PASADENA – Welcome, friends, to the executive session that was never supposed to take place.
CBS originally scheduled its winter Television Critics Association press tour day without an executive session with Entertainment President Nina Tassler, breaking with TCA tradition and protocol.
TCA members were unhappy.
CBS decided to schedule a brief and last-second executive session with Tassler.
I don’t mean to suggest causality between those last two sentences. I’m sure it’s totally coincidental.
It is true, though, that CBS has been TV’s most-watched network for almost the entire duration for my time on this job, which means that the network doesn’t have the same number of failures or big gambles as the other networks and that can mean controversy-free executive sessions, which aren’t necessarily high in drama
But perhaps this morning will be different. Click through….
8:29 a.m. We almost didn’t get this panel, but instead it’s been scheduled for a very early-morning slot and it promises to only be a truncated 20 minutes.
8:32 a.m. “You spoke, we listened,” Tassler says, regarding the previous absence of executive session. She explains that this is a forum that makes her nervous. It’s unclear what to make of that, since she’s been doing this with us for years. She begins by trumpeting the success that CBS has had this past year and whatnot. “It really wasn’t a sign of disrespect,” she swears.
8:34 a.m. CBS has no announcements at all this morning. “We are very proud of the success this year,” Tassler says, before praising the “Two and a Half Men” rebooting, plus the addition of Elisabeth Shue to “CSI.” She keeps calling Shue “Lisa,” which I guess is how she’s known to friends.
8:35 a.m. Tassler knows her SEO keywords and she makes sure to thank Tim Tebow, who gave CBS a huge ratings bump this past weekend. Anyway, though, CBS is up year-to-year and CBS is No.1 in everything that matters to CBS. So there you go!
8:37 a.m. Tassler is still giving her opening statement, meaning that we’re going to have only 13 minutes of questions for her.
8:37 a.m. “We do hear from a lot of viewers about the overruns, but that means we have a very passionate and engaged audience,” Tassler says of the fall NFL impact on “The Good Wife.” She still feels that the shift to Sunday was a very good move and that the audience is upscale and engaged and that “Good Wife” fits well on Sunday.
8:39 a.m. Tassler praises that writers and cast of “NCIS” for showing continued growth after all of these years, praising “the balance in tone, style.” She says the show is in its “later years,” but I think she just means “later” rather than “earlier.”
8:40 a.m. What’s up with “The 22”? “Everything is fine and it’s probably going to have a later spring launch,” she says, noting that the police drama was pushed to later in spring because of the strength of the fall. Yes. Just like “Miami Medical” and “Chaos.”
8:40 a.m. Is the network taking a hands-off approach to “2 Broke Girls,” since it’s a hit? “We have a really great working relationship with Michael [Patrick King],” Tassler says, adding that it’s the network’s policy to try to give showrunners the chance to find their shows. She uses “Big Bang Theory” as her example of a show that dimensionalized characters gradually. Asked for her opinion on the diner scenes, Nina says “They’re equal opportunity offenders,” but again mentions dimensionalizing characters.
8:43 a.m. Is CBS looking for more competition reality? With “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” CBS is in good shape, but the network has a heavy development slate. The network doesn’t want to follow the same path the other networks are following, emphasizing shows with a greater “narrative drive.”
8:44 a.m. Does Tassler think NBC is making a mistake by scheduling “The Voice” against CBS’ comedies? “I don’t know what that matchup is going to do,” Tassler says, but she notes that a lot of people are watching TV, so everybody should still be able to get maximum exposure.
8:45 a.m. Regarding development, Tassler says that “relevance” is a major goal, trying to find characters who are relatable to audiences. The key, naturally, is “strong storytelling.” She says, “Audiences need to engage with characters,” calling TV “an intimate medium.” She says that the network tries to present flawed characters who are on their own personal journeys, but also have a core morality. The goal is to produce shows that aren’t there just for a good pilot, but for the 100th or 200th episodes. She wants showrunners who feel their shows personally. She references Jonah Nolan (“Person of Interest”) as a showrunner who felt his show deeply.
8:48 a.m. Social media is important to CBS.
8:48 a.m. What challenges is CBS having programming 8:30 on Thursday? “Looking for a show that is a companion isn’t limited to just another multi-camera show. It could be a single-camera show,” Tassler says. But “The Big Bang Theory” is a big hit and they’re dedicated to finding a companion for it. Poor “Rules of Engagement.”
8:49 a.m. What happened with “The Talk”? Shows in their first season go through changes and Tassler compares those changes to changes on a sitcom or drama. “We saw an opportunity moving forward into the next season and we took advantage of it,” Tassler says, though she adds that unlike on a scripted show, you don’t need to give explanation for those changes. She says that there may be continued evolution over time. “It’s sorta par for the course,” Tassler adds, praising the content and the “spirited” discussion.
8:52 a.m. What is CBS’ summer ideology? “We’re being very aggressive. We have a number of shows in development in the unscripted space that we have early triggers on,” Tassler promises, though she also says that CBS’ hit shows will repeat all summer, because that’s what CBS does. The network’s summer strategy is keeping the audience engaged and happy.
8:54 a.m. Is “Person of Interest” doing well? Tassler says it’s performing “very well” and the network is “extremely pleased” with the show, but nobody’s making any decisions about anything so far. “There’s a lot of talk about ‘Person of Interest,'” Tassler says. She says, not surprisingly, that everybody has realized that the Taraji P. Henson character has been “too peripheral.” Geez. Why did that take so long to figure out? They’re planning on bringing the Carter character into “the superhero cave” a bit earlier than originally planned. “We feel that that was a key ingredient to really letting the show build and expand,” Tassler says.
8:57 a.m. Could “Smash” lead CBS to get into the musical business? And are there ever nights Tassler feels like the Monday comedies are too lewd, collectively? “We don’t bring people in for a mass meeting about that quality of the shows,” Tassler says. “They’re a little risque, but the characters are… living truthfully within their relative situations,” she says. Tassler adds that because there’s ratings growth for the shows, they’re resonating [and therefore above charges of crudeness?] . Everything that happens on the comedies happens within the bounds of their standards and practices. As for “Smash”? “I’m a big ‘Glee’ watcher. I hope it does well for them. I think it’s important that in all of our respective jobs that we continue to explore,” Tassler says. Did the critic forget that “Viva Laughlin” was just a few seasons ago?
That’s all, folks…