ABC Boss Paul Lee Talks Future of Comedies 'Happy Endings,' 'Apartment 23'

"We haven’t made any decisions [regarding renewals or the future of a Tuesday comedy block], but I can tell you that these are shows that we love," Lee told reporters gathered for the TCA press tour.

It’s not time to worry about little-watched critical darlings Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 … yet.

“We love those two shows. They're incredibly distinctive, and they’re water-cooler shows,” ABC Network Groups president Paul Lee told a roomful of reporters gathered for the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour Thursday, noting that he plans to continue supporting the series throughout the season. He stopped short of commenting on whether either show will live beyond this season -- a highly unlikely reality for Apt. 23, in particular -- noting that no decisions have yet been made.

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Thus far this season, the comedy pairing has gotten crushed not only by schedule interruptions -- both from the election and Hurricane Sandy -- but also by intense competition from comedy blocks at Fox and The Voice-boosted NBC. Apt. 23 and Endings have averaged a hardly-impressive 1.2 day-of rating and a steady-but-small 1.4 rating, respectively, in the key 18-to-49 demo on Tuesdays this fall.

More recently, the network has started airing additional episodes of both shows on Sundays at comedy-unfriendly 10 p.m. to burn off those that remain before Dancing With the Stars takes over the Tuesday time period. Although they're off to a rocky start -- in their recent Sunday airing, the half-hours fell to a more anemic 0.9 and 1.0 rating in the new, underpromoted slot-- Lee suggests the scheduling move is a "cable play," which could help bring new viewers in.

Lee then singled out Happy Endings, which consistently has performed better than Apt. 23: "We just wanted to say to our audiences that they have more chances to see this. We love this show," he said, noting that he recognizes Endings has to stand on its own and that he is confident the series can.

Lee's rival Kevin Reilly, entertainment chairman at Fox, was far more vocal about his disappointment with the fall's comedy struggles, acknowledging the dismal performance of his offerings: New Girl, The Mindy Project, Ben and Kate and Raising Hope. "Our shows weren't rejected; they were never really sampled," Reilly said Tuesday, noting that comedy is a genre that requires the type of patience that the broadcast business no longer allows.