Mars?” Congratulations to today’s winner. That one’s going to be tough to beat.

2:17 pm: Appelbaum is mum on who they’re looking at for the role of politically incorrect boss Gene Hunt. But I’m not: *a**** ****el!

Scrubs Panel

3:02 pm: Exec producer Bill Lawrence assures us that despite Kelso’s retirement, “Ken Jenkins is still a regular.”

3:03 pm: Zach Braff is both bearded and bespectacled, prompting Lawrence to nickname him, “Smart Zach.”

3:05 pm: Sarah Chalke has “no idea what’s going to happen” with her How I Met Your Mother character. Adds Lawrence: “They didn’t want me to tell you this, but she’s the mother.” (He’s kidding.)

3:09 pm: Braff confirms that this is definitely his last year. If the show lives on, however, he’d be open to making guest appearances and directing the occasional episode. Who does he think he is, William Petersen?

3:15 pm: Lawrence points out that one of the advantages of being on the bubble at NBC for much of its run is that “the finale of the show has been written for the past 4-and-a-half years, so we just have to change some of the pop culture references.”

3:18 pm: Courteney Cox is only on board for three episodes, but “we would have her back in a heartbeat,” says Lawrence. “She is, what we call, a gamer. She’s up for anything, and I don’t think you get that with high-profile actresses.” He adds that they left her at the set this afternoon with her “face jammed into a bloody corpse” for a fantasy sequence.

3:26 pm: What led to the upcoming Bahamas remote? “We could use a vacation,” cracks Braff. The truth? (Spoiler alert!) It’s the setting of Janitor’s wedding!

3:32 pm: Janitor’s real name? Zanzibar Buck Buck McPhee. At least in Neil Flynn’s mind.

3:33 pm: John C. McGinley starts a sentence off with, “As Billy’s written Cox over the years.. , ” prompting lots of giggling in the Peanut Gallery. OK, I’m part of the Peanut Gallery.

3:37 pm: Lawrence ends the session by making this bold prediction: “This is the year Scrubs becomes a hit!”

Opportunity Knocks Panel

4 pm: In this reality series, host JD Roth will knock on one family’s door each week and give them the “opportunity to have a game night where they can win hundreds of thousands of dollars!”

4:04: In the spirit of the show, I think I’m going to take this opportunity to hit the gym!

Coming up tomorrow: ABC Day 2, including panels on Dirty Sexy Money, Private Practice and Desperate Housewives!