TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 2

CBS’s big day of TCA panels kicked off with an Executive Session from the one and only Nina Tassler, the network’s President of Entertainment, who brought us the following tidbits and newsbriefs:

“The Big Bang Theory”: The show is moving to Thursdays. “Certainly, it was difficult, but not in the sense that you don’t have complete faith and belief in the show,” said Tassler. “The time felt right. The show is certainly enjoying an extraordinary amount of support and love, and this was a great opportunity for us to really move it into a strategic place and open the night.”

“Survivor”: The new season of the popular reality series will find the castaways divided into Young vs. Old. The members of the La Flor Tribe will all be aged 30 or younger, while those in the Espada Tribe will all be 40 or older.

“Undercover Boss”: Four of the companies which will appear in the show’s second season have been revealed: NASCAR, DirecTV, Chiquita Brands, Inc., and Great Wolf Resorts.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”: Justin Bieber will be playing a character in the season premiere, playing a character that is “quite different from his wholesome real-life persona.”

“CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” timeslot changes: “Going into this season, we had very strong development, we really wanted to get a number of those new dramas on the air, and both ‘Miami’ and ‘New York’ are still strong players for us, so we said, ‘Look, we can use them to improve the time periods they’re going into, as well as support new shows that they’re launching side by side with.’”

“Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior”: Janeane Garofalo has been added to the cast.

New gay characters: GLAAD will no doubt be pleased to hear that, according to Tassler, there are three on the horizon for the new season. “You’re going to meet Alicia’s brother in ‘The Good Wife,’ a gay character. We’re also going to be adding a new character to ‘Rules of Engagement.’ Jeff and Audrey’s surrogate will be a member of Jeff’s softball team, and she’s a lesbian. We’re also going to be recurring a character in ‘$#*! My Dad Says,’ the character Tim Bagley played.” I’m particularly happy to hear about that last one, mostly because the scenes between Bagley and William Shatner are arguably the funniest in the pilot.

After Tassler’s remarks and Q&A were completed, she evacuated the stage in order for the day’s show panels to begin, starting with…

“The Big Bang Theory”

At first glance, the fact that “The Big Bang Theory” is the only pre-existing CBS show to get its own panel on the network’s TCA day would lead one to deduce that it’s because it’s so popular. In reality, though, it’s much more likely that the series got the spotlight because they want to make sure it’s still a major player when it returns on Sept. 28th and shifts on the CBS schedule from Mondays to Thursdays. Ah, but who cares why they’re here? It’s just good to see the gang again. Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar were all in attendance, along with creators / executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, and, as usual, they gave us some great, fun stuff.

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TCA Tour: Comedy Showrunners Q&A – “The Big Bang Theory” / “Two and a Half Men”

During the TCA tours, there’s an understandable tendency for the networks to pimp their newest programming, but once in awhile, they do manage to offer us a panel that shines the spotlight on an established show. In this case, it was actually two shows: “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men.” On the panel were Chuck Lorre (co-creator of both series, executive producer on both shows), Bill Prady (co-creator of and executive producer on “The Big Bang Theory”), and Lee Aronsohn (co-creator of “Two and a Half Men,” executive producer on both shows). I’m not going to tell you that I wouldn’t rather have had actual cast members on the panel, but given the comedic credits of this trio, it was unsurprising to find that we got quite a few laughs during the course of the conversation.

First, though, let’s go ahead and acknowledge the elephant in the room right away, shall we? You know that someone had to ask about Charlie Sheen, and while they did, one must applaud the restraint of the collected TV critics that the question didn’t come up until several minutes into the panel. Predictably, the guys went for the joke before offering up a proper answer.

“I’m sorry, what happened with Charlie?” asked Lorre, innocently.

“I don’t know,” said Aronsohn, poker-faced. “Something happened?”

Lorre then slipped into serious mode. “We put on a show last night, and it went extremely well,” he said. “We had a great week, and the audience was wonderful last night, so we’re just going about our business. Charlie is a consummate pro. He shows up and he delivers, and last night was one of our strongest episodes. It was just terrific.”

Okay, let’s get into the meat of the panel a bit more, which was – thankfully – far more about the shows themselves rather than the sordid personal lives of one of their stars.

