After missing our confab in the summer, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler returns to the TCA press tour on Wednesday (January 15) morning.
She’ll probably talk about how CBS is still TV’s most watched network. And we’ll probably talk about “Hostages,” “Intelligence” and “We Are Men.” It’s all a matter of perspective!
Click through for the full live-blog:
9:01 a.m. CBS has very little to present today. “Intelligence,” which is effectively DOA after tanking on Monday, the comedy “Friends with Better Lives” and some various dramas together before ceding to The CW in the afternoon. That means no “Reckless” and no “Bad Teacher,” if you’re curious.
9:04 a.m. Tassler begins by saying that “it’s a dynamic TV universe,” which she calls exciting and exhausting, She repeats the statistics for DVR and whatnot. “Good Wife” has, apparently, grown in off-network platforms. Now you know. But one thing doesn’t change: CBS is No.1 overall. And, thanks to football, they’re coming off their biggest week of the season. “NCIS” is the most watched show on TV. “Big Bang Theory” is tops in the key demo for network TV.
9:06 a.m. CBS has renewed its entire daytime unit for next season. Well, OK.
9:06 a.m. CBS is getting into the event series marketplace with 2015’s “The Dovekeepers” from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, which I think we knew.
9:07 a.m. Ha. She boasts at the “Intelligence” Tuesday premiere and then tips her hat to “Blacklist” and “Castle” as Monday competition and says that they’ve seen 11 episodes and they like the show. Tassler praises “Friends with Better Lives” for its authenticity and connection to the creator’s own life.
9:08 a.m. “There’s a lot of pride in this show,” Tassler says of “How I Met Your Mother.” She reminds us that as a mythology-driven comedy, it broke the form, so they’re exciting to talk about the spinoff. She remembers when Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the pilot. He had to come in twice to read and she says that what he brought to Barney wasn’t really what was on the page.
9:09 a.m. “Bad Teacher” and “Reckless” will be scheduled for later this season.
9:10 a.m. I’m not sure how we’re getting a taste of what’s in store for Season 2 of “Under the Dome.” Oh. It might just be voiceover. Ah. It’s footage of Stephen King, who wrote the premiere. At the end of the finale, they found out that the dome came from another world and was there to protect them. This season we’ll learn what it’s protecting them from. This season, we’ll meet Junior’s uncle and a young school teacher. We’ll get some unpredictable alliances. And two characters won’t survive the premiere. Well, OK!
9:12 a.m. CBS is excited about “Extant,” starring Halle Berry and produced by Steven Spielberg. It hasn’t started filming, but we have a teaser reel with the creators telling us what to expect. Molly Watts returns from a one-year solo space mission. And she returns pregnant. Which is weird, eh? When she returns, she finds that her husband has created an android son? Spielberg says it’s about artificial intelligence and extra-terrestrial intelligence. What does the baby mean for humanity? Hmmm…
9:15 a.m. “Under the Dome” will premiere on Monday June 30. “Extant” will launch on Wednesday, July 2.
9:15 a.m. “Obviously he’s got to make decisions relative to his own company and his own needs,” Tassler says of Kevin Reilly attempting to revamp pilot season at FOX. She says that the pilot season isn’t perfect, but it’s also exciting. She praises the urgency and says that gives way to “creative adrenaline.” She reminds us for the 1000ths time that “Big Bang Theory” was a pilot that was shot and then overhauled entirely with Kaley Cuoco. “CSI” is another example of a show that was aided by pilot season, because it was the last script ordered, the last pilot ordered and the last pilot delivered. “Everybody was under that pressure, but because they are really great creatively, they made the best decisions and the right decisions,” she says. CBS has given a 13-episode commitment to “Battle Creek” from Vince Gilligan, a script she jokes has been sitting on her desk since 2002. “For us, it’s a part of the process that works, with its inherent challenges, but it does work,” Tassler says.
9:18 a.m. Is there anything she sees that’s broken in the industry that they’re change? “We’re alway changing. That’s then nature of our business,” she says.
9:19 a.m. Will CBS be counterprogramming against NBC’s late-night transition? “Dave is an icon on top of his game, so internally, we’ve been preparing for that for a while,” she says. They’re hoping they will have exciting shows to go against NBC’s transition.
