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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The 2010 Primetime Emmy nominations are in!

Bright and early this morning…by which we mean 8:40 AM EST / 5:40 AM PST…the nominees for the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced by Joel McHale (“Community,” “The Soup”) and Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”). It ended up being a worthwhile gig for one of them, at least, with Vergara pulling in a Supporting Actress nod for “Modern Family.” Maybe that’s why McHale seemed so stone-faced. (Seriously, did someone tell McHale that he wasn’t getting paid if he didn’t keep his smart-assery in line ’til after the nominees were read? The only time he cracked anything approaching a joke was when he preempted Vergara’s mangling of Mariska Hargitay’s last name.) Anyway, here’s a list of who got the glory…and, in the case of Best Actress in a Drama, who got the shaft.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

* Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
* Glee (Fox)
* Modern Family (ABC)
* Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
* The Office (NBC)
* 30 Rock (NBC)

My Pick: “Modern Family.” There’s no question that “Glee” is award-worthy, but not necessarily as a comedy, which is also where “Nurse Jackie” falters in this category. I feel like “The Office” and “30 Rock” coasted in on their past merits this year, but “Curb” got a huge boost from the “Seinfeld” storyline, so it’s the only real competition here. Still, the buzz on “Modern Family” is all over the place. I can’t imagine it won’t bring home the glory.

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Greetings to the New Season: CBS – UPDATED

Finally, things are starting to get interesting. CBS has released its schedule for Fall 2010, and, wow, talk about shaking things up. Thursday nights were already wreaking havoc on my viewing schedule, and now it’s only going to get worse. Check out what the network has done, see what they’ve added to their line-up (including behind-the-scenes videos), and be sure to leave your comments below!

MONDAY

8 – 8:30 PM: How I Met Your Mother

8:30 – 9 PM: Rules of Engagement

9 – 9:30 PM: Two and a Half Men

9:30 – 10 PM: Mike & Molly: a comedy from Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men,” and “The Big Bang Theory”) about a working class Chicago couple who find love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Officer Mike Biggs (Billy Gardell) is a good-hearted cop who sincerely wants to lose weight. Mike’s partner, Officer Carl McMillan (Reno Wilson), is a thin, fast-talking wise-guy, who despite his teasing encourages Mike on his road to slimness and romance. While speaking at an O.A. meeting, Mike meets Molly Flynn (Melissa McCarthy), an instantly likeable fourth-grade teacher with a healthy sense of humor about her curves.

For Molly, focusing on smart choices isn’t easy because she lives with her sexy older sister, Victoria (Katy Mixon), and their mother, Joyce (Swoosie Kurtz), both of whom flaunt their healthy appetites and slender figures. Mike also faces temptation at the diner he and Carl frequent, where they’ve become friends with the Senegalese waiter, Samuel (Nyambi Nyambi), who finds trying to eat less a foreign concept. For Mike and Molly, thanks to their mutual love of pie and the desire to resist it, finding each other may have been worth the “weight.” Chuck Lorre and Mark Roberts are executive producers.

10 – 11 PM: Hawaii Five-0: a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), a decorated Naval officer turned cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full blanket immunity to hunt down the biggest “game” in town.

Joining McGarrett is Detective Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), a newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline but is committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter; and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), an ex-Honolulu Police Detective wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol, who is also a former protégé of McGarrett’s father. Chin’s cousin, Kono (Grace Park), is a beautiful and fearless native, fresh out of the academy and eager to establish herself among the department’s elite. McGarrett vows to bring closure to his father’s case while the state’s brash new FIVE-0 unit, who may spar and jest among themselves, is determined to eliminate the seedy elements from the 50th state. Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are executive producers.

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TCA Tour: Undercover Boss

During her comments in the executive session, CBS’s President of Entertainment, Nina Tassler, couldn’t say enough good things about the network’s new reality series, “Undercover Boss,” which they’re opting to premiere immediately after the Super Bowl. It’s an act that’s either a sign of unabashed confidence in the series or a total Hail Mary pass, but despite how apropos the latter might be for the timeslot, having seen the pilot episode, I can absolutely see why they would be confident. Tassler said that “everybody who is sitting and watching the Super Bowl, be you 8 or 80, can stay right there and enjoy the program,” and she’s on the money with that assessment: who can’t get behind the idea of a boss coming down from his or her ivory tower and mixing it up with the frontline employees in the company? Everyone can relate to that…which, as it happens, is exactly what its creator, Stephen Lambert, had in mind.

“I was very keen to do something in the world of the workplace,” he said. “There’s so many scripted shows that are set in the workplace, but not that many set in the real workplace in the reality space on network television, and it seemed to me that it’s very relatable. Anybody who has had a boss who has worked in the company will understand this show, and for the person in charge to be able to see what their workers, their employees, are really doing seemed like an exciting idea.

“This is a show where the boss is on a dual mission,” Lambert explained. “One, he wants to find out what’s really going on on the front line, things he can’t see when he’s back at headquarters. Second, he’s looking for the unsung heroes of the company, so he’s looking for people that deserve some kind of thanks, maybe a promotion. It’s the mixture of kind of comedy that comes from the boss trying to do the front-line jobs and the emotion of these people, these coworkers that he spends time or she spends time with having that recognition that can be extremely emotional, and that was the idea behind the show.”

The first boss to go undercover on the show is Larry O’Donnell III, the President and COO of Waste Management (you’ve no doubt seen their trucks cruising around your neighborhood at one point or another), and when you watch the episode, you’ll see him doing everything from picking up trash to cleaning out Porta-Potties. Now, if you’re wondering how undercover he really is, given that he clearly has a camera crew following him, all they know is that he’s just this guy who’s working these frontline jobs…and, to hear him tell it, they got used to the camera’s presence pretty quickly.

“When I first went into this and I actually talked to our senior leadership team, I thought the most difficult part was going to be for me to be able to maintain my undercover status where the employees didn’t figure out who I was,” he said. “There were some managers along the way that recognized me, and I was able to get them off to the side and tell them to go home or stay in their office. You know, people ignored the cameras within about…it seemed like certainly within the first half hour. It was like they weren’t even there.”

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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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