TCA: CBS Entertainment President Apologizes to Reporters

Nina Tassler WIE Headshot - P 2011

Nina Tassler WIE Headshot - P 2011

Nina Tassler opens her hastily scheduled executive session by explaining that the forum makes her “a nervous wreck.”

Hell hath no furry like a Television Critics Association membership scorned. And CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler clearly felt the sting of opprobrium from the media for neglecting to submit to the requisite executive session at the winter press tour. So Tassler opened her tardily scheduled question-and-answer session at CBS Corp.’s segment of the winter TCA by apologizing to assembled reporters.

“This makes me a nervous wreck, truth be told,” explained Tassler. “It’s just a forum that is challenging. That being said, we had an amazing year, a phenomenal year. And we’re incredibly proud. And that success isn’t necessarily best expressed in this warm and fuzzy room.”

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After vociferous complaints from TCA members, CBS relented and scheduled Tassler for an 8:30 a.m. session on Wednesday, the earliest of the press tour so far.

“Those of you who know me [know] I’m the most respectful person,” added Tassler, “People step on my feet and I say, 'I’m sorry.' It really wasn’t a sign of disrespect. It was really an attempt to get very quickly to the heart of our success, which is our shows.”

After the lengthy apology, Tassler launched into a soliloquy about CBS’ success this fall – the network finished No. 1 among total viewers and tied with Fox in the advertiser coveted 18-49 demographic – with new shows including 2 Broke Girls, Unforgettable and Person of Interest and returning shows including the NCIS franchise and CSI with new star Ted Danson. But she also acknowledged the “daunting challenge” of staying on top in an increasingly competitive media environment.

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Other highlights from Tassler’s executive session:

Tassler defended the network’s decision to move The Good Wife to Sundays this season, where it has been repeatedly delayed in the East by NFL games. “We do hear from a lot of viewers about the overrun, but that means we have a very passionate and engaged audience,” she said. “The audience that does watch the show on Sunday night, they’re very upscale, they’re very female and very engaged. So we feel it was a good move.”

The Robert De Niro-produced police drama The 2-2 has yet to land a premiere date. Tassler explained that the network’s success average with its fall shows has left little room for new entries on the schedule. But she expects to put The 2-2 on in the spring and use the network’s coverage of NCAA men’s basketball as a launch pad. “We want to make sure we continue to support the new shows, and then we’ll give [The 2-2] its own very special launch late in the spring.”

Tassler was questioned about some of the humor in the 2 Broke Girls, which has raised hackles for relying on what many critics have characterized as racist stereotypes. “I think they’re an equal opportunity offender,” she said. “Everybody gets a dig. Our dialogue with [showrunner Michael Patrick King] is to continue to dimensionalize. Our track record shows that we do know how to build comedy hits; we’ll continue to do that with 2 Broke Girls.”

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Tassler admitted that finding the right comedy companion for The Big Bang Theory on Thursday has been a challenge. But she chalked it up to Big Bang’s success rather than the network’s development. “Part of the challenge is [Big Bang] is a monster hit,” she said. Rob, a comedy loosely based on star Rob Schneider’s own life with his Mexican-American in-laws, bows Jan. 12 after Big Bang. Like its time-slot predecessor How to Be a Gentleman, it has been universally panned by critics. “It may take time to find the right companion," Tassler said. "But we’ll get there eventually.”

Tassler asserted that the exit of Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete from daytime show The Talk was simply a matter of the requisite first-season changes that many shows go through. “Ultimately we are looking at a dynamic. We were looking at a quality in the relationship and a quality in the conversations,” she said. Tassler side-stepped a direct question about whether Julie Chen, the wife of CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves, was responsible for jettisoning Remini and Robinson Peete. “We saw an opportunity and we took advantage of it. I think you look at the fact that the ratings have stayed virtually the same, the content has stayed the same. Other talk shows on other networks have had host changes as well. The most important thing is the content. You make sure that your topics are relevant and the discussion stays spirited and that there’s chemistry between your hosts.”


Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie