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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Grissoms’s Last “CSI” A Rough Day for Wallace Langham

If you’ve seen the commercial promoting William Petersen’s final episode of “C.S.I.” (and if you’ve had a TV tuned in to CBS at any point in the last few weeks, you can’t possibly have missed it), then you know that the character of lab tech David Hodges earns an emotional moment with Gil Grissom, proclaiming, “The bad guys will win more if we don’t have you.”

Having seen Grissom’s farewell in its entirety, I can tell you that the entire scene between Grissom and Hodges is so great that you’ll find yourself wondering who Wallace Langham had to bribe to get such a wonderful moment in such a momentous episode.

“Every day’s a gift here at ‘C.S.I.,’ I’m telling you,” says Langham, with a grin.

In all seriousness, the show’s writers came up with the idea of Hodges’ emotional farewell to Grissom, and they couldn’t wait to tell Langham about it. “The character that they thought would be the most devastated about Grissom leaving would be Hodges, so they let me play that out,” said Langham. “And I tried to be as human as I possibly could in the context of Hodges, because he doesn’t always get those opportunities. He never gets within ten feet of an emotion. That part wasn’t necessarily that hard to play, but it was still weird for me, just because, as Hodges, I don’t really get to play it that often!”

As it happens, however, the shoot turned out to be a rough one for Langham for reasons beyond those of Petersen’s departure.

“It was a really tough day to shoot for all the usual reasons,” said Langham, “but, sadly, my father was passing away…and, actually, after we had finished filming, I got the call that he had died. It wasn’t a surprise, but…you know, I knew that would be the day, oddly enough. Once I got the call where they said, ‘Okay, you’re going to be shooting on the 10th,’ I just had a feeling. I thought, ‘Okay, the irony of life has always served me well,’ and true to form, it was a very heavy day on all levels.”

  

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