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O'Hurley/Monaco Dance-Off in Works

ABC is considering a “dance off” between Kelly Monaco and John O'Hurley, finalists of the recent summer reality hit Dancing With the Stars.

ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson said Dancing will likely return for its second season in January, but McPherson said the network is also considering a special to reunite the finalists of the show, which drew more than 22 million viewers for its seaason finale.

“We are serious about it,” he told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “I think it’s a great idea.”

While one year ago ABC execs were being grilled about how the network was going to get out of the doldrums, this year McPherson was most under the gun about the voting for his dancing reality hit.

The weekly show eliminated contestants based on a combination of judge and fan voting.

Due to the vague and somewhat awkward nature of the results tabulation--fan voting counted toward the following week's show's vote-off-- McPherson was questioned as to whether Monaco won because she is an ABC daytime star. He said ABC will consider a results show, a la American Idol, next year.

“With Dancing there is a valid concern without a results show, but I think we are going to consider whether a results show makes sense,” he said. “To me there is not much to say, the voting was not fixed whatsoever.  What else is there to discuss?”

McPherson also danced around questions about marketing plans for the fall season. 

While last year ABC succeeded by focusing its promotional push on shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives, this year they will have to re-launch hits like Desperate, promote the shifting of returning shows like Alias and Lost, and push their new fare.

While revealing the network will once again promote Desperate Housewives on the side of dry-cleaning bags (and also give away shirts as part of the strategy), other details were few and far between.

 “I don’t mean to be cagey, it’s just gotten so competitive and people are stealing everything,” he said.  “I want to give as little as possible to the other networks.  It’s kind of kooky. People have realized how good our marketing is, and we’re flattered they appreciate what we did and are going to imitate some of it, but it's hard when people are trying to rip off ideas, too.”

And on the subject of imitation, McPherson said he expects Fox to tone theirs down from a programming standpoint.

“I hope that with Peter Liguori at Fox we are going to see a little different approach,” McPherson said. “I was certainly disappointed to see Ice Skating with the Stars. But what can you do? It’s pretty sad.”

Other highlights of McPherson’s presentation:

  • He claimed the decision to sideline Welcome to the Neighborhood, the reality show that was criticized for its selection process for the winners of a new home, was solely that of the network and not influenced by external pressures.
    “This was our decision,” he said.  “I mean, if I stopped airing things just because advocacy groups had issues with it, we would run a test pattern. I can't tell you how much of that stuff goes on. So it would be clear that whatever advocacy groups may feel that they were involved in this decision, this was our decision.”
  • He said they want to improve on Thursdays, but won’t rework their schedule to do so. “We haven't performed very well there,” he said. “But I can't say that it is the penultimate night for us, because a lot of the movie money now we're seeing on both Wednesday and Sunday. 
    "And you know, at this point we're not going to take one of our giant shows and move Desperate to Thursday night just to win Thursday night. Step by step, we'd like to be a real performer on Thursday.  We're not looking to win it this year, certainly."