CBS has been TV’s most-watched network for most of the time I’ve been covering this beat, a reliable fact that has reduced the drama quotient for CBS executive press conferences with the Television Critics Association.
In addition to being good, CBS has also been a little bit lucky. When we met with CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler back in January, Charlie Sheen had become a minor embarrassment to the network and to “Two and a Half Men,” but he hadn’t yet bloomed into the show-stopping problem he would become just weeks later, so Tassler received a couple Charlie Sheen questions and was able to move on with an otherwise uneventful panel.
Tassler can probably expect another few Sheen questions during Wednesday (Aug. 3) morning’s TCA chat, but otherwise things should be mostly smooth.
Or will they? Click through for a full live-blog.
9:06 a.m. Tassler begins by listing all of the things CBS is No. 1 in. That list includes viewers, network Emmy nominations, upfronts sales and a few other things. She’s pleased with Ashton Kutcher, Ted Danson and Terry O’Quinn joining established shows.
9:08 a.m. Are viewers aware of who’s No. 1? Do they know what network they’re watching? “I think they do. And I think the fact that we’re the No. 1 network in viewers shows that they watch our network and they like our shows,” Tassler says.
9:09 a.m. How will “The Good Wife” handle potential football overruns? “We have plans certainly in place to accommodate the show when there are overruns,” Tassler promises. But she’s not worried.
9:09 a.m. Why is “Rules of Engagement” on Saturdays and what are the expectations? “We had one extra comedy and we were out of the traditional comedy time periods,” Tassler says, calling this an opportunity.
9:10 a.m. What did CBS learn from the Charlie Sheen incident? “Oh, where do I begin? What we learned is that we have an extraordinary cast… we have extraordinary writers, we have extraordinary writers and that there’s great value in handling an actor like Ashton Kutcher,” Tassler says. She calls Kutcher “talented,” but also “professional.” She emphasizes the writing and producing on “Men” and says that Kutcher has a great character. “Who could have predicted that we would be here six months ago. But the great news is that the show will be as irreverent as it always has been?” Tassler says.
9:11 a.m. Can Tassler tell us anything at all about Kutcher’s character? His name is Walden Schmidt. He’s an Internet billionaire with a broken heart. The opening will be a two-parter.
9:13 a.m. “We may have another Jesse Stone,” Tassler says of the future of TV movies on CBS after the departure of Hallmark Hall of Fame.
9:13 a.m. “We looked at a number of different choices,” Tassler says of Ted Danson on “CSI.” “He’s a huge TV star and he has a tremenedous amount of charisma,” Tassler says. Did they consider getting a younger leading man? “We went for the best actor,” Tassler insists.
9:14 a.m. Back to Charlie Sheen. A critic notes that MANY people could have predicted we’d be here. Is there anything CBS could have done differently? “Our whole focus right now is moving forward. We have an extraordinary actor in Ashton Kutcher. You have someone who is committed to doing their job and being an incredible professional,” Tassler says.
9:15 a.m. Will “Two and a Half Men” being with the funeral of Sheen’s character? “I’m not going to confirm or deny that,” Tassler says. She adds that “mystery is part of the marking.”
9:16 a.m. What’s up with the failure of the “Criminal Minds” spinoff? Are audiences tiring of CBS spinoffs? “I think it was specific to the show itself. I don’t think it found its rhythm. ‘Criminal Minds,’ our original show, is a phenomenal show and all elements of that show work so well and I think with ‘Suspect Behavior,’ it just didn’t click,” Tassler says. She adds that spinoffs have to stand on their own.
9:18 a.m. All’s well on the set of “The Big Bang Theory.” Were we worried?
9:18 a.m. What are the risks of new stars on established shows? “Both actors that you’re talking about have a huge fanbase. They’re incredibly respected in the creative community. They bring a tremendous amount of good will,” Tassler says of Kutcher and Danson in particular. “The whole addition of a new cast member can bring about a wonderful opportunity to reveal to a whole new audience about the existing cast,” Tassler says. She thinks “Two and a Half Men” will get a new audience from Kutcher, that Danson will bring new viewers to “CSI.” And as for ratings? “I’m not crazy about predicting. I don’t necessarily know that those numbers will be where they once were,” she admits.
9:20 a.m. Why didn’t Laurence Fishburne not particular work, then? “Having an actor like Laurence Fishburne for the number of years that we had him was extraordinary,” Tassler says. She feels that the character of Langston had big shoes to fill. She suggests, though, that Fishburne’s character caused trouble within the team that Danson’s character will have to deal with, which has value. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” she adds of Danson.
9:22 a.m. “First, I think they should stick to comedy and check their stats a little better, because we still have better 18-49 numbers than ABC and NBC,” Tassler says of “CBS is old” jokes from Jimmy Kimmel and Joel McHale. There is no “second.”
9:22 a.m. “That would probably be ever actor in the business,” Tassler says when asked if CBS will have policies in place involving hiring actors with a history of prior erratic behavior.
9:23 a.m. ABC has “The 2-2” set for midseason and they’re reshooting a sitcom with Rob Schneider. The network also has “Undercover Boss.” And that’s midseason.
9:24 a.m. “We’re still looking for formats,” Tassler says of why every other network has a song-or-dance reality show, but CBS doesn’t. Will a scripted show ever be tops on TV? “They’re noisy. They’re big events,” Tassler says of the various song-or-dance hits. “But I think there’s room for all of those genres to co-exist on balanced schedules.”
9:25 a.m. How important is it for CBS to find a new reality hit at this point? “It’s very important. In order for a schedule to continue to grow and be balanced, we have to have that piece of the puzzle. And we’re looking for it,” Tassler admits, adding that CBS is “always looking ahead, looking to the future.”
9:26 a.m. “They’re in production,” Tassler says explaining why we don’t have anything for “Two and a Half Men” today. Tassler says that it’s “a very focused” set and that “it requires a lot of attention.” She goes on and on about reasons why we’re not getting anybody from “Men.”
9:27 a.m. What’s the future of Letterman in late-night? “Between Dave and Craig,” I think they’re the two best guys in late-night,” Tassler says, teasing Ferguson’s upcoming journey to Paris and adding that there are no concrete late-night plans past 2012.
9:28 a.m. What’s special about Thursdays? Why move “CSI” and put “Person of Interest” in? “It pretty much delivered itself to us. The show tested extremely well. Everybody across every demo, everybody loved it,” Tassler says of “Person of Interest.” She adds, “For us, it was a show that claimed that time period.”
9:30 a.m. Has CBS talked to Neil Patrick Harris about a variety show? “Maybe. It’s a genre that I’ve always enjoyed. We’ve talked about it from time to time. Neil is an extraordinarily talented guy and I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do,” Tassler says, though she notes that the network has NOT talked to Harris about anything concrete.
And that’s all folks…