ABC program chief sees “Modern Family” debut on track

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The top programming executive for ABC primetime television said he expects the network’s hit comedy “Modern Family” to debut on schedule in September, despite a current dispute over salaries with several of the show’s top stars.

“Modern Family will absolutely start on time,” Paul Lee, ABC entertainment president, told reporters at a gathering of TV critics in Beverly Hills on Friday. “We’re negotiating at the moment, and hopefully will get this resolved.”

The sitcom about the everyday lives of a family of fathers, sons, daughters and grandkids living in suburbia is among ABC’s top shows, and it won the Emmy – U.S. television’s highest honor – for best comedy last year. It is nominated again this year, and is scheduled to return to airwaves on September 26.

Earlier this week, cast members Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell sued the network for violating their contracts in a move largely seen as a bid for higher salaries amid contract re-negotiations. Ed O’Neill, who portrays the family patriarch, later joined his fellow cast members.

A first “table read” rehearsal for the season was canceled, but as of Thursday, the actors were reported by industry trade publications to be back at work as contract talks continued.

(Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte)

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