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Nearly a year after announcing she’d be stepping down as CBS’ longtime entertainment chief, Nina Tassler is readying her next act.
The entertainment veteran, who began her career as an actress before segueing to the executive suite, is developing a half-hour project at CBS corporate cousin Showtime. The entry, based on Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins and produced by CBS TV Studios, counts Casual’s Liz Tigelaar as an executive producer as well as the series’ showrunner if it ultimately moves forward. Joining the pair is Girls’ Jason Kim, who created the TV iteration and brought it to Tigelaar; he’ll serve as an executive producer and writer as well.
The 2012 New York Times best-seller on which the project is based centers on a longtime Chicago-area married couple, Edie and Richard Middlestein, whose relationships falls apart when Edie becomes obsessed with food — thinking about it and consuming it. When Richard abandons his wife, their grown children become increasingly involved. Robin, their schoolteacher daughter, faults Richard, while Benny, their pot-smoking family-man son, just wants things to be smoothed over. And then there’s Rachelle, Benny’s rail-thin perfectionist wife, who becomes intent on saving Edie’s life. The acclaimed novel has been described as “an epic story of marriage, family and obsession,” with a mix of humor and compassion. Attenberg will serve as a producer on the Showtime adaptation, alongside exec producer Jonathan Levin (Legends, Charmed) and Tassler.
At the time of Tassler’s 2015 departure from CBS, she said she had sat down with her boss of 25 years, CEO Leslie Moonves, and over lunch on the Radford lot told him, “I think I want to go. I’m writing this book [What I Told My Daughter, Lessons From Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women], I have a couple of plays I want to do, I have a couple of movie projects and my daughter is starting high school and I don’t want her to leave the house before I have more time.” By mid-September, after some 18 years at the network, Tassler announced that she’d be passing the baton to CBS’ current chief Glenn Geller, who completed his first season in the all-consuming and significantly more high-profile role in May.
As Tassler acknowledged then, she was leaving a very different broadcast environment than the one she had joined several years earlier. Though she was able to step away with an enviable track record — CBS rounded out 12 of her last 13 seasons as the most-watched network — the job had become one plagued by grim headlines about fracturing audiences, technology disruption and the rise of cable and streaming envy. That Tassler’s first publicly revealed project post-CBS is being done not for the network but rather for its premium cable relative is in itself revealing.
For Tigelaar, news of The Middlesteins comes as she preps another season of the Golden Globe-nominated Casual for Hulu. Though the latter is not her creation, she has served as the series’ showrunner for the sibling dramedy’s first two celebrated seasons; it was renewed for a third in late June. Prior to Casual, Tigelaar’s prolific résumé has included such credits as Bates Motel, Nashville, Revenge, Once Upon a Time and her critically praised entry, The CW’s Life Unexpected. Tigelaar got her start on the WB cult hit Dawson’s Creek.
Tigelaar and Kim are both repped by UTA; Attenberg is repped by UTA on behalf of Sterling Lord Literistic.
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