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The CBS News team Friday dismissed widespread media reports that “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric will leave the show after the presidential election.
“We have no plans to part company anytime soon,” Couric told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour. “There were a lot of speculative pieces that have been spin out of control. I’m very committed to the people here and very committed to the product, and so I can say that’s not true.”
Couric’s claim was backed by CBS News president Sean McManus, who also said there are no plans to replace the anchor despite two years of sagging ratings under her tenure.
“It’s not a discussion at CBS, either corporately or at CBS News,” he said.” We’re focused on doing our jobs right now.”
Couric and company also defended CBS News plans to extensively cover Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Europe and the Middle East.
“Editorially, if you look at the fact that there have been questions about his foreign policy expertise … and the fact that Iraq remains front and center in terms of how the United States may or may not extricate itself from that theater, then this is a really important trip in terms of really being able to pin down Barack Obama on his foreign policy vision,” Couric said. “It’s not as if it’s going to be, ‘How do you like the weather in Jordon, senator?’
Conservatives have criticized plans by the major broadcast networks to extensively cover Obama’s trip next week after having devoted little attention to Republican nominee John McCain’s Iraq visit in March.
“What if he changes his mind about Iraq once he gets on the ground?” asked “Face the Nation” anchor Bob Schieffer. “We want to be there. It’s one thing to be criticizing us when we don’t cover the news enough, that type of criticism is more valid. But this is a big story, and we ought to be there.”
Earlier in the day, during CBS’ executive session, the network’s entertainment president Nina Tassler gave some details about the departure of William Petersen from “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and the arrival of a new character that gives a “Dexter”-like tinge to the show.
“Strategically we’ve been talking about this for quite some time,” Tassler said. “I don’t think you replace Billy, but you sort of look at adding elements that are really going to invigorate and contribute to the alchemy of the show.”
The character, who will overlap with Petersen’s Gil Grissom, is described as a doctor/scientist outsider to the “CSI” unit who has the same genetic profile as a serial killer but hasn’t previously acted on any homicidal impulses.
“This gentleman knows this about himself and it’s a journey to discover who his true character will ultimately become,” Tassler said.
Casting for the role is underway, with Tassler confirming that they are going for actors of the caliber of John Malkovich, who was approached but passed.
“We have an unbelievable season planned,” she added. “I call it the DVR-proof season of ‘CSI.'”
As for other CBS shows, Tassler said there are no plans to overhaul “Price Is Right.” She had not yet made a decision whether to bring back “Power of 10.”
CBS has also not made a decision yet on “Swingtown” – “I wish the ratings were better, but right now we’re behind the show and we’re proud of it,” Tassler said. The maturation of “Two and a Half Men” actor Angus T. Jones, who’s now 14 and no longer quite the half-man of the show’s title, will “opens up a whole new treasure trove of stories,” Tassler said.
On the heels of the successful stunt casting of Britney Spears on “How I Met Your Mother,” CBS plans more guest star casting, with Sarah Chalke signed to more episodes on “Mother.”
Tassler also reiterated CBS’ upfront presentation stance that the network isn’t necessarily getting away from last year’s more daring programming.
“Certainly a couple more shows are within our wheelhouse,” she said. “But there’s a marked departure. There is an evolution in the form in terms of tone, style and sensibility. If shows don’t succeed, it’s not because they’re daring or different, there was something flawed in their execution.”
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