TCA 2012 ABC Recap: 'Modern Family' Still M.I.A., But There's Always Bristol Palin

Bristol Palin Modern Family Cast Split - H 2012
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Bristol Palin Modern Family Cast Split - H 2012

There was a Pritchett-Dunphey-shaped cloud hanging over ABC's Friday presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. A ballroom of reporters waited for word on how the fourth season of Modern Family might proceed given the current salary disputes, but ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee had little to say on the matter.

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"We’re in the middle of negotiations at the moment; and we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to resolve it," he said, skirting any developments on the standoff between the six cast members and 20th Century Fox TV.

Executive Session: It wasn't the only time Lee was put on the defense. After talking about the the rebuilding of some of the nights, particularly the new TGIF block and Happy Endings and Apt. 23's move to Tuesday, he addressed recent reality failures Duets and Glass House. “Reality is hard because it’s much more difficult now to find the shock of the new. In reality you have your makeover shows, you have your singing competition shows, you have your thrown-off-the-island shows," he said. "I think you just have to execute really well. You have to cast well you have to market well and you have to have a really good twist to get people to come to it.”

STORY: ABC's Paul Lee Talks Broad Appeal of New Dramas, Reality Failures and 'Modern Family'

Nashville: The first of two country-themed series to greet the crowd, Nashville stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere talked about providing their vocals to the series' original music (much of it produced by T-Bone Burnett), filming in Tennessee and tackling the musical-drama genre. "There probably won't be as many y'alls," teased Britton, acknowledging her beloved Friday Night Lights catchphrase.

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Dancing With the Stars All-Stars: EP Conrad Green trotted out seven of the returning twelve cast members, but none of them got as much attention as Bristol Palin. "I like gays, I'm not a homophobic," she said when asked how she'd react to having a gay partner. "I'm sick of people saying that. Just because I'm for traditional marriage, doesn't mean I'm scared. I don't hate anybody ... It's not about politics or traditional marriage. It's just about dancing and fun and that's all I have to say about it."

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The Neighbors: Critics were relatively well-behaved during their inquisition of Dan Fogelman's sitcom about literal aliens living on a New Jersey cul-de-sac. "It's a high-concept idea, but we want to ground it as a family sitcom," said Fogelman. "We have all the family relationships represented." (Just ignore the little green men.)

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666 Park Avenue: After a year of transition in the timeslot, ABC could have something stick on Sunday's at 10 p.m. -- at least the showrunner thinks so. When talking about supernatural thriller 666 Park, creator David Wilcox said much of the series is already mapped out. "We have a pitch for season two," Wilcox said, adding that he and the writers are "writing season [one] with a very specific plan."

STORY: '666 Park Avenue' Creator Already Has Season 2 Pitch

Malibu Country: Reba (no McEntire, just "Reba") and creator Kevin Abbott spent much of the panel distancing their country comedy from similar collaboration Reba, but there was some room for anecdotes about the cast's previous run-ins before shooting the pilot. "She was beyond brilliant," said Lily Tomlin of seeing Reba on Broadway. "I went backstage and slobbered all over her... I'm sure all that slobbering and gushing didn't go to waste."

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How to Live With Your Parents: Claudia Lanow's midseason sitcom is admittedly a mouthful -- official name is How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) -- but the creator says she's happy with the name. "I like the title, it's long," she said. "How to Live With Your Parents is the shorter version. Then you can add. You could call it Everybody's Fantastic. Or HTLWYPFTROYL if you wanted to."

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Family Tools: After several title switches (White Van Man, Red Van Man), Family Tools finally settled on something with fewer rhymes -- and, apparently, less offensive. "We didn't want to offend serial killers who use red vans," said star Kyle Bornheimer.

Emmys: The White House Correspondents' Dinner made Jimmy Kimmel vomit. He's still not sure what his bodily reaction will be to hosting the Emmys. The Live host spoke of his upcoming MC turn by mentioning his favorite parts of the broadcast -- "I love the in memoriam segment. I love that even in death, you’re subject to a popularity contest." -- and joked about a possible collaboration with Oscar night partner Oprah Winfrey: "Oprah and I are always talking. It’s a constant dialogue. She calls me her new Gayle."

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Last Resort: Showrunner Shawn Ryan is walking the line between the type of serial storytelling that got Chicago Code canceled and an episodic drama. "It's not going to be a monster of the week type of situation, but there will be high stakes," he said, drawing comparisons to films Gone With the Wind, Casablanca and Reds. "We've described this as not a show about war, but about people in a time of crisis." He also seemed confident in his ability to keep the show on ABC for some time. "It's not that my ambitions have grown," he said, "but my feelings and capabilities to live up to those ambitions has."