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TCA press tour: ABC chief hails NBC's return from Jay Leno experiment

January 12, 2010 | 11:47 am

NBC's decision to bring scripted series back to 10 p.m. will be good for the entire TV business, according to ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson.

"It's going to put the emphasis back on great creative" and scripted shows, McPherson told reporters today at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena.

Over the weekend, NBC confirmed that it will move Jay Leno back into late night and return scripted dramas to their traditional 10 p.m. berth, which McPherson said would make broadcasting stronger overall.

"It's what people expect in the time period," he said.

Often a mercurial presence, McPherson was subdued and pushed aside opportunities to gloat over NBC's misfortunes. "Seeing a great network topple is not something we rejoice over," he said. "It's disconcerting when things happen like that. ... We want it to be vibrant, a good competitor."

But he did dispute an NBC executive's remarks about ABC's less-than-spectacular performance this season. "We're actually up 8% to 10%," he said. "It's a little odd for that to come out." (NBC quickly e-mailed reporters statistics backing up its interpretation of the numbers.)

McPherson was likewise muted about Simon Cowell's decision to leave "American Idol" for "The X Factor," a show Cowell created and owned. He pointed out that although Cowell is a vital part of "Idol," Fox will still keep him in the family.

"I'm not sure it's some gigantic win" for ABC, McPherson said. "It's just going to be a change."

McPherson opened the session by announcing early second-season pickups for three Wednesday comedies, "Modern Family," "Cougar Town" and "The Middle."

The fourth sitcom in ABC's Wednesday block, Kelsey Grammer's "Hank," is already gone.

"We never got the writing where it needed to be," McPherson explained.

-- Scott Collins