ABC’s embattled drama Commander in Chief was rocked with another scandal last week when Steven Bochco was replaced as show runner after four months on the job. Recruited in October to take over for creator Rod Lurie — who was late delivering scripts — Bochco (NYPD Blue) rejiggered the Geena Davis show by casting Polly Bergen as President Mackenzie Allen’s mom and Blue alum Mark-Paul Gosselaar as a campaign adviser. ”The show felt a little too broad,” he told EW in January. ”I wanted to create an environment of urgency.”
Seems he did more than that. Insiders say Bochco gained a reputation for ignoring script notes from ABC (the producer couldn’t be reached for comment). Unfortunately for Bochco, the ratings didn’t reward his efforts: Though Chief began the season as the No. 1 new show, viewership plummeted to 10.4 million by Jan. 24, a 37 percent drop-off. (A six-week hiatus didn’t help matters.)
Writer Dee Johnson — a show veteran — will take over, with plans to retool, or perhaps trash, some of the episodes Bochco had shot. Meanwhile, Bochco, who retains a Chief exec-producer title, will focus his energy on a fall drama pilot he’s producing for ABC’s sister company Touchstone TV called Hollis and Rae, about a cop and a DA in Savannah. Despite the behind-the-scenes shake-up, Chief is still scheduled to return April 18. So for the moment, it looks like Commander in Chief’s Producergate is over — now, if we could just get a congressional investigation into West Wing’s cancellation.