'Modern Family' Contract Dispute Continues, Network 'Hopeful' For Resolution

The standoff between a number of "Modern Family" cast members and their network over contracts continues.

At a press event on Friday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, ABC entertainment head Paul Lee was not able to announce that the confrontation -- which led to the cancellation of the first table read of Season 4 this week -- had been resolved. Lee was tight-lipped and stuck to a script every time he was asked about it.

"I expect the season to start on time," Lee said. "We're in the middle of negotiations at the moment. We're hopeful, we're optimistic we'll be able to resolve it."

Later at his Television Critics Association press tour panel, he was asked why the salary negotiations had gotten so contentious, but Lee didn't take the bait.

"I don't want to talk about the specifics. It's a wonderful show, they're a great cast and we're optimistic about it," he said. It's been reported that the cast went to the studio for a table read on Thursday, but the salary dispute, which involves the adult members of the cast, is still ongoing.

"Modern Family" negotiations aside, Lee talked about having solidified the network's Wednesday comedy block with newcomers like "Suburgatory" and "Happy Endings." He added that, a year ago, ABC's other priority was to launch successful dramas, and he felt the network had achieved that with "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge," which were hits with TV viewers.

"There's nothing wrong with serialized television," which, when it works, is "appointment viewing" for viewers, Lee said, adding that the network is able to successfully sell those kinds of high-concept or soapy dramas all around the world. Other broadcast networks may have followed a path that includes far more procedurals, which tend to do better in repeats, but Lee, who got his start in Brazilian and English soap operas, made the case that ABC's approach works also.

Having said that, he joked that an English show he worked on, "Triangle," had been voted the worst soap of all time.

The irony is, the "Modern Family" negotiations have plunged the network into its own soap opera -- one with high stakes for fans of the Dunphy clan.

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