James Tupper and Anne Heche, Men in Trees

Question: Like many fans, I was upset when ABC shelved Men in Trees to run other, inferior programming. In the meantime, I'd heard about the on-set romance and subsequent divorces that happened after Anne Heche and James Tupper became an item. Anne Heche's divorce seemed particularly nasty. The new season is starting soon and now I feel that this show has been poisoned for me. It's been so long since a new episode was on that I've lost interest, and while I don't want to begrudge Heche and Tupper's right to be with each other, their romance has left a bad taste in my mouth. Neither of these actors has the same likability for me that they once did, and I have become a bit ambivalent about what happens to their characters. Similarly, I have a bad reaction to the firing of Isaiah Washington on Grey's Anatomy. Whether or not it was justified, the way ABC handled the whole situation (and a disappointing third season) has ruined some of the magic that made Grey's Anatomy must-see TV at my house. So my question is: Do you think the execs at ABC have contaminated the lasting power of these two shows? Has ABC ruined Men in Trees by keeping it off the air for so long? Was Grey's Anatomy ruined when they made Shonda Rhimes fire Washington? Do you think other TV viewers are also turned off by the rumors, gossip and scandal surrounding these shows?
Answer: My hope, and maybe it's a thin and feeble one if too many people obsess on what's reported in the relentless world of celebrity gossip, is that if both shows continue to produce great entertainment — and in the case of Grey's, execute the course correction to lighten things up, as Shonda Rhimes has promised — viewers will continue to rally behind them. There's no question that ABC has damaged Men in Trees by airing no new episodes since February, and its fortunes will almost certainly be dimmed by the new Friday time slot (a night where it languished last fall until it moved behind Grey's). But as many of us discovered to our delight, Men in Trees became about so much more than just the Marin-Jack relationship, and I can't wait to get back to Elmo. As for Isaiah Washington, at this point I think it's fair to say that that debacle was a public-relations disaster from all sides. Neither he, the show, nor the network/studio emerged very well from that poorly handled mess. In both cases, I really think it's up to the shows' writers to keep delivering, despite all the off-camera hubbub, and for the fans to respond in kind. If the shows don't step up this fall creatively, they'll deserve whatever comes to them. But speaking for the fans, I think we should meet them at least halfway. If you can't look past the headlines to enjoy the shows on their own merits (if in fact they still have them, which I hope they do), too bad for you.