POSTED BY STUART LEVINE

McphersontcaThere’s nothing like a standoff between a network exec and sleep-deprived critics to make TCA invigorating on its next-to-last day.

So when ABC topper Steve McPherson (pictured) let out that a major announcement involving the upcoming season of "Lost" would be divulged at Comic-Con tomorrow — and not here at the Beverly Hilton with the country’s TV press assembled — well, lets just say the news wasn’t well received by TCA-ers. (And for more TCA sound and fury, read what was on McPherson’s mind in the post-Q&A huddle courtesy of Variety’s Michael Schneider.)

McPherson was visibly pissed. In time spent where he could be promoting ABC’s new fall lineup, which incidentally has promising new titles in "Pushing Daisies," "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Big Shots," he was forced to keep the wolves at bay who kept pressing on why sci-fi nerds heading to San Diego were more important to them — and to their readers.

McPherson started the brouhaha accidentally. When one reporter asked about what might happen next on "Lost," McPherson said he couldn’t give any details and that a major announcement was coming in San Diego. That’s when the blood hit the water and the sharks began circling.

After a a woman questioned why the announcement was being withheld, McPherson kidded her about driving down to San Diego together to hear the news firsthand. Though he was joking, it went over as well as a Michael Richards standup routine at the Laugh Factory.

A few minutes later, Rick Kushman of the Sacramento Bee — in a very reasonable and well-thought way — asked McPherson how should newspaper editors, who are spending thousands of dollars to send their critics to Beverly Hills for two weeks in a time when papers are being crushed financially, should feel when networks are withholding information from them.

McPherson tried to make light of the situation and said, "I started talking to him before he was available, and I don’t know what happened there, but I’ve cast Don Imus on ‘Lost.’" It was a retort that sounded eerily similar to Ben Silverman describing how Isaiah Washington came aboard NBC’s "Bionic Woman."

Soon after that, ABC publicist Hope Hartman whispered into McPherson’s ear that "Lost" co-creator and exec producer Damon Lindelof had been told of the brewing controversy and allowed McPherson to spill the news that Harold Perrineau, who plays Michael, would be back. (Sorry for burying the lead, but the jostling was too good to pass up.)

– Stuart Levine

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