TCA 2012: CBS Chief on 'Glass House' Woes, 'Elementary's' Sherlock and Sheen's 'Anger Management'
It’s good to be No. 1.
The longest-running network chief, CBS’ Nina Tassler, graced the stage Sunday morning with a stuffed monkey, a nod to the attention NBC grabbed days earlier with Animal Practice’s capuchin Crystal. But Tassler doesn’t need the distractions when she has the stats.
"I have a very familiar story to tell," she said as she kiced off her panel at the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour, rattling off a series of impressive data points. Among them: CBS is No. 1 in total viewers; No. 1 in upfront revenue; and No. 1 in Emmy nominations.
"And we've just been awarded the 18 to 49 crown for next season," she jokeed, referring to Fox honcho Kevin Reilly's prediction earlier this week that the Super Bowl would lift CBS to No. 1 in the younger demo, too. "Thanks Kevin," she added, "but we'll try to earn it, before we claim it."
Here's a look at the many topics Tassler touched on during her half hour before the TV press:
Good Luck, Charlie?
Tassler has seen the pilot for her former star Charlie Sheen’s new FX effort, Anger Management. And while she stopped short of providing a full review, she did offer a Twitter-worthy response: “Not my cup of tea.”
As the genre mature, reality is no longer the slam-dunk it once was, as evidenced by the soft ratings across the board for all broadcast networks this summer. “Reality is challenging and intriguing in so many ways,” noted Tassler, adding: “You’re obviously looking for a headline and to get people talking.” But with so much chatter and not enough viewers, she acknowledged that her team is exploring scripted fare for the summer –see CBS’s decision to revive Unforgettable for next summer—without overhauling a "profitable" summertime diet of reality and repeats.
The CBS Advantage
It isn't easy to get a show on CBS' frigtheningly stable --if utterly predictable-- schedule; but once you do, you can expect it to stay there. And, for that matter, make gobs of money. According to Tassler, 80 percent of CBS' returning series have already sold into syndication. What's more, for the last three years, they network has managed to sell a show (NCIS: Los Angeles, Hawaii Five-0 and Mike & Molly) into syndicaiton before it hit its second season.
“When you have a chance to build a show around one of the greatest detectives in all of literature, you’re going to jump at the opportunity,” said Tassler of her team’s decision to move forward with a contemporary spin on the Sherlock Holmes story from “Holmesian expert” Rob Doherty. And the twist of having a female Watson, played by Lucy Liu, gives the larger project a “very forward-looking” spin that will help differentiate it that much more from the BBC’s “extraordinary” Sherlock as well as others.
The Glass House Crumbles
Tassler is legally bound to keep her mouth shut on the topic (CBS has sued ABC over its supposed Big Brother rip-off, Glass House), but she can’t help but hammer home the corporate message driving the legal action: “We’re incredibly protective about our brands.” That the ABC effort has failed to find a pulse? Well, that’s just icing on the cake.
Though Tassler says she’s was struck by the “extraordinary character” of Ralph Lamb, played by Dennis Quaid, she acknowledges that her team pushed Vegas’ producers to “bump up the mob character” played by Michael Chiklis. “When we saw the script it was really about the Ralph Lamb character,” she said of the original iteration, which she was looking to broaden. As for the 1960s backdrop, it informs the show, noted Tassler, without being a show "about the 1960s.”
More Mother, Please
There’s (likely) more How I Met Your Mother on the way. That’s according to Tassler, who revealed that they are in talks about a ninth season for the popular Monday night comedy from Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. "They know we want the show to come back next year, we're having conversations right now,” she allowed. “We're not there yet in terms of resolving the season, [but] we're pretty optimistic."
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose