"The Jay Leno Show" won't hit the air until next month, but the head of ABC is already taking some none-too-subtle swipes at it.

By putting a talk show in the 10 p.m. hour usually reserved for scripted dramas, NBC is "doing their own thing, and the other networks seem to be following in the tradition of putting on great material," Steve McPherson, president of the ABC Entertainment Group, told reporters at the TCA press tour in Pasadena on Saturday afternoon.

"I think NBC's in transition right now," he said. "We're all anxious to see what happens with Leno."

McPherson predicted that Leno's show would not earn the 5.0 or better rating among adults ages 18 to 49 that a successful network drama can get, even amid continuing audience declines.

"We do see 10 o'clock as a major opportunity for us," he added.

Whether ABC can take advantage of that opportunity is another question. With "Lost" set to end soon and "Desperate Housewives" aging, the heat is on for the network to find new hit dramas. Recent efforts such as "Eli Stone" and "Dirty Sexy Money" failed to catch fire.

"The strike really derailed us," McPherson said, referring to the three-month writers strike that ended in early 2008 and halted production on scripted series.

McPherson admitted that the high cost of scripted shows is a "major issue," but added, in what could be taken as another dig at NBC, "We have to remain ambitious."


ABC would like to have Abdul

Paula Abdul, were your ears burning Saturday afternoon?

McPherson said he'd love to have the former "American Idol" judge join his network's hit dancing show, "Dancing With the Stars," either as a participant or a judge.

(And to this we say gently, get in line).

McPherson, who is a good friend of Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly, said he was "stunned" by Fox's decision not to seal a new deal with Abdul, who demanded a bigger raise than Fox was willing to give her.

McPherson said he has wasted no time reaching out to her to say he'd love to have her join ABC.

"I think she's a huge talent," he said. "I think that there's a lot made about her in terms of who she is. And I think there's a sensitivity and a kind of emotion to her that balances out 'Idol.' And we'd love to get a piece of that. It would be great."


Cancellation is bad for the heart

First, Abdul dumps Fox after the network doesn't show her as much green love (money) as she thinks she deserves. Now, Kelsey Grammer trash-talks the network that broke up with him and, he says, quite possibly gave him a heart attack.

Fox, you (literal) heartbreaker, you!

Grammer, the star of ABC's "Hank," was not shy about assessing the emotional damage left by Fox's cancellation of "Back to You," his sitcom with Patricia Heaton, who incidentally has a new ABC comedy too, "The Middle."

"I enjoyed it immensely," he said during a Saturday morning press tour panel. "And we were onto something pretty good."

But then Reilly, who turned down "Back to You" when he was president of entertainment at NBC, moved into the same job at Fox. And, well, read on:

"There was very little ability, especially on Fox anyway, to kind of have a sense of continuity about the show and a sense of commitment because that's just kinda the way they work the shows," Grammer said. "It's their thing. We were at sea pretty much once ['American Idol'] came on and finally there was some friction between the guy that never wanted the show in the first place and was now running Fox. Then there was a heart attack."

Did the heartbreak cause the heart attack?

"There's obviously some connection to one's life and the stress that takes place in one's life," he added. "When they examined my arteries, there was no blocked arteries, I had no cholesterol buildup. I had an event that they think was stress-related. And you can make of that what you will. Listen, it was not a great year. It was a tough year for everybody and maybe it was my time to get retooled a little bit. It ended up being probably a great thing in my life. I'm healthier, stronger, faster. I'm somewhat bionic now."

So bionic, in fact, that Grammer also took potshots at Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive of CBS Corp. Grammer produces "Medium," which aired on NBC for five years and was canceled this season, but will now air on CBS. Grammer sarcastically referred to him as a "selfless, ego-less man" and "disingenuous."


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