ABC goes on without ‘Commander in Chief’

  • By Victor Balta / Herald Columnist
  • Tuesday, July 18, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

LOS ANGELES – Stephen McPherson has a lot of questions to answer these days.

That’s what happens when you’re the entertainment president of ABC, the network with the most buzz-worthy shows on television, and you’ve watched another potential blockbuster thrust itself through the cracks.

“Commander in Chief” fans, gather ‘round.

Tuesday’s events confirmed what we already knew: “Commander” was a good, possibly great, television show that fell victim to severe mismanagement and will likely never get another chance.

Creator Rod Lurie, a career-long moviemaker, effectively was in over his head trying to produce a weekly television show, and that led to three “show runners” during a shortened, 18-episode run.

Frustrated fans, who endured two long breaks during the show’s debut season only to have it ripped away forever, will find little solace in McPherson’s explanation.

But here it is.

“We’d definitely do it over (if we could),” McPherson said. “What we would do is we would probably bring it on later in the season and let (Lurie) prep for it a lot longer than he had a chance to.

“You know, he was the voice of that show. I think the week-to-week production of a series is a real education and that was what was hard for him. And I think if we had gotten way out ahead (with the production), we would have had a much better chance to be able to deliver a show week to week.”

There you have it.

Good show.

Good creator.

Good idea.

Unfortunate execution.

McPherson also discussed changes in the scheduling of “Lost” that will try to address fans’ concerns over last season’s frequent repeats. Some fans even started a Web site,, that answered the question with a simple “yes” or “no” on an otherwise blank screen.

This time around, the show will be presented in two solid blocks. It will air six consecutive episodes, starting Oct. 4, before giving up the time slot to a new drama, “Day Break,” for 13 weeks. After that, “Lost” will return uninterrupted through the end of the season.

“We’ve just really, you know, listened to the audience about the repeats, and it felt like this was really the best way to run the show as the producers (intended),” McPherson said.

He later added, “The other choice was to run it 22 straight in the spring. Because of production, we couldn’t do that. And that felt like a long time to be off the air.”

McPherson also talked about the move of “Grey’s Anatomy” from Sunday night after “Desperate Housewives” to Thursday night at 9, against “CSI” on CBS. On Saturday, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler had called “CSI” the underdog.

“I think it’s the first time that, you know, we’re really going to go full bore against Thursday nights,” McPherson said.

He said earlier, “In terms of ‘CSI,’ I heard (Tassler) was playing the rope-a-dope.

“It’s kind of funny. I mean, you know, ‘CSI’ and CBS have dominated that night, so I think they are the champions without question.

“And, you know, we’re coming on with a strong contender and hope to do some business there.”

Columnist Victor Balta: 425-339-3455 or

For more scoop from the TV Critics Association press tour, check out Victor’s blog at

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