ABC announced premiere dates for the new Shonda Rhimes drama "Scandal," and the upcoming sitcom "Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23," but the network's entertainment president, Paul Lee, said there's no return date yet for "Cougar Town," though he hopes to bring it back in March.
Lee spoke to the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Tuesday, the morning after "Cougar Town" show runner Bill Lawrence staged a party for the show after it wasn't included in ABC's press tour schedule. The staging of the event underlined the push-pull between the network and the show, which was sometimes named as a candidate for cancellation before ABC announced its return.
"We haven't yet landed where it's going to go but it's tentatively in there for March," Lee said.
He acknowledged Lawrence's efforts to whip up critical support for "Cougar Town," describing him as a great "pirate" for his show.
"I used to be a pirate when I ran a show, and now I'm in the Navy," Lee said.
"Scandal" will debut Thursday, April 5, after the Rhimes-produced "Grey's Anatomy." The comedy "Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23," starring "Breaking Bad" guest Krysten Ritter as a ruthless roommate and James Van Der Beek as himself, will debut Wednesday, April 11, with a plum lead-in from "Modern Family." (The show is one of two ABC midseason shows that initially had the word "bitch" in the title; the other is GCB, which was briefly called "Good Christian Bitches.")
Lee opened his remarks by saying, "We felt we had a really strong fall." That was in contrast to NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who acknowledged NBC had "a really bad fall." NBC, the fourth-highest rated network, hopes to displace ABC as the third-highest rated.
Lee also addressed the middling ratings for ABC's critically reviled cross-dressing comedy "Work It," noting one blogger who said they were neither as good as the network hoped or as bad as critics expected. He said the network would continue to keep an eye on them before making any decision about the show's future.
Asked about a Variety ad by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates that said the show would hurt transgender people, Lee noted his network's positive portrayal of gays. He said of the "Work It" complaints, "I didn't get it."