Sparked by viewer complaints, ABC considers 'dance-off'
By Suzanne C. Ryan, Globe Staff | July 27, 2005
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- In response to viewer complaints about the results of its popular summer dance competition ''Dancing With the Stars," ABC executives said yesterday they may broadcast a ''dance-off" competition in coming months pitting winner Kelly Monaco against viewer favorite John O'Hurley.
The idea, which sprang up during a meeting yesterday at the Television Critics Association summer conference here, was immediately embraced by Stephen McPherson, ABC's president of entertainment, who called the concept ''a great idea."
At the meeting, reporters questioned why Monaco, an actress on ABC's ''General Hospital," was allowed to participate. McPherson said that for the next installment, the network would cast a wider net for contestants, although it wouldn't ban ABC employees.
The dance-off idea has not yet been pitched to Monaco and O'Hurley.
The network said it expects the next ''Dancing" to air sometime after January, and the dancers are expected to be more skilled.
''There are definitely more people interested," McPherson said. ''Last time, in casting calls to agents [the response was], 'Are you out of your mind?' Now, it's 'Hey, remember you called me? I was just kidding.' "
In separate news, ABC said viewers looking for sex appeal on the spy thriller ''Alias" this fall may have to embrace a younger agent whom Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) will be training.
Garner, who is expecting a baby around Christmas with new husband Ben Affleck, won't be attempting as many stunts as usual -- or most likely donning any bikinis -- on the drama, McPherson said.
Her character, however, will be pregnant so Garner won't have to hide her condition.
''We don't want to put her in a situation where she's endangering herself and the baby as a character," said McPherson.
J.J. Abrams, the executive producer for the show, will ''focus on how to make it realistic and not campy," McPherson said.
ABC -- which a year ago was in the doghouse because of its lackluster schedule -- has a lot riding on Abrams, who is also the producer of one of ABC's hottest dramas, ''Lost."
McPherson insisted that Abrams -- who is currently directing Tom Cruise's ''Mission Impossible III" -- is not overtaxed.
''I'd love to have 100 percent of his time," McPherson said. ''But J.J. is a master at this. . . . He's prolific."
In response to critics who have suggested that Abrams may not have a master plan for the plot of ''Lost," McPherson disagreed. He said he knows ''what's in the hatch" -- a mysterious door on the ground of the island on which the main characters are stranded after their plane crashes. The wait to find out what that is, he added, ''is worth it."