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TCA Press Tour: CBS Executive Session

Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, favored us with her presence this morning at the TCA tour, sitting down for an executive session which provided us with the following quotes and tidbits:

* Regarding the decision to place the new reality series “Undercover Boss” in the plum spot following the Super Bowl, she said that it was a combination of good timing and a good series. “We’re very high on the show, but we spent a lot of time talking about what the right strategy would be,” she said. “We’ve seen five or six episodes of ‘Undercover Boss’ by now, and there is a tone and a quality to the show that we felt was a great fit after the Super Bowl. It is aspirational. It is a feel-good program.
Everybody who is sitting and watching the Super Bowl, be you 8 or 80, can stay right there and enjoy the program. I think 15 years ago, that spot was used to launch new programming. Obviously, in the last 10, 15 years it’s been used more as a platform to get greater exposure for existing shows. But we thought, ‘You know what? We have a great project, we’re very high on it, and we think we’re going to launch another big-branded reality show.'”

* Obviously, NBC’s continued fall from grace via the great failure that was “The Jay Leno Show” was a topic of conversation that everyone wanted Tassler to weigh in on. “Through it all, we have to realize that ABC, CBS and FOX…we’ve all fared, I think, very well during this experimental phase for NBC,” she said. “But if we can harken back to when there was that grand proclamation about 8 o’clock at NBC…? Remember? We all wrote about that: 8 o’clock was over at NBC. They were going to have a whole different strategy developing for 8 o’clock. And then along came 10 o’clock, and they were going to have a whole different strategy for 10 o’clock. You know, I think ultimately, there is no substitute for developing great shows, working with great talent, and getting your program on the air.”

“The unfortunate thing is that our creative community was to some degree somewhat bruised by this,” she continued. “I think that the talent as this was taking place, a lot of people were put out of work. A lot of people really saw this as having a pretty negative impact on our business. But I think right now for us, it just allowed us to get a bigger piece of the ad revenue pie at 10 o’clock, and again, what I have the most trouble with is for their company, their decision to do what they did, to sort of turn that and say that his is a reflection on the whole network business, I think is misguided. Our business is thriving right now. We are enjoying success with new hit shows, as is ABC, as is FOX. So I think at the end of the day, it was an experiment that obviously did not work, but for us, like I said, there’s no substitute for just developing and producing and launching great shows.”

There’s certainly no question that a couple of CBS earned some additional success from viewers’ indifference to “The Jay Leno Show.” As Tassler observed, “We moved ‘The Mentalist’ to 10 o’clock on Thursday night and launched ‘The Good Wife,’ so 10 o’clock has been good business for us.”

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Will Nimoy appear on “Big Bang”? Highly improbable, Captain.

Given that “The Big Bang Theory” has expanded the game of Rock Paper Scissors (the full name is now Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock) and had Penny give Sheldon a stroke for Christmas by providing him with a napkin autographed by everyone’s favorite Vulcan, can a guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy be far behind?

Unfortunately, according to creator Chuck Lorre, such an appearance doesn’t seem too likely.

“I would love that,” said Lorre, “but I think Mr. Nimoy is now in retirement. He did actually sign the napkin, though. ‘To Sheldon, Leonard Nimoy.’ He was very nice about that. He got a kick out of the idea that that was the gift that she gave him that brought Sheldon to his knees. He was really tickled by that, and our deal with him was, ‘For your efforts, maybe we can make some money for the charity of your choice.’”

The charity in question was The Beit T’Shuvah, a residential treatment center in Los Angeles for Jewish alcoholics and addicts, and the napkin went up for auction on Sunday evening during the center’s Steps to Recovery Gala at the Beverly Hilton, where it earned a final bid of $1,100.

But the big question is, is Nimoy a fan of the show?

“I don’t know,” admitted Lorre. “But I do know that he got a kick out of the storyline.”

I still say to keep your fingers crossed…and, c’mon, Chuck, it can’t hurt to ask. The new “Trek” movie will be coming out around the same general time frame as the season finale for “The Big Bang Theory,” and given that Nimoy clearly has a good sense of humor about his place in the pop culture pantheon (see his appearances on “The Simpsons” for proof), it seems like the stars are aligned perfectly for such a cameo.

  

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