Pilots Package: dialogue with Nina Tassler
EmptyThe Hollywood Reporter: Bringing the buzz back is the name of the game at CBS. How do you go about doing that?
Nina Tassler: The objective obviously is to create buzz, but also to do projects that have the potential of being breakout hits. In order to achieve that goal, you still have to have all the elements of great storytelling: drama, direction, acting. Buzz is not an isolated objective. It involves assembling all the right components. We're fortunate in that we're shooting 10 dramas, nine comedies, multiple reality shows. Within that we have a broad spectrum of content.
THR: Does CBS' stability give you relatively few holes to fill on the schedule?
Tassler: We're fortunate. We thought that was the right time to be the boldest. Tuesday night is a plum spot though. And we're looking across the board to see if this pilot season we are fortunate to come out with more great gems, and if we can improve in a given period, we'll take the shot.
THR: What was your guiding philosophy in approaching comedy, which is a tricky area?
Tassler: This season we're in the business with a lot of new faces and people like Jason Biggs, Chris Klein and Marisa Tomei. And there are people we're back in business with: Greg Garcia, Max Mutchnick, David Kohan, Paul Reiser and Chuck Lorre. Our goal was create new relationships and embrace those with which we've had great success with before.
THR: Was there any comedic styles you were looking to avoid?
Tassler: I think our pervasive philosophy is let your content dictate the form. To give you an example, one project that went on a different path was ("Fugly"). We went with Greg Garcia, who had written it as a multicamera project. But when Todd Holland came on as director, with Greg's blessing, he really felt that the piece was best served and he could bring his skills in a filmed format. It started as multicam, but became film, not because the network dictated it. The creative dictated the form. We've always done both. We didn't go out with a mandate to do only film and only multicamera.
THR: Is there a possibility we could see changes come to the powerhouse Thursday lineup?
Tassler: I think we're open to adjusting the schedule that will benefit any given night that is going to continue to improve the overall schedule. It's premature to say what will go there. "Shark" has done well there and certainly its strongest demos have come back on after being off for a few weeks. We're evaluating all of those options but certainly that is one of the plum spots on the schedule.
THR: What's your reality strategy? Is it time for new blood or rejuvenating existing franchises?
Tassler: It's a little of both, I think. It's about continuing to spice up the existing franchises. They've got a lot of fuel in their engine still and we're excited about "Big Brother" and "Survivor." We've got "Pirate Master" out this summer, and the early reports are it looks like nothing else on television. We're very high on that. We also have a couple of very secret things we're working on in addition to multiple game show formats. With the game show arena, you don't want to be second or third to the party, you have to find what's unique and specific.
THR: Does your stability allow you to hold back more projects for midseason?
Tassler: It depends what comes out of pilot season. We have enjoyed midseason success with "The New Adventures of Old Christine," and this year, "Rules of Engagement." For us, midseason is a really great marketing opportunity. It is premature to say what we'll hold or not. You want to come into fall with guns blazing and put your best foot forward, but that's not to say you don't hold onto something because you want to market something more individually.
THR: Is CBS out of the crime business in terms of new series?
Tassler: What I noticed this season in working through the development, you can look at it in crime, or in terms of procedurals or through the psychological thriller, but ultimately when you deconstruct the genre you're talking about mysteries, puzzle solving. You may not see crime drama, but you will see mysteries, puzzle solving, psychological twists and turns in the dramas. So I think there's a great respect for the audience and we know that they really enjoy thinking through that kind of storytelling.