CBS talks up new 'Deal'

Late-night, primetime dominate net's TCA session

CBS officially announced at the network's press tour session Monday that a reboot of "Let's Make a Deal" will replace the veteran daytime soap "Guiding Light."

Entertainment president Nina Tassler said the network shot a trio of game-show pilots for the slot and that "Deal" was the most impressive. The series will be hosted by Wayne Brady and premiere Oct. 5.

In a conversation with reporters that was otherwise dominated by primetime and late-night, Tassler emphasized that the network is poised to grow its 10 p.m. hour with last year's breakout "The Mentalist" and new series "The Good Wife."

"Strategically, we feel like we are poised, ready to grow," she said. "10 o'clock is great business, and it's only going to boost David (Letterman) as well."

One critic asked Tassler about NBC's "The Jay Leno Show," which is launching in the fall in the hour.

"Whatever ratings they get, (NBC is) going to declare victory anyway, so it doesn't really matter," she said, adding that NBC calling "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien "The New King of Late Night" was "a little premature."

She also noted modest changes for "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" next season, including a makeover for Laurence Fishburne, who joined the cast last year.

"We spent a lot of time talking to producers, talking to fans," she said. "Nick (Stokes) is going to get promoted, Sara (Sidle) is coming back for the first five episodes. You're going to see Fishburne more settled in his role: a more leadership capacity. He's had a little bit of a wardrobe makeover. Our research said they wanted to see him more comfortable in his clothes."

Fishburne wore glasses and suits during his introductory season on "CSI" when he took over for departing lead William Petersen. Ratings fell sharply during the latter half of the season.

Tassler called fellow CBS procedural "NCIS" "the most underrated success story on television" and said scheduling the show with its spinoff in the fall as part of a Wednesday-night block would help with crossover episodes.

Asked if the duo could be a two-hour block that finally topples "American Idol" in the spring, Tassler smiled.

"I love the way you're thinking," she said.

Tassler also got in good jab at former NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman when asked about his recent departure from the network.

"I'm just a D-girl, so I wouldn't want to comment," Tassler said, referring to Silverman's use of the derogatory term two years ago to describe rival programming executives.

After the panel, Tassler was asked whether she would buy programs from Silverman now that he's a producer.

"If they're good," she said. "Wherever he goes, whatever he does, this is somebody who's sure to entertain."