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Press Tour Diary: ABC's 'The Middle' and 'Hank'

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grammer-heaton_lWHAT: The Middle

WHO: Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer, Chris Kattan, and exec producers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline

PREMISE: It’s Malcolm in the Middle starring Patricia Heaton instead of Jane Kaczmarek! Liked it. Didn’t love it. (Watch the trailer)

10:39/PST: Scoop! The Janitor will return! Flynn says, “There’s a good chance I’ll pop up on Scrubs [one more time].” He adds that, “The show ended. We were free to go. But then [it] started up again… I’m now playing a different character who has a name from the get-go.”

10:42 am: Stalker alert! Heaton shops at the Pavilions on Vine and Melrose (directions) at least three times a week. She also buys her sweatpants in “the boys department at Target.” Assuming she hits Target after Pavillions, she most likely goes to the West Hollywood store (directions).

WHAT: Hank

WHO: Kelsey Grammer, Melinda McGraw, David Koechner, Sasha Pieterse, Nathan Gamble, and exec producers Tucker Cawley and Mike Clements.

PREMISE: Wall Street tycoon loses everything and is forced to relocate his family back to his hometown and start over. Haven’t seen it but sources confirm to me exclusively that it’s horrible. (Watch the trailer)

11:19 am: The pilot is being reshot. Presumably to make it less horrible.

11:23 am: Grammer’s CEO has a soul! “Hank sacrificed his [golden] parachute to make other people whole,” explains Grammer. “He took the brunt of responsibility for what went wrong with his company.” Now he’s “looking at life and his family in a different way.”

11:25 am: Grammer says the perfect storm of the writers strike and Kevin Reilly joining Fox as entertainment president killed Back to You. (Reilly passed on Back to You while at NBC.) “The guy who didn’t want our show was now running the network,” he says.

11:32 am: Comparing Hank to Frasier, Grammer says, “Frasier loved clutter and conflict. This guy is not comfortable with all that stuff. He’s a simpler man. He loves the American dream. He loves the idea of making something of his life.”

11:35 am: Grammer suggests that the stress brought on by Back to You‘s cancellation likely contributed to his 2008 heart attack. “It was a tough year,” he acknowledges, “and maybe it was my time to get retooled a little bit. It ended up being a great thing in my life. I’m stronger, healthier. Things are looking good.”

11:47 am: “I don’t have an aversion to [doing one-hour dramas],” says Grammer. “I just don’t like the schedule. The work schedule is untenable.” (Sounds like someone’s been hanging out with Katherine Heigl!)

11:52 am: Catfight! Grammer, who exec produces Medium, blasts CBS titan Les Moonves for initially rejecting the show, only to spend the next four years trying to copy it a la Ghost Whisperer. Moonves doesn’t score any points for rescuing the show after NBC axed it. “When they said in a press release that Medium would be a nice spinoff of Ghost Whisperer, I thought it was sort of disingenuous to say the least,” says Grammer.

Coming up later today: Panels for FlashForward, V, Cougar Town, and more!