CBS execs: we're #1 and we know it - TCA Report
Unlike ABC and NBC, whose network programming heads went solo, CBS trotted out not only Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, but Nancy Tellem, the president of the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, and Kelly Kahl, CBS's EVP of programming operations.
The only thing that really concerned the trio was the presence of what NBC's Kevin Reilly called the "Death Star": American Idol. The concern was so great that the three of them used more science fiction terminology than you'd ever expect network executives to know.
Actually, the network feels that they have shows that, while they aren't Idol-proof, they are "Idol-resistant," according to Kahl. "(On Tuesday) NCIS did 95 percent of what it usually does. The other shows get vaporized." Yep, there's the sci-fi terminology again. The fact that Tassler also said the word "vaporized" at the same time, in one of those "Jinx!" moments, made it all the more odd.
There were a couple of minor controversies to deal with: the failure of Smith, for one thing. When a reporter said it only lasted two episodes, Tassler corrected him. "It was three episodes." But, after the laughter died down, she continued by saying, while they loved working with creator John Wells on the project, they just didn't see the audience there. "As we looked at where the show is going, we delivered an audience to the show. And the drop-off, not only from The Unit into Smith, but then into our second half-hour, there was a clear indication that people were not watching the show."
I asked why Criminal Minds was chosen for the post-Super Bowl slot instead of the rising (and seemingly better-fitting) How I Met Your Mother. Kahl jumped all over that. "Criminal Minds is, I think, the fastest-growing drama on TV this year from season to season. I don't think the growth potential has been tapped out of that show yet." When I sat next to Kahl at the Super Bowl session later that day, he remembered my question and apologized for getting so defensive. He said that he went to bat for HIMYM (something creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas confirmed later at the all-star happy hour), and it was their second choice. The network just felt that Minds was in better position to benefit from the post-game boost than HIMYM.
According to all three executives, they're still trying to fight the notion that CBS is an "old people's network." To that end, and because of the fact that their #1 position allows them to, they're developing riskier shows: Swingtown, a drama about suburban swinger couples in the seventies; Viva Laughlin, an American version of the British musical series Viva Blackpool, and a yet-to-be-named series revolving around demons and exorcisms.
More tidbits: The Class will concentrate on the three romantic storylines that developed earlier in the year (three? Yes, three. I can't reveal who the third is, but it's not much of a shock). William Peterson should be coming back to CSI. And the best piece of news, given by Nancy Tellem:
Reporter: When is the shelf life of Rob and Amber up, in terms of television? Please tell me its soon.
Tellem: It's soon.