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TCA Press Tour: ABC's Steve McPherson on 'Grey's' and ghosts

January 16, 2009 |  1:02 pm

What could have been a ho-hum executive session with ABC President of Entertainment Steve McPherson on the last day of TCA press tour wound up as anything but.

Greys Of course, the TV press was interested in ABC’s hit “Grey’s Anatomy” and its recent confusing foray into ghost conversations, ghost appearances and ghost sex. For weeks, Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has been visiting Izzie  (Katherine Heigl) from his grave, whispering sweet nothings in her ear and doing sweaty things with her that a family newspaper cannot describe.

This has alarmed TV critics and many viewers, not just because it happened — but because it’s happened more than once.

On Friday, McPherson delivered this news bit: “It’s not a ghost, which you will learn. I think when you get to the end of the season and see everything [creator Shonda Rhimes] had in mind, it might not be your cup of tea, but I think you will be surprised at how insightful and smart the story line itself is in terms of the dynamics that it’s creating for the characters that are involved.”

For months, it’s been rumored that Heigl will be leaving the show at the end of the season and that Rhimes is killing her off. Is she seeing a ghost or does she imagine him as a result of a tumor or aneurysm? These were possible scenarios until recently when Denny and Alex (Justin Chambers) had a conversation when Izzie was not in the room. Unless, of course, Alex also is dying and has an aneurysm in the way that women who spend a lot of time together menstruate at the same time.

When asked about this after the press conference, McPherson was not pleased.

“Watch the show,” he said. “I’m not going to talk to you about a creative issue on Shonda’s show. He’s not a ghost. You’ll see.”

To be fair, McPherson was already in a sour mood when the question was posed because another reporter had dared to ask why “so many actors were jumping ship.”

Who? He demanded to know. Well, Brooke Smith, the reporter pointed out. And Melissa George. (Not to mention the rumors that star T.R. Knight wants to escape too.)

“Melissa George was a guest for one episode,” he said. “I’m not going to answer the question. It’s an absurd question. The only person that’s left the show was Isaiah Washington."

Wait, what? Does McPherson mean that George, the actress, is also a ghost? Because we’re pretty sure that we’ve seen her in five episodes this season and her story line wraps up on Feb. 12.

At the Golden Globes on Sunday, George told Entertainment Weekly that even though she was contracted for more episodes, she decided to leave early. In a December interview, George told the L.A. Times that she was under contract for at least eight episodes. When asked about that, McPherson appeared to grow angrier.

“She didn’t contract for that many,” he said. “She was a guest. We all know what everybody says when they leave a show. They want to say what works best for them. She was mentioned in one [episode] and is in two others.”   

Well, a quick IMDB check proves the point that she’s been in five episodes, so far, but why stay on this topic when there’s more “Grey’s” fun to discuss? For instance, the exit of  Smith, who yet another reporter pointed out was not a guest star — she was in the opening credits.

“The character was not working for us, and the dynamic with the relationship was just not working for us,” McPherson said about the romance between Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Dr. Hahn.

“We felt like Sara is such a dynamic character and amazing actress and woman, and we weren’t seeing the excitement out of that relationship,” he said. “And then there was some mention that we were upset by the lesbian nature of it. [Callie’s] going to be in a dedicated lesbian relationship on the show. Again, that was an actress who was trying to talk about something in a manner that would serve her.”

And what about Knight, who has not discussed his plans with the press but is rumored to be disappointed with his story lines and wants out?

“I’m not going to comment on the behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. “I think that everything that’s been out there — stuff gets said that’s correct and some things are wrong. Again, I just wish everyone would do their jobs and worry about the show.”

The press, for one, is trying to.

— Maria Elena Fernandez