In a whirlwind move yesterday, ABC announced that its entertainment president of several years, Stephen McPherson, had submitted his resignation effective immediately, and almost as quickly came word that he was being replaced by ABC Family chief Paul Lee.
McPherson’s ouster—you don’t quit and get replaced in three-and-a-half seconds if you’re going happily—is at once surprising and not so much. On the one hand, McPherson has been a widely respected developer of programming, having brought ABC from the doldrums by launching Lost and Desperate Housewives in 2004. (And maybe more important, Dancing With the Stars afterward.) On the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately front, he launched a successful comedy night last season (an ABC holy grail for years) with Modern Family. For all that, though, ABC has reportedly been spending a ton on new-program development, only to end up more or less tied with NBC—in its Jay Leno season at that. (And, according to industry reports, he had strained relations with his bosses.)
His replacement, Lee, is enjoying lots of positive buzz at ABC Family, a cable network (once upon a time Fox Family Channel) that floundered about for its identity for a while before finding teen/tween buzz (and sometimes critical praise) with shows like Greek, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Pretty Little Liars and Huge. Cable success hasn’t always translated to big-network success, as the jobs have different audiences and priorities, but now Lee gets his shot. What would you put first on his job list?