NEW YORK — When ABC announced Tuesday that its fall slate would include three series created by star television writer-producer J.J. Abrams, Hollywood insiders suspected that there was a bit more behind Abrams' trifecta than the success of his hit show "Lost."
For weeks, Abrams' representatives have been floating a proposal to ABC's corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., and to several other entertainment companies that have expressed a keen interest in being in the J.J. Abrams business.
Even before Abrams' film directorial debut, "Mission: Impossible 3," opened in theaters May 5, his agent and lawyers had been offering studios the chance to bankroll a new "creative collective" — a major stand-alone label that would employ many co-creators, story editors, staff writers and producers with whom Abrams has worked for many years.
So Abrams' three-show score, unveiled by ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson at the network's annual upfront presentation for advertisers, prompted many of the executives gathered here — especially those from rival studios — to muse about Disney's motives.
Renewing "Lost," which Abrams co-created, was a no-brainer, they said, and his pilot, "Six Degrees," had promise. But several industry veterans saw only one explanation for why ABC opted to stick by Abrams' drama "What About Brian?" which until last week had lower ratings than "Invasion," which ABC canceled: Wooing TV's 39-year-old golden boy.
"We really love that show," said McPherson, adding that he believed that "What About Brian?" which revolves around young married couples in their 30s, was just starting to find its audience. "And J.J.'s involvement is a big thing for us."
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has declared himself an Abrams fan. In a meeting last month, Iger told Abrams he believed that the young filmmaker would bring the same kind of passion and vision to live action that John Lasseter brings to animation, according to three people who were there.
Lasseter, of course, is the director of such hits as the "Toy Story" films and is the pioneering creative guru behind Pixar Animation Studios, which Disney recently bought.
Iger was not available for comment. Abrams neither confirmed nor denied that Iger had compared him to Lasseter, though he said any such comparison would be very flattering.