Traditionally Stable CBS Rocked by Charlie Sheen at TCAs

Greg Gayne/Warner Bros.

The network touts new season success around the swirl of top star scandal.


PASADENA -- As a network, CBS epitomizes stability. The CBS executive suite boasts a platoon of top lieutenants who have been at the network for decades. CBS’ meat-and-potatoes brand of multi-camera comedies and crime procedurals have been remarkably enduring. All five of its new shows – Mike & Molly, $#*! My Dad Says, Hawaii Five-O, Blue Bloods and The Defenders – have received full season orders. Earlier this week, the network and Warner Bros. Television announced a three-season pick-up for top-rated Big Bang Theory.

So the perennial scandals of Two And a Half Men star Charlie Sheen – who last weekend was caught by tabloid web site TMZ on a bender in Las Vegas with three escorts – is a little bit of irony.

Indeed, the first question of the morning for CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, who kicked off the network’s day at the Television Critics Association confab here, was about her level of concern for the star of one of CBS’ top-rated comedies.

“Well I really didn’t expect that question this morning,” she joked. “I’m really taken by surprise.”

But in all seriousness, Tassler added, “We have a high level of concern. How could we not? On a very basic human level, there is concern of course. This man is a father. He has a family.”

Sheen is on parole stemming from a domestic violence charge involving his third wife Brooke Mueller, from whom he’s filed for divorce. And Tassler said the network maintains close contact with studio Warner Bros. about Sheen’s status.

“Warner Bros. has been very responsible,” she said. But she did not address queries about what might happen if Sheen violated his parole. It should be noted that Sheen did make it to the set for his call-time after last weekend’s Las Vegas sojourn.

“You can’t look at it simplistically,” added Tassler. “Charlie is a professional. He comes to work. He does his job extremely well. The show is a hit. He knows how we feel. He knows the level of concern we have. Everybody is doing their job and things are continuing as planned.”

On the subject of the network’s success, Tassler noted that CBS has the top-five most watched new shows, series that she expects to “be players” well into the future. But she admitted that creatively there is room for improvement on the William Shatner sitcom $#*! My Dad Says.

“We still have a ways to go,” she said. “But like any show in its first year you’re always making creative adjustments.”

Tassler said she expects to pick up the same number of pilots in past years although there is not a lot of shelf space on the network schedule. And she brushed off speculation that CBS Studios may be in for a tricky renegotiation with NCIS star Mark Harmon, whose contract is up at the end of the season.

“We’re very confident that Mark will continue on the show,” she said. “He’s very happy and we are thrilled to have him.”

The network is also adding a new female character to Hawaii Five-O. Canadian police drama Flashpoint is likely to return this summer as part of a goal to program more originals during the hot months, though unscripted perennial Big Brother will continue to be a summer staple. Tassler was non-committal on a second season of Paula Abdul’s Live to Dance, which has struggled in the ratings on Wednesday nights and will face even tougher competition next week when American Idol bows.

And while the network successfully moved third-season comedy Big Bang Theory to Thursday night this season, Tassler acknowledged that Fox moving the Idol results show to the lead-off slot on Thursdays may present some challenges --  though she expressed confidence that there are “enough eyeballs to go around.”

Idol is Idol. It’s a force of nature,” she said. “But we’re thrilled with how well [Big Bang] has done on Thursday and it has a very loyal audience,” she said. “I don’t know quite what’s going to happen. It will be interesting.”