LOS ANGELES — Let's say you've got this aging yet sorta popular TV hit that needs to shuffle off to cancellation-land by the end of the season. How do you deliver that news to a roomful of 200 skeptical TV critics?
If you're ABC entertainment president Paul Lee, you get Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry to pull up a seat next to you and assure writers that the decision to put down the show at the end of this eighth season was a mutual one.
"The only thing harder than creating a hit show, is knowing when to end it," Cherry said at the TV Critics Association's summer press tour Sunday. "I wanted to go out in the classiest way possible."
While Cherry faces a contentious $20 million lawsuit from former co-star Nicolette Sheridan, he's also working to revamp Hallalujah, a dramedy starring ex-Law & Order star Jesse L. Martin that the network passed on for this season. That means no spinoff for Housewives.
"I always say the difference between people who had a hit when they were very young and people catch that second wave is that the second-wave people are smart enough to know how lucky they are," Cherry said.
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After years of being told I resemble a certain American Idol judge, on Friday night it finally happened. Someone in Hollywood mistook me for bass player-producer-TV dawg extraordinaire Randy Jackson.
At first I though the salutation I heard — "Hey, Randy!" — was a joke loosed at the Fox network's press party in an oceanside restaurant. But the mistaken fan in question — a producer on an auction show Fox will debut later this month — was serious until I told him he was barking at the wrong dog.
That wasn't even my oddest encounter chasing stories and trends in the halls of the Beverly Hills Hilton; here are some of my more notable interactions:
Marilu Henner's freakish memory: Fans know former Taxi star Marilu Henner has a "super autobiographical memory," or the ability to remember every day in her life. CBS centered its new cop drama Unforgettable on a redheaded woman with the same ability, tapping Henner as a consultant.
I had begun schmoozing CBS Sunday Morning contributor Mo Rocca and Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady at CBS' press tour party Wednesday when Henner walked up, and reeled off details about her last meeting with Prady — what she had worn, what day of the week it was and what kind of salad she had.
I immediately introduced myself to Henner, just so I could be sure there is at least one celebrity in Hollywood who knows my name.
House star Robert Sean Leonard's lack of interest in watching his own show: When I asked House co-star Robert Sean Leonard (Dr. James Wilson) about rumors the show might end after next season, Leonard was gracious. But he had few opinions on the series.
Because he doesn't watch the show.
"I can't tell one episode from another," he said. "We have really good directors, and I trust the actors I work with, and I've been acting for 20 years. So I just wing it."
Of course, if Leonard can't be bothered to watch his own show, should any fans make the effort, either?