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TCA: ABC Showrunners Take Center Stage

Beverly Hills -- The ABC showrunners' panel once again provided a little comic relief -- much of it from Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry -- at the Television Critics Association press tour here Thursday afternoon.

When asked how he came up with the idea to flash forward five years for the upcoming season of Desperate Housewives, Cherry said it was during a baseball game he attended with ABC entertainment president Steve McPherson.

“The most surprising part of this story is that I was at a baseball game,” said Cherry.

“He thought he was at Damn Yankees,” deadpanned Carlton Cuse, Lost executive producer.

Seriously, Cherry said, he actually borrowed the time-warp idea from Lost because it offered a new degree of character exposition.

Cuse and his co-executive producer, Damon Lindelof, said the end date for Lost, which will have two more seasons of 16 episodes, infused the show with a new urgency.

“That made all the difference in the world,” Cuse said. “We knew exactly how much time we had left to tell our story. We were able to build toward that end date. I think it really changed our story telling.”

And far from damping their enthusiasm, the 100-day writers’ strike, which interrupted Lost midseason, provided Cuse and Lindelof a much-needed break from the show that has become a complicated web rife with mysticism and mythology.

“We were rested, we were energized,” Cuse said.

Cast diversity -- or lack thereof -- was raised when a reporter asked if Cuse and Lindelof hesitated before killing off Jin, played by Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim.

“There will be more of Daniel Dae Kim in the series in some form,” Cuse offered cryptically.

“We’ve killed a lot of white people,” added Lindelof. “I can almost guarantee you we will be killing more white people this season. But no one ever asks us about it.”

Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes was peppered with questions about star Katherine Heigl’s refusal to compete in this year’s Emmy Awards because, Heigl said, “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination.”

Heigl took home the supporting drama actress Emmy last year. Her remarks angered the show’s producers.

“I found it surprising,” Rhimes said, adding that Heigl asked her to give her character a light load in the second half of the season so that she could do a movie.

“I actually have a really wonderful working relationship with [Heigl] and Izzie is one of my favorite characters,” Rhimes added. “But [Heigl] is really outspoken.”

The flap created an off-camera drama with rumors leaking that the show’s writers may kill off Heigl’s Dr. Izzie Stevens, inflicting her with a brain tumor.

Rhimes was mum on plot twists. But Ugly Betty showrunner Silvio Horta had a suggestion: “Put her in a coma.”

For the latest news and video from the TCA press tour, click here.