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ABC showrunners talk pickups

TCA panel took place Tuesday

ABC’s comedy showrunners Eileen Heisler, DeAnn Heline (“The Middle”), Steve Levitan (“Modern Family”) and Bill Lawrence (“Cougar Town”) had reason to smile at the Television Critics Assn. panel Tuesday afternoon.

All three of their shows were picked up for a second season. The announcement was made to the assembled scribes by ABC topper Steve McPherson in the morning – and the exec producers learned of the pickups via Twitter and word of mouth.

Maybe that wasn’t the best way to communicate the good news, but certainly it wasn’t unexpected. All of the skeins – and “Modern Family” most of all – got off to a great ratings start and has continued its momentum.

Levitan reflected on how, after being hurt by Fox’s cancellation of “Back to You” last season, the success of this show – both critically and in the ratings — is a bit overwhelming.

“It’s been a dream year and I could never have expected this. I had half given up that something like this was possible anymore. After having experienced ‘Back to You,’ having a show canceled rips your heart out. I’m thoroughly feeling both surreal and soaking in every single second of this year.”

Levitan credits much of the success to the cast. With an image of Al Bundy (“Married … With Children”) in his mind, Levitan saw Ed O’Neil in a David Mamet play and “thought he was phenomenal. He’s settled beautifully into the role and I don’t think people are questioning (the relationship) between him and (Sofia Vergara) anymore.”

Speaking on the state of the TV comedy business, Lawrence said too much is made of multicam vs. single-cam sitcoms. Only critics really distinguish between the two, he added, and it’s the script that differentiates between shows that succeed or fail, not the format.

“Nobody except the people in this room care about that,” he said. “(Others just) want to know if it’s a good show.”

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