ABC likely to give up on unaired episodes

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UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Fans of the canceled ABC shows "Pushing Daisies," "Eli Stone" and "Dirty Sexy Money" shouldn't hold their breath hoping to see unaired episodes. ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said he'd like to get those episodes on the air but there are complications.

"Some of it is financial," McPherson said. "We're looking at ways of amortizing our whole schedule. There are a lot of different things in terms of what shows we're repeating, which shows we have runs of. As far as Saturday night, on the one hand, fine, we'll just burn them off. On the other hand, we have affiliates and we're supposed to be scheduling the strongest schedule we can.

"I love that there are passionate fans, but unfortunately the shows didn't have enough fans to work," he said. "So there's an equation there. I'm still programming a network and because there are six dedicated fans on one show and a few on another, I can't turn our air over to whatever."

McPherson said he hopes to get unaired episodes of the shows online at ABC.com, but that requires negotiating for online rights without a broadcast with each show's producing studios. He noted with regret that the timing didn't work to give producers notice that they needed to wrap the shows with series finale episodes.

McPherson defended waiting until fall to bring the shows back following the end of the writers' strike last winter. He said they would only have been able to produce two or three episodes post-strike.(CBS managed to get about five episodes of most of its series on the air after the strike and has seen more success this fall.)

"We made a gamble," McPherson acknowledged. "Hindsight is 20/20. Clearly people did not come back to them as we'd hoped. I don't know that we had a better option."

And there's the rub: Easy as it is to blame networks, if a network puts on a quality show and viewers don't tune in, then viewers bear some of the blame when these shows get canceled. That dynamic also threatens to create a vicious cycle.

"What I really worry about in both economically challenged times and when shows like that, challenging shows, are not working [in the ratings], is that I and everybody I work with is going to stop taking chances and say, 'Well, we can't do the next "Desperate Housewives," we've got to do the 17th incarnation of X show.' I think we still have to take swings at the plate and we still have to be bold, whether that's 'Dancing with the Stars' or 'Lost.'"

Poehler's show

The premise of NBC's untitled Amy Poehler sitcom from "The Office" writers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur has been revealed. The new series, still untitled, will be filmed in the same mockumentary style as "The Office" but will be set in the world of local government. Cameras follow Leslie Knope (Poehler), described as a "mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana."

Poehler's character is sort of a cross between Tracy Flick ("Election") and Michael Scott (with a dash of Hillary Clinton).

"I think it says a lot about government and we just experienced that through the last election," said Angela Bromstad, NBC primetime entertainment/Universal Media Studios president. "I think there's a little bit of Sarah Palin and Hillary Rodham Clinton in Amy's character, the passion for wanting to change things and the comedy in that."

In the show, Leslie attempts to improve her town and advance her career by helping a local nurse (Rashida Jones, "The Office") turn a construction pit into a park. They're opposed by defensive bureaucrats, NIMBY neighbors and developers. She's helped and hindered by Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari, "Human Giant," "Scrubs"), another government official. In the process, Leslie hopes to inspire her bored college intern (Aubrey Plaza) and reach her goal of becoming the first female President of the United States.

Co-creator Schur said the show won't espouse a political ideology.

"It's not about politics, it's about government," he said. "It's not about any specific part or agenda any group of people has. The characters in the show represent every different kind of ideology. We're not doing it as a big satire of past events, it's more that we're trying to look at a single government public works project in small-town America."

Channel surfing

C-SPAN takes viewers on a tour of "Blair House: The President's Guest House" tonight at 7 followed by an encore of "The White House: Inside America's Most Famous Home" at 8. ... Cable customers -- digital cable customers on Comcast -- will get free access to HBO tomorrow to see "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial" (2:30 p.m. live, rerun at 7 p.m.). ... WGN America will begin airing "Star Trek: The Next Generation" reruns in prime time Tuesday. .. New episodes of USA's "Burn Notice" begin airing Thursday at 10 p.m. ... Next Saturday CMT's "My Big Redneck Wedding" will feature the marriage of Kimberly Platt and Heinz Panagels of Portersville, complete with "exploding cakes, broken down trucks, skydivers and fireworks," according to a CMT release.


Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com


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