ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson told the nation’s critics Saturday that he’d “love” to have a “huge talent” like Paula Abdul join Dancing with the Stars, either as a contestant or a participant. “I’ve definitely reached out to her,” McPherson said at the annual Television Critics Tour in Pasadena. “I gave her a call and said sorry about the situation and said we would love to see her on ABC… I think she’s a huge talent. There is a lot that’s made of her in terms of who she is. There’s a sensitivity and emotion to her that balances out American Idol. We’d love to get the piece of that.”

But as much as the critics want to talk about Abdul, they also wanted to know about Katherine Heigl and whether McPherson had an opinion about her recent appearance on David Letterman when she complained about working 17 hour days on Grey’s Anatomy.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” he said of Heigl’s comments, adding that he feels most concerned for how Heigl’s complaints affect the people “who bust their tails on that show every day.”

As for the new season, McPherson insisted that Flashforward – the network’s new drama based on the sci-fi book by Robert Sawyer – isn’t a Lost replacement but he did concede that “there are similarities to the epic nature of each show. We would love Flashforward to have even part of the success of Lost had, but it wasn’t developed [to be a Lost replacement]. They are different shows as you see them unfold.”

McPherson defended the network’s plan to air four new comedies on Wednesdays this fall (“We did that with Pushing Daisies, Private Practice and Dirty Sexy Money last year and went from fourth to first”). He also said ABC needs to continue to take chances if it hopes to succeed with its scripted programming. “We have to remain ambitious. We have only succeeded when we took chances, whether it was with Desperate Housewives or Lost. All those shows have been fortuitous for us.”

As for the competition, McPherson was surprisingly gracious about Ben Silverman’s exit at NBC. “I don’t have a big reaction to it,” he said. “NBC is in transition. I’m anxious to see what happens to Jay Leno. I haven’t had a chance to see their new development. We all want a vibrant network system. As competitive as we are, Nina Tassler (CBS), Kevin Reilly (Fox) and I, we want a great competitor and we want the broadcast business to be vibrant.”