NBC is getting something that you never want to hear from a top executive at one of its rivals: pity.
Stephen McPherson, ABC's entertainment president, said NBC's struggles — coming to a head this week with the cancellation of Jay Leno's prime-time show and Conan O'Brien saying he'll quit rather than accept a later time slot for the "Tonight" show — are not something he takes pleasure in.
"We want them to be vibrant and we want them to be a good competitor," McPherson told reporters. "It's kind of like playing for the Yankees, and the Boston Red Sox decide to stop playing baseball."
The only positive in Leno's prime-time failure is that it puts the emphasis back on scripted programming, which viewers seem to want at the 10 p.m. hour, he said.
ABC has had its own successes and failures this season, but they celebrated the successes Tuesday by announcing that three of its Wednesday night comedies — "Modern Family," "Cougar Town" and "The Middle" — would be back for second seasons next fall.
ABC took a risk last fall in scheduling four new comedies Wednesday nights, and it's a strong batting average for three of them to work. The fourth, Kelsey Grammer's comedy "Hank," is already off the air.
The good news spread fast on the set of "Modern Family," said Steven Levitan, one of the show's producers. He said he stepped off stage to take a call from ABC executives informing him of the pick-up, and by the time he was done, most of the actors had learned from Twitter.
"When I came back to make the big announcement, they said, `Yeah, we know,' " he said.
McPherson also said "Bachelor Pad," a spinoff series to its hit "The Bachelor," will launch this summer.
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