Who’s Running This Show?

Posted by RabbitEars

During the always interesting and high-energy ABC Show Runners panel this afternoon at TCA (a very popular and successful panel begun last year), several of the network’s driving forces behind its top shows were on hand to divulge (or not) secrets to the upcoming season.

On the panel were Greg Berlanti, executive producer and co-creator of Eli Stone, and executive producer of Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Money; Marc Cherry, creator and executive producer of Desperate Housewives; Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, executive producers of Lost; Silvio Horta, executive producer of Ugly Betty; and Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy and its spinoff, Private Practice.

The hilarious Cherry, joking throughout the presentation about the prevalence of sports metaphors in society (preferring that they would start making musical theater metaphors), addressed the fact that this season of Housewives will be set five years later. He actually had planned an eight-year jump, but “when someone explained to me how the actresses might react to being eight years older, I said, ‘Oh, maybe five.'”

Also of note this season on Housewives is a “glammed down” Gabrielle (Eva Longoria). Cherry explained, “Eva was thrilled to not have to get glammed up every day.” After the first try at dressing her down, though, Cherry found that she did not look bad enough, and looked like she was 12 years old. “It is really hard to make Eva Longoria look bad,” Cherry said. “[But] she’s having the time of her life playing something she hasn’t played before. … We’ll get back to making her look glamorous in the middle of the season.”

Cherry confirmed that he planned on ending the show after its seventh season, on his terms. “The idea of having anyone else take my show would make me sick to my stomach,” he said, then joked (?), “Of course, this could be a ruse on my part to get lots of money for Season 8!”

Cherry, a one-time pure comedy writer for shows like The Golden Girls, also touched on the trend during the past few years about mixing comedy and drama successfully in series. “[In the 1990s,] we kind of raised an inferior generation of comedy writers. I think by the end of the ’90s comedies were pretty bad. I think audiences appreciated the mix [of these recent shows]. Life isn’t all funny or dramatic.”

Rhimes, naturally, was pelleted with questions about Grey’s star Katherine Heigl, who made headlines by refusing to be considered for an Emmy nomination, which she felt she did not merit because she believed the writers did not give her character enough to work with. When asked about where Heigl’s character Izzy is heading this season, Rhimes neutrally said, “We have a really great story worked out that we’re all really excited about.”

“I would put her in a coma,” jumped in Horta, to much laughter. Cherry also later eased the tension of the Rhimes/Heigl questioning by explaining Heigl’s behavior simply and satirically: “She was drunk!”

Rhimes was also evasive on explaining the burgeoning Grey’s lesbian storyline between Callie and Erica, simply stating that there is an “interesting, wonderful, funny way” of dealing with it.

On the Ugly Betty front, Betty — and the show — are heading to New York, and Betty is not going with Henry. “We started to veer too much in the romantic storyline,” said Horta. The show’s original premise was primarily to follow a young woman making her way in the world. “We’re trying to refocus that back,” Horta explained. “Hopefully Chris [Christopher Gorham, who plays Henry] will be back in some way; it’s not closing any doors [not having him follow Betty to New York].”

Horta also answered a question about how he keeps his cast out of the tabloids and gossip news. “It’s really up to them … we got very lucky with our cast.”

“It’s comin’,” jumped in Rhimes, jokingly.

Cuse and Lindelof were pretty vague on Lost, as you might expect. “This is The Two Towers,” said Cuse. “This is the season that links us to the final season. We’re fortunate to know just how much more time we have.”

When asked about the presumed death of Jin-Soo Kwon (Daniel Dae Kim, the latest member of the Lost cast to get busted for DUI), and the threat that might pose to having even less of a diverse cast on already very white airwaves, Lindelof responded, “We’ve killed a lot of white people. I can almost guarantee we’re killing more white people this season. … If a character’s time is up, we’re not going to say, ‘Let’s extend his storyline so it appears we’re not killing the only Korean hero on television.”

Cuse added that there will be “more of Daniel Dae Kim, in theory, in some form.” Whatever that means.

Although Berlanti wasn’t asked much during this session (he was involved in two other panels, too), he did offer a nice insight that sums up these creative and determined producers. “We’re big fans of our shows, and think of stories as fans [would].”