TCA: ABC's McPherson defends Reilly

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ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson took shots at his new NBC counterpart, Ben Silverman, on Wednesday over the dismissal of former NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly and the decision to hire former "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington.

Talking with reporters after ABC's opening sesson at the Television Critics Assn. at the Beverly Hilton, McPherson accused Silverman of being evasive at an NBC press conference last week relating to the dismissal of Kevin Reilly on the heels of Silverman's joining NBC Universal. Known to be a close friend of Reilly's, McPherson quoted Silverman's comment -- "I just got here" -- and challenged him to address the issue. "Be a man," McPherson said of Silverman.

McPherson suggested that Silverman also owed the success of his former production company, Reveille, to Reilly, who pushed for the Silverman-produced series "The Office" to remain on the air despite initial weak ratings. "He in essence made Reveille," McPherson said of Reilly.

McPherson made it known that he thought NBC Uni treated Reilly poorly in terms of his dismissal. "When you see a friend treated the way he was treated, you're going to stand up for him," he said.

As word circulated of McPherson's comments, it raised a few eyebrows given that one of ABC's hottest shows, "Ugly Betty," is produced by Silverman, who is now also at the helm of Universal Media Studios, a conceivable programming supplier to ABC.

McPherson also had harsh words for Silverman relating to his hiring of Washington, who was axed from the hit ABC series months after using a gay slur on-set that created a public-relations nightmare for the network. Washington has since been cast on the new NBC series "Bionic Woman," and McPherson suggested the press gave Silverman a free pass on hiring the controversial actor.

"You let him off the hook," McPherson said. "I think it's kind of humorous in the way Ben talked about it."

McPherson also called out Silverman for acknowledging he pursued Washington about joining "Bionic" before he was even dismissed from "Grey's." But asked whether he would pursue the matter legally, McPherson demurred.

McPherson's comments largely overshadowed an uneventful press conference in which he touted the stability of ABC's schedule heading into the fall. Perhaps the second-biggest development of the day was ABC's decision to defer rumored announcements about "Lost" for Thursday at San Diego Comic-Con International, which prompted many critics to voice their displeasure to McPherson.

Halfway through the press conference, the network reconsidered their stance, and McPherson revealed that Harold Perrineau, an original cast member who did not appear during the second season, would be returning to the series.

McPherson also spoke of ABC's struggles with some of its unscripted properties this summer, including "Shaq's Big Challenge," and hinted he may be open to trying more scripted product next summer.

ABC also revealed its premiere dates for fall. "Dancing With the Stars" will have an extended three-night opening, kicking off from Sept. 24-26. On the final day, it will get lead-in duties for new dramas "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money."

"Betty" and "Grey's" return on Sept. 27, along with new series "Big Shots." ABC's Sunday night lineup kicks off Sept. 30.

The comedies "Cavemen" and "Carpoolers" will launch Oct. 2, and new drama "Pushing Daisies" sprouts on Oct. 3.

New drama "Women's Murder Club" comes in Oct. 12, with the season premiere of "Men in Trees" following it. New comedy "Samantha Who?" starts Oct. 15. New drama "Cashmere Mafia" won't bow until Nov. 27, in a special time period following the season finale of "Dancing With the Stars." It then moves to its regular 9 p.m. slot on Dec. 4.
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