BREAKING: ABC Pres. disses Melissa George and Brooke Smith, says Callie will soon be in a “dedicated lesbian relationship”

Steve McPhersonABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson faced a series of questions about Grey’s Anatomy’s revolving door of characters after the ABC panel at the TCA Winter Press Tour today (Melissa George just announced she was leaving the show, Janina Gavankar quietly departed, and of course, Brooke Smith was famously fired in October).

Here’s a transcript of the exchange, which took place in a hallway after the panel (thanks to‘s Michael Jensen for reporting back!):

McPherson: Melissa George was a guest for one episode.
Reporter #1: …so many guests just leaving — no, she was in more than one episode.
McPherson: I’m not going to answer the question, that’s an absurd question. The only person who has left the show is Isaiah Washington.
Reporter #2: Brooke Smith.
Reporter #3: Melissa had contracted for 8 to 11 episodes, and she hasn’t gotten 8 to 11 episodes.
McPherson: She didn’t contract for that many episodes, she was a guest —
Reporter #3: That’s what she said.
McPherson: Well, we all know what everybody says when they leave the show, they want to say what works best for them.”
Reporter #3: She was in more than one episode.
McPherson: Yeah, I think she was in three. She was mentioned in one and then shown in two other episodes, I think.
Reporter #4: Brooke Smith was in the opening credits at the start of the season. Was that just, you didn’t like the character —
McPherson: Yeah, the character was not working for us, and the dynamic with the relationship was not working for us. We felt like Sara [Ramirez] is such a dynamic character, an amazing actress and woman, and we really just weren’t seeing the excitement out of that relationship. There was some mention that we were upset by the lesbian nature of it. She’s going to be in a dedicated lesbian relationship (chuckling) in the show. So again, that was an actress who was trying to talk about something in a manner that would serve her and not the reality.

Hmmm, where to start. First, McPherson calls the reporter’s question about why there are so many actors leaving “absurd,” then he throws Melissa George under the bus, then he throws Brooke Smith under the bus, and then he laughs away the idea that anyone could accuse Grey’s of having a problem with lesbian relationships.

Unfortunately, Steve didn’t do his homework. Aside from not knowing how many episodes George was in (five), he incorrectly attributed the information about Melissa George being signed for more than a few episodes to departing comments from the actress trying to make herself look good.

In fact, the only thing George said in her announcement last week about leaving the show was, “It was my choice. I love the show so much. I’ve made some beautiful friends. I love T.R. Knight. I love Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers … I adore Ellen Pompeo. I think she’s a strong, incredible woman. And Katherine Heigl is the most beautiful creature on Earth.”

How self-serving of her!

Then there’s McPherson’s implication that the only speculation about ABC execs having a problem with Callie and Erica’s relationship came from Brooke Smith, when in fact many other Grey‘s insiders reported it as one of the factors contributing to the decision to fire her.

Both EW and E! Online reported being told when Smith was fired that the execs didn’t like Brooke’s character in general, or her relationship with Callie, and E! Online’s Kristin reported even more widespread de-gaying on the show:

I’m also told by insiders connected to the ABC series that some of the gay-themed storylines are being downplayed and even erased from upcoming scripts…And that goes for the series’ latest newcomer, Melissa George of Alias, who joins the show this month…Melissa came on to the show as a bisexual character and love interest for Callie (Sara Ramirez), but a reliable insider tells me, “They changed the script, and now she isn’t. She starts off flirting with Callie but it never goes anywhere.

And as we’ve seen, Sadie’s flirtation with Callie did, in fact, go nowhere.

Nowhere in McPherson’s comments is any acknowledgment that the writing or storytelling decisions on the show may even partially responsible for viewers’ mixed reception to Dr. Hahn’s character or the relationship between Erica and Callie. And the idea that there’s a revolving door of characters is just, well, absurd, according to Steve, even though it’s painfully noticeable to viewers and the press.

Buried among all this defensiveness and denial is the news that Callie will soon be entering into a “dedicated lesbian relationship,” presumably with Dr. Arizona Robbins, played by guest star Jessica Capshaw, who was unofficially reported to be a potential love interest for Callie (although she’s only signed for three episodes so far).

Call me crazy, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about this news given ABC’s history with the queer storylines and characters on this show, and its apparent refusal to acknowledge or learn from its mistakes (don’t even get me started on the Denny-Izzie storyline!)

But what do you think — are you excited about this development?

(For more Grey’s news, see what McPherson said about rumors of T.R Knight leaving the show.)