CBS Entertainment Chairman on Colbert, 'Supergirl' and Comedy Struggles

Nina Tassler fielded questions about 'The Millers' demise and 'Two and a Half Men's' finale
Cliff Lipson/CBS
Nina Tassler

Nina Tassler kicked off the week with a flurry of announcements.

Before taking a seat in her "lonely interrogation chair," as she dubbed it, the CBS Entertainment chairman revealed from the dais at the Television Critics Association's semiannual press tour Monday that she'd be renewing three of her freshman dramas —NCIS: New Orleans, Madam Secretary and Scorpion — and kicking off Stephen Colbert's iteration of the Late Show Sept. 8.

Those announcements were followed by a series of other network talking points, including the fact that CBS remains the No. 1 network in total viewers, up 2 percent from a year earlier, and can currently boast seven of the top 10 series — and 12 of the top 20. But that doesn't mean Tassler can sit back and do business as she previously had, particularly as the landscape continues to fracture and the ways in which programming is consumed continue to proliferate.

"Our business is changing, and we're changing with it," she noted from stage, using the platform to tout the network's year-round programming strategy and over-the-top plans. This year alone, for instance, more than 80 percent of CBS' traditional September to May season will be original, she said, up 71 percent from a year earlier.

Read more Scorpion, Madam Secretary, NCIS: New Orleans Renewed for Second Season

Below are some of the highlights from her half-hour before the press.

Girls Rule

Before questions were fired, Tassler touted the array of female characters on her network's schedule, be it those on The Good Wife, Extant or Madam Secretary. "It's a real passion for us," she said, suggesting that Supergirl would be a logical fit for this reason, among others. (Though the project is still in development, insiders suggest it's a near lock for a pilot pick-up.) Later in the session, Tassler said she fell in love with the Greg Berlanti pitch, and she loves the idea of adding another heroine who is at once powerful and relatable to her schedule. Plus, she noted: "I love the superhero drama."

Comedy Ain't Easy …

"We gave [The Millers] an opportunity at the beginning of the season and it didn't take off," Tassler said of the "tough call" to pull the plug on the Greg Garcia comedy, adding that she still has great faith in Garcia and intends to bet on him again. As for the other half-hours on CBS' schedule, she's taking a wait-and-see approach on the fate of The McCarthys — renewal decisions come down to ratings and economics, she reminded the room of reporters — and she's hopeful about forthcoming half-hour The Odd Couple. "When you approach doing a classic … you're certainly going to proceed with caution," she acknowledged of rebooting such an iconic series, noting that she was ultimately convinced because of the "palpable" chemistry between Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.

Read More TV Comedy's Sad Decline: 'State of Emergency'

After Dark

Colbert has just opened up his Late Night offices, according to Tassler, and he has brought much of his Colbert Report staff with him. As for what his show will look like when it bows in September, she said she intends to take her cues from the host. "There will be parts that will be traditional in some context," she said, "and then there will be parts that he's going to do differently." What she does know at this stage: The series will be topical, and he does intend to tackle current events as he did on Comedy Central. As for the summer months prior to Colbert's launch and after David Letterman has already bid farewell, Tassler said her network will air repeats of primetime shows.

James Who?

Tassler used the TCA stage to plug her new Late Late Show host James Corden, who will make his debut at 12:35 a.m. in March. She repeated a story she's told before about sitting down with him in boss Leslie Moonves' office in New York last spring: "To say we were mesmerized by him is an understatement," she said, adding of the first time she saw the multihyphenate on Broadway in One Man, Two Guvnors: "You knew you were in the presence of someone a little crazy and someone incredibly talented." Though the Brit is still relatively unknown to the vast majority of CBS viewers, despite a recent turn in box-office musical Into the Woods, Tassler is confident that his endearing brand — "a combination of Jack Black and Fred Astaire" — will lure an audience.

Read More Leslie Moonves: Wall Street Hero, Pushover at Home, Future Ambassador?

So, What's Going to Happen?

Whether or not Charlie Sheen will return for the late February series finale of Two and a Half Men remains a mystery. Respectful of showrunner Chuck Lorre's wishes for secrecy, Tassler said only that Lorre intends to deliver "a mystery sandwich." Not surprisingly, she stayed similarly mum about the future of CSI, despite rumblings that the current season could be the series' last. There wasn't much more to add about CBS' potential Criminal Minds spinoff, except to say that it'll be "better" than the last one tried in large part because it hails from Criminal Minds showrunner and series veteran Erica Messer. Oh, and if you were hoping Tassler would announce from stage that CSI: Cyber, which tends to be ripped-from-the-headlines topical, will tackle the recent Sony hack as an upcoming storyline, you were sorely disappointed.

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