ABC wants to dance with Abdul

McPherson: ABC would welcome ex-'Idol' host on 'DWTS'

The job offers keep coming for Paula Abdul.

ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said Saturday that he would like to have the former "American Idol" judge on the network's top-rated reality hit "Dancing With the Stars."

"Absolutely," he said when asked whether he was interested in the prospect of Abdul joining "DWTS."

"We would love to have her on 'Dancing' whether it's as a contestant or a participant, judge, etc.," McPherson said during ABC's portion of the summer TV Critics Assn. Press tour. "I was a little stunned by the decision. I think she's a huge talent. There's a sensitivity and emotion in her that balances out 'Idol,' and we'd love to get a piece of that."

Earlier in the week, Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe also extended an offer to Abdul, but only as a guest judge because the show has three permanent judges.

When a critic pointed out to McPherson after the ABC executive's panel that "DWTS" has a seemingly full judges table as well, McPherson noted that the network has not yet made any formal plans regarding Abdul but stressed that "all possibilities are open."

McPherson said he called Abdul after he heard about her decision to leave "Idol" ("She sounded great," he said) and plans to speak with her further about potential opportunities at ABC.

Like with Lythgoe's offer, the question becomes whether ABC seriously wants Abdul full time on the program or is merely seeking a temporary ratings-boosting stunt. Although Abdul was a choreographer, the ABC show is about ballroom dancing -- a distinction that likely would matter to hard-core "DWTS" fans but probably not to most viewers. Also, it's tough to imagine ABC being able to meet or exceed the offer Abdul rejected from Fox, said to be about $5 million a year.

Although it is hard to predict what Abdul might do, the multiple offers increase the odds that she will return to broadcast TV in some form next season -- on "DWTS," "So You Think" or back on "Idol" should Fox decide not to risk letting "DWTS," the No. 2 reality show on TV, hire its former judge.

The stakes could be significant. In the spring, the "DWTS" premiere featuring Melissa Rycroft for the first time rivaled "Idol" in total viewers, though "Idol" quickly widened the margin.

Beyond "DWTS," McPherson had a low-key executive session, which opened with a reporter asking about his reaction to Ben Silverman leaving NBC. Although the two have feuded in the past, McPherson's response was blase.

"I don't have a big reaction," he said. "I think NBC is in transition right now; we're all anxious to see what happens with Leno and that big primetime move. We want to be great competitors and we want the broadcast business to be really vibrant, so I hope they can get it back there."

Still, McPherson did get in one little offhand dig: "NBC seems to be doing their own thing," he said, "and the other networks are following the tradition of trying to put on great material."

Asked about the latest makeover on "Scrubs," which is moving to a new setting with a partially new cast, McPherson shot down rumors that the show's title might change and said it will continue to introduce new characters.

"I think it's going to be different in what is going on in terms of being in a hospital vs. teaching, but you're going to see the same character dynamics that you've seen before," he said.

McPherson, who also runs ABC Studios, said he's taking a "portfolio" approach in trimming show budgets, allowing such expensive concepts as "Lost" or "FlashForward" the budgets they require to tell their stories but cutting back on programs that cost more than their premises warrant.

One of ABC's biggest gambles for fall is the launch of all-new series on Wednesdays, including four new comedies. McPherson said the network's strategy is to promote individual key shows rather than the comedy block as a whole.

"It's absolutely (possible) to launch a whole new night of shows," McPherson said. "We had tremendous success doing exactly that, launching 'Pushing Daisies,' 'Dirty Sexy Money' and 'Private Practice.' It was really the strike that derailed it."

One of the new comedies, Courteney Cox's "Cougar Town," is doing reshoots, McPherson confirmed, noting that some of the scenes didn't ring true, with some scenes sounding too much like they were written by men.

"We in no way want it to be edgy for edgy's sake," McPherson said.

McPherson also responded to "Grey's Anatomy" star Katherine Heigl's latest gripe. Last month on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman," the actress complained about working long hours on "Grey's."

"I think it's unfortunate," McPherson said. "People are going to behave in the way they choose to behave. There are so many people who work so hard on 'Grey's,' and all of our shows, without any notoriety, and those are the ones I'd be concerned about, people who feel like they're being criticized or looked down upon."