9:20 a.m. “‘Hostages’ certainly had its challenges, but we stuck with it,” she notes. Tassler thinks they learned a lot from “Under the Dome” about the type of stories they should be telling. They feel it’s great escapist TV and they’re trying to come up with “summer blockbuster” stories. “The most important thing is the quality of the storytelling,” she promises.
9:21 a.m. But did they learn anything from “Hostages”? “When a show does not, for whatever reason, take off, you can’t look at the form and say, ‘The reason why this particular show didn’t succeed was only because of its form.’ We thought there were a lot of great elements to the show,” she says. She says that the reason it didn’t work was “kinda abstract.” She felt that the series was “really well done.” She gives kudos to James Spader and Mark Burnett — “Today’s P.T. Barnum” — for making Monday night a tougher night.
9:23 a.m. CBS is excited about getting back into the limited series world and she says it’s about making headlines. “The Dovekeepers” will make headlines, she things. That’s in contrast to the Jesse Stone franchise, which is going elsewhere. “Right now, we love having Tom Selleck back on our air as the commissioner on ‘Blue Bloods,'” she says.
9:24 a.m. Why do limited series make business sense again suddenly? “It’s really about creating new economic models,” she says. “Dome” was strong internationally. “Dovekeeper” is a title they control the distribution of. “Ultimately, it’s good for us, all of us, to have more original programming on the air,” she says, noting that creative drives the business, not the other way around. “It was about falling in love with a piece of material, getting excited about the creative direction,” she says of “Extant” and “Battle Creek” and more. “They’re not all modeled the same way. Every one is different,” she says.
9:26 a.m. How will Live+30 factor into programming decision? She says it’s a factor, but she paraphrases “Damn Yankees” to see that “Whatever Leslie [Moonves] wants, Leslie gets.”
9:27 a.m. A good question about the increasingly dumb and mean contestants on “Big Brother.” Did they learn any lessons? And will next summer be any different? “I was mortified by the comments that Aryn made and we also have to look at last summer as this sort of confluence of events,” Tassler says, somehow tying “Big Brother” in with Trayvon Martin and Paula Dean. She repeats, however, that “Big Brother” is a social experiment and that the whole point is taking people from disparate backgrounds. She sits in interviews and she knows that even by asking probing questions, you only get one side of a person. “At the end of the day, we felt that the producers handled it responsibly, dealt with it as well as they could,” she says. “This is that show and it is a social experiment,” she repeats. So nothing is changes.
9:29 a.m. More on “Big Brother” bigotry. Why was Aryn scapegoated last season? “When a conversation makes its way into story, that is when it makes it onto air,” she says. And… again… it’s a social experiment. And… again… she felt that the producers handled it well. And a third straight question about “Big Brother” asks about what the future will hold. Might they look for a different type of contestant? “I think you always try and look for a disparate group where you will get story, where you will have conflict, where you will create opportunities for alliances to be formed,” she says. She admits that sometimes people behave differently in their interviews.
9:32 a.m. How much life is left in “Survivor”? And why doesn’t “Survivor” have the same controversy as “Big Brother”? Tassler says it’s the confinement that makes “Big Brother” different, while “Survivor” has people dealing with the elements and harder physical challenges. “I think they’re very different shows,” she says. Tassler says that they’re coming off of a terrific season of “Survivor,” praising the “Blood vs. Water” cycle. She promises that they will continue tweaking the creative.
9:33 a.m. Why aren’t we getting “Reckless” and “Bad Teacher” panels? CBS is sensitive to everybody’s bandwidth. I’m not sure what that means. She says that she’s excited that they’ll have 13 episodes in the can for both “Reckless” and “Bad Teacher” before they premiere.
9:34 a.m. Was it a coincidence that both “Mentalist” and “Person of Interest” did big shifts at midseason? She says both team’s showrunners came in last year with the shifts. Jonah Nolan came in last year and told them the show was killing Carter. “I was killed myself.” Nina says. Nolan explained that the role Carter played had changed and he said he needed his version of Catwoman. That would be the Shaw character. As for “The Mentalist,” she praises Bruno Heller for reinventing the series and the main character.
9:37 a.m. Last question: What form will “Battle Creek” take? It’s a 13-episode order and they’ll start shooting as soon as they get a rewrite on the script and cast. It’s a series, not a limited series.
That’s all, folks…