Stephen McPherson’s resignation as head of ABC Entertainment offers an odd sort of symmetry with the flight path of “Lost,” which premiered months after the executive was originally named to that position in 2004.
ABC was in the toilet, and “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” — developed under McPherson’s predecessors, Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne, albeit while McPherson was running Disney’s studio — helped turn the network around. McPherson reaped those rewards.
Now, after a number of successes but also many ostentatious failures, a yet-to-be-announced successor will be banking on McPherson’s development to help spur a new resurgence and lift ABC out of its latest
It’s a theme with which Disney should be quite familiar — the executive version of “The Circle of Life.”
Under McPherson, ABC fell victim to a common plague when a network enjoys a degree of success with a certain type of show — namely, developing that same concept, under different names, over and over. It’s one reason, frankly, why network presidents usually last not much longer than a handful of years in that job. Years ago, when I was at the Los Angeles Times, I asked former ABC Entertainment Prez Brandon Stoddard why so few executives lasted longer than four or five years.
Stoddard wryly replied that such a term was “roughly the sentence given most white-collar criminals.”
Only with much better severance packages, meaning McPherson can kick back on an island for awhile, leaving somebody else to fret about finding another “Lost.”