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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A Chat with Hugh Dillon (“Durham County,” “Flashpoint”)

Of all the places you’d expect to possibly find a series that possesses overtones of David Lynch’s work, one of the last would probably be Ion. You may remember it as PAX TV, but that was a long time ago. These days, it’s home to a great number of series that definitely go against what you used to see on the network during the early part of the decade. Gone are the “Touched By An Angel” and “Highway to Heaven” marathons, replaced by reruns of “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds.” Tonight, they’re bringing a Canadian series to their airwaves for its Stateside debut…and, yes, “Durham County” is just as dark as the Lynch reference suggests. Unless, of course, you see anything light about a series focusing on a homicide detective who moves his family to the suburbs to start over after his partner is killed and his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer, only to discover that his new neighbor (and former childhood nemesis) may be a serial killer. We had a chance to speak with star Hugh Dillon – who you may also recognize from his work on another Canadian import, CBS’s “Flashpoint” – about his work on both of his current series, his role as Joe Dick in “Hard Core Logo,” and his life as a real-life rock ‘n’ roll star while fronting the Headstones.

Stay tuned for…

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TCA Tour: CBS Executive Session

Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, has honored us with her presence this morning at CBS’s TCA day, and during her executive session, she provided us with the following tidbits:

* When word leaked out – that’s hardly the right phrase, since it was actually included in a network-provided schedule, but we’ll go with it, anyway – that there would be a “Mystery Panel” today, hopeful (perhaps overly optimistic) critics began theorizing that it would be for “The Late Show with David Letterman.” As it turns out, it’s actually for CBS’s upcoming revival of “Let’s Make A Deal,” which Nina briefly detailed for us. It’ll be hosted by Wayne Brady and will premiere on October 5th. And, yes, Monty Hall is involved, but only as an executive producer. Come on, though: an old pro like that surely won’t be able to resist rearing his head onscreen once in awhile. I think we can count on him to show up during Sweeps Week, at the very least.

* Of NBC’s great Jay Leno experiment, she says, “Whatever ratings they get, they’re going to declare victory, so it really doesn’t matter.” As far as CBS goes, however, they’re going to stick with the successes of their 10 PM dramas. (Good plan.) She also got a laugh when she admitted that she thought that NBC’s announcement that Conan O’Brien was the new king of late night “seemed premature.”

* Rocky Carroll will be a recurring character on the new “NCIS: Los Angeles,” but Pauley Perrette will be guesting in the show’s second episode.

* There are nine more “Flashpoint” episodes yet to be aired, and they’re still happy with the way the arrangement of airing a Canadian-produced series on American TV. As such, “The Bridge” will be turning up on CBS in the near future as well. But there are no plans yet to produce any further “Flashpoint” episode, although she says they reserve the right to do so.

* As far as “Harper’s Island” goes, it had some online traction and appealed to a niche audience. “The challenge is to find something that can appeal to niche but that has a broader appeal as well,” she said. She was happy with the series, but “it just didn’t grab on to a bigger audience.”

* Apparently, “CSI” fans’ biggest issue with Laurence Fishburne was that he needed to look “more comfortable in his clothes.” You will be pleased to learn that this is being taken care of.

* No plans for any more “Million Dollar Password” at the moment.

* Her one-liner about Ben Silverman’s departure from NBC: “”I’m really just a D girl, so I wouldn’t comment.”

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: CBS newsflash

Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, just addressed us and offered up the following bits and pieces of information:

* Regarding NBC’s decision to give Jay Leno their 10 PM slot, “Our first reaction was to say, ‘Thank you.'”

* The success of importing “Flashpoint” from Canada has opened the door for CBS to explore different business models, and the network is exploring other potential situations as well.

* CBS will hopefully be doing a deal with Alex O’Loughlin and they are still trying to develop a series for him…so, basically, nothing’s really changed on that front. (She said approximately the same thing back in July.)

* John Mayer is in the final stage of negotiations to have a music / variety / sketch show on the network, though whether it will be a special, a series, or merely a pilot remains to be seen.

* She is very happy with Drew Carey on “The Price Is Right,” but when asked if we would be seeing a change in host, she said, “I hope not.” Mixed signals or just a poor choice of words…?

* She loved the concept for “The Ex List,” but it failed in its execution. “It never found its traction; it never found its pulse.”

* There will be an “NCIS” spin-off, which is only appropriate, given that that series spun off from “JAG.”

* They were extremely proud of the way it was executed and was received, but, “No, we’re not going back to ‘Swingtown.'” Sorry, Ross.

  

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It’s time to set your TiVos…

There are a number of new (and returning) shows making their season debuts this month. Here is a list of the scripted shows that premiere in the next two weeks (through 1/19):

SCRUBS (ABC)
1/6/09 at 9:00 PM & 9:30 PM
8th season premiere

NIP/TUCK (FX)
1/6/09 at 10:00 PM
5th season winter premiere

10 ITEMS OR LESS (TBS)
1/6/09 at 11:00 PM
3rd season premiere

DAMAGES (FX)
1/7/09 at 10:00 PM
2nd season premiere


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