- Associated Press - Sunday, August 1, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - The ABC fall schedule is “locked and loaded” and won’t be changed despite a management shake-up, the network’s new chief said Sunday.

Paul Lee, noting he’d logged just 36 hours so far as ABC Entertainment Group president, said “you can do more damage than good” by making last-minute changes.

Lee, 50, was put in charge Saturday of the ratings-challenged ABC broadcast network and ABC Studios after last week’s abrupt resignation of Stephen McPherson. During a Q-and-A session with the Television Critics Association, Lee was guarded about his predecessor’s departure but willing to praise the schedule he left behind.

“I felt honored to be offered the job” by Anne Sweeney, the president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, Lee said. “But I don’t want to talk about Steve.”

ABC has a “very strong lineup coming in” to the season next month, Lee said.

Lee, who as head of ABC Family invigorated the once-flagging cable channel, is in charge of development, programming, marketing and scheduling operations for ABC Entertainment.

The London-born Lee called the network “one of the premiere iconic American storytelling brands” that he grew up watching from abroad. He made one particular favorite on the schedule clear.

“One thing I know, ‘Modern Family’ should win the Emmy for best comedy this year,” Lee said, lobbying for ABC’s freshman hit series at the Aug. 29 Emmy Awards.

Lee, who holds a master’s degree in modern languages from Oxford University, spent more than a decade at the BBC as an executive, news documentary maker and entertainment producer. He began as a reporter assigned to conflict-plagued Belfast, Northern Ireland.

McPherson’s departure as programming chief at ABC came just days before he was to preside over the network’s presentation of its fall schedule to journalists as part of the TV critics association’s summer meeting.

Thrust into place for McPherson, Lee said that he had to cut a beach vacation short to make the meeting _ and joked that he incurred his wife’s wrath despite her encouraging him to take the new job.

But he is very familiar with ABC’s schedule because of his job at ABC Family, which included promoting fare on the broadcast network. Lee said the network has “serious stars” and “great fresh faces” in its new shows.

McPherson left behind a new-programming slate that features actors including Matthew Perry, Michael Imperioli, Michael Chiklis and Dana Delany and such offbeat shows as the mock-documentary drama “My Generation” and “No Ordinary Family,” a comedy-drama about a family endowed with super powers.

Lee called it premature to say where the network might go in subsequent seasons.

Asked about his favorite shows and genres, Lee was ecumenical. He lauded the “passionate, often sexy” serialized dramas that are part of the ABC brand but is also a fan of the CBS procedural “Criminal Minds” that is co-produced by ABC Studios.

Viewers expect smart, quality storytelling from the network, Lee said.

Unlike its three chief rivals, ABC lost viewers last season as serialized hits like “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” started aging. There also was a failed effort to replace “Lost” with the similarly mysterious “Flashforward.”

Yet the network’s biggest risk of last fall _ filling Wednesday with four new comedies, including “Modern Family” _ was a success.

___

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.

___

Online:

http://www.abc.go.com