January 15, 2014 5:01pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Pilot Season Still Works, More Event Programming and Three More Lessons From CBS and CW
Will CBS follow Fox's lead and abandon pilot season? Could low-rated limited series Hostages live to see another day? Is there life left in The Carrie Diaries? And what do CBS' top showrunners think of broadcast adopting the shorter seasons of cable networks?
These and many other questions were fair game Wednesday as CBS and The CW presented at the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour. CBS' Nina Tassler and The CW's Mark Pedowitz also addressed questions about new series and stars, including Josh Holloway, James Van Der Beek and Henry Ian Cusick.
Here's a look at what we learned:
1. Pilot season isn't dead at CBS -- or The CW. Two days after Fox's Kevin Reilly declared pilot season was dead, Tassler acknowledged that the process wasn't perfect but nonetheless works for her. "The bottom line is...yes, it's harder, yes, it's challenging, but when you have a great writer and great storytelling and they have to make decisions in a pressurized situation, they're going to make the right and best decisions, period," she told reporters. Pedowitz, meanwhile, agreed that the process is both inefficient and efficient, but will still likely order the same number of pilots on the same timetable as last year.
2. More miniseries and event programming. After previewing the second season of hit Under the Dome and its upcoming Halle Berry starrer Extant -- both due in the summer -- Tassler said the network will continue to stick with limited entries despite Hostages' weak showing. "We're looking for a bigger headline with our event programming," she said. As for the fate of limited-run drama Intelligence, starring Holloway, Tassler said she'd stick with the drama after the series dropped more than 50 percent in its second week.
3. Twenty-two-episode seasons are still appealing. In an era when broadcast networks are following cable's short-order seasons, NCIS, The Good Wife, Elementary and Person of Interest showrunners said there are still benefits to the longer, more traditional seasons. "It's a great thing that the audience wants more of what you're making," Person of Interest EP Jonathan Nolan said during the network's showrunners panel. "I think 22-24 episodes is calibrated to the exact number where a showrunner will have a nervous breakdown."
4. More Veronica Mars. Pedowitz, who worked with Veronica Mars boss Rob Thomas during his tenure at ABC Studios, didn't wait for the ink to dry before announcing a digital spinoff of the beloved series-turned-movie. A week after being presented with the idea, Pedowitz announced the network's comedy-themed digital hub CW Seed will run a spinoff consisting of six or eight 10-minute segments. He had little to share at this stage with regard to plot or talent, and noted he had little sense of timing given how busy Thomas is with the Kickstarter movie.
5. CW's Pedowitz is "bullish" on the future of nearly everything. During his half hour before the press, he expressed faith in Supernatural, buzzy Flash pilot, freshman series Reign and The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals all moving forward to the 2014-15 season, as the network continues to commit to high-concept, fantasy and serialized fare. The latter, he acknowledged, is what lures viewers to the CW. (What doesn't: traditional procedurals and unscripted docuseries.) By contrast, soapy programming such as The Carrie Diaries, Hart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast will have to wait until May for word on their fate.