ABC's program chief eyes riskier TV shows

Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:56pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee said on Monday he wanted to move away from "cookie cutter" television shows and take more risks with programing, even if that meant the occasional failure.

Lee, appointed in July as entertainment president at the Walt Disney Co.-owned network, told journalists he wanted to empower TV producers to create distinctive programs.

"The ABC brand combines smart with heart, and that is a really unusual combination," Lee said a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

"My real ambition is to make the ABC studio and network a real showrunner network," Lee said. Showrunner is the TV industry term for producers and creators.

"I think there is a lot of room for experimentation. The ability to allow showrunners to take those one of the most important parts of my job....Big failures can come from that -- you have to be ready to fall on your face," he said.

Lee said balance was needed between shows with broad popular appeal and more ambitious projects like "Desperate Housewives" or ABC's Emmy-award winning comedy "Modern Family". But he added, "We don't want cookie cutter television."

ABC, also home of the hit reality show "Dancing with the Stars" and popular medical drama "Grey's Anatomy", is currently tied with rival NBC in second place in terms of overall viewers this season.

On Wednesday, the network will premiere its much-hyped new series "Off the Map" -- a medical action drama set in a small clinic in the South American jungle, that is seen as a cross between "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy".

ABC said on Monday it was renewing "Modern Family", "Grey's Anatomy", "Cougar Town," "Castle" and "The Middle" for another season, along with "Private Practice."

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)