Then he began to discuss ABC’s “stringent standards,” which he claimed were more stringent than those of its competitors, adding: “We think about it and talk about it all the time.”
“Look, we’re storytellers,” he said, but storytellers with “integrity” and a “moral compass” who tolerate “no gratuitous violence.”
Speaking of storytellers with integrity, the “Dancing With the Stars” all-stars edition was a bust in the fall because, Lee said, it turns out people like watching bad overweight celebrity dancers shed pounds and learn their left foot from their right for the first time — instead of seeing previous-season winners and crowd faves re-competing.
The all-star edition was concocted to keep the show as competitive as possible when it went head-to-head with “The Voice” for the first time in the fall. “Dancing” scored some record-low numbers for the franchise — down 20 percent year to year among viewers and 30 percent among young viewers.
The fall’s ratings fiasco notwithstanding, Lee said that the network is still committed to running a spring edition and two rounds each season.
“There’s a lot of life left in it,” he insisted.
Airing on two nights in the fall, the “Dancing” all-star edition contributed more than its share to ABC’s third-place finish so far this season.
Lee said he was disappointed that none of his new series became hits last fall. The network has scrubbed two of its high-profile freshman drama series: “Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue.”
Shows that succeed on ABC are “smart with heart,” the executive said. That’s Lee-speak for: “can be male-skewing, but had better be very relatable to ABC’s mostly female audience.”
“If we ever have a [series with a] ‘Do Not Enter’ sign for women, that’s not going to work for us,” Lee said, when asked why these freshman shows had failed.
Yet ABC has ordered a pilot from Joss Whedon for a drama called “S.H.I.E.L.D,” based on Marvel’s “The Avengers.”
“I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re very excited about it,” said Lee, calling it “very Joss” and, yes, “smart with heart.”
To read more from Winter TV Press Tour 2013, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.