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CBS executive session: Peterson's CSI departure, Moonlight fans, and a different sensibility - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 18th 2008 3:26PM
Nina TasslerThe first day of the combined CBS / CW / Showtime part of the tour kicked off with the executive session from CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler. Before she got on stage, the network showed a montage of their shows. It was then I realized, "Boy, I really don't watch anything on this network, do I?" I mean, outside of the Monday comedies and The Price is Right, there isn't one show on the Eye net that I tune in on a regular basis.

Anyway, she addressed the departure of William Peterson from CSI, just about right off the bat, giving the gathered writers a clue as to the nature of the character who will be coming in to fill his void. Oh, and Tassler is studying to become a cantor. For some reason, a reporter asked her about that.

OK, first the Peterson business. He'll be leaving after the tenth episode of the upcoming season, though Tassler says "this won't be the last we see of him." Why did he leave? Because he's an artist! "Billy is an extraordinary guy. Let's not forget his roots and origin in theater; he's still an artist and very passionate and committed to the show [as an executive producer]. (His departure) is just an artist's choice to change his life." He'll be working on a play soon, she said.

The character that will replace him -- he's still being cast, though in the scrum, she said that they approached John Malkovich's people about the role, but he turned them down, and that Laurence Fishburne would be "great for the role," and was a name that they considered -- is an outsider to the Vegas CSI unit, and won't be the leader of the team at the outset. Through testing, he has found out that he has the same genetic profile that has been found in serial killers, and he's making "a journey to discover his true character." There will be a two-episode overlap between the new character's arrival and Peterson's departure, according to Tassler.

Other tidbits:

  • When asked about why, after last year's more daring pilots, this year's are more in the traditional CBS vein, Tassler said that "there is certainly a couple of shows are more within our wheelhouse. But there is a marked departure and tone in terms of sensibilty. Yes, we're doing procedurals, but sensibility is different." What does that mean, the cops will be making more jokes as they take blood samples? Anyway, she did mention that they're trying to start a new comedy night on Wednesday, and cites Worst Week and the returning Big Bang Theory as two shows that are pointing the way to a new era of comedy on the network.
  • She was asked how CBS was the only networks to get so many pilots (or extended trailers for shows) to the critics, something the other networks couldn't accomplish. "We didn't start pilot season early," she said. "We have best and smartest development executives in town. The 11th Hour and The Mentalist were bought early in the (development) season last year. Literally once the strike was resolved we were ready to go."
  • Britney Spears didn't save How I Met Your Mother, Tassler said. They're "very proud" of the show, she explained. "I think the show is beloved by most in this room and the audience. It was never in danger, we just took a while to make the announcement." She explained in the scrum that the delayed announcement was more a matter of timing and looking at the schedule than any indication that the show was on the bubble.
  • Speaking of Brit Brit, Tassler is encouraging the practice of stunt casting. "Actors (and their reps) come to us directly and say 'I love that show and am a fan,'" which leads the network to approach the show's writers to see if they can work them in somehow. For the network, it's a win-win, so "you'll probably see more of that, yes."
  • Tassler said that Sarah Chalke will be in more episodes of How I Met Your Mother. When asked if Sarah's the mother, she said "Right now I don't think she's the mother." Is that one executive's opinion, or fact? Not sure.
  • She doesn't regret cancelling Moonlight, despite the outcry from the show's fans. Tassler claimed that, unlike the campaign that successfully brought back Jericho, the one for Moonlight was "more actor-driven than show-driven." I guess she felt people missed Alex O'Loughlin more than the show itself. When I asked her if the failure of Jericho after the "Nuts" campaign brought it back signaled the last time the network would listen to a fan protest like that, she said she didn't think it would.
  • Despite the rumors that are floating around the internet, The Price is Right will not be retooled to look like American Idol. "We're very respectful of the The Price is Right brand and the look of that show," she said. Before Bob (Barker) stepped down, we talked about a multi-year strategy to put a fresh coat of paint on the show and on games that haven't been updated in 30 years. But we're very respectful just make minor adjustments to show." As for why longtime producer Roger Dobkowitz was let go, she told me in the scrum that getting one of "Drew (Carey's) guys" in was part of the long-term plan for the show. Hmm... seemed like Drew got along with Dobkowitz this season. Maybe more was going on behind the scenes than we realized.

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how are we to see Petersen if he is on Stage. He needs to be on tv or in movies. guess i can watch all the seasons of csi i have. at least he still exist on these.

August 21 2008 at 7:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Miami Vice, ER, Magnum PI......these shows were only kept on because women liked the actors on them? Give me a break. Who cares why the public likes a show, if they like the actors or the plot. If it makes more people watch, the networks can charge more for the commercial time. There are plenty of shows that I would not watch for the actors or the plot, that the networks keep playing because they don't have to pay writers and actors more money for shows that the public wants to see. They should get rid of the people in charge at CBS and hire people who want to make more money the old fashion way. Earn it by giving the people what they want even if it cost a little more. Isn't the customer always right? CBS has forgotten this and keep providing their audiences with substandard shows. Thank goodness there are still stations like Sci Fi, USA, CW, and Fox to name a few. Hopefully NBC and ABC take note and not follow in CBS's footsteps.

August 14 2008 at 11:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just got the "Saving Grace" Season One DVD, & there is a wonderful featurette of commentary by the show's Ex. Producer, Gary Randall. But it broke my heart, too, because it made me wish CBS had the same understanding & attitude towards Moonlight that TNT does for Grace. Here's a sample paraphrase of Randall's philosophy:

The sophistication of today's audience demands more than just a good story. They want great writing & dramatic characters that grow & change. They want to get emotionally involved & invite these characters into their living room & make them their friends. They want unpredictabilty, wonderful surprises & the envelope pushed.

Moonlight accomplished all this so well that I think Nina's mixing up the audience's enthusiasm for rarely seen truly dramatic characters with some squeely girls's fixation on Alex (altho most great shows have a strong lead actor).

If she'd really read her mail, she might get it (or not) that it's everything...the writing, the entire cast's chemistry, the sets, music. The last episode "Sonata" cries out with dangling plot threads...Lance, Mike's ring, MickBeth's blossoming romance, The French connection, Josef's new love & past lives, The Cure. Come on...we're waiting with baited breath...

Maybe TNT will take on Moonlight. I think a great combo!

August 01 2008 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wrote Nina Tassler in May when MOONLIGHT was 1st canceled & praised the ENTIRE show including, yes, Alex...but also the rest of the cast, the amazing writing, sets, music, & attention to detail.

But...Hello!? Aren't most great shows driven by a strong lead actor? (Sarah jessica Parker, James Gandolfini, Holly Hunter, Tom Selleck, Tony Shalub, Bruce Willis/Cybill Shepard & Kyra Sedgewick to name a few). What's wrong with Alex O'Loughlin doing that for Moonlight?

Tassler doesn't know what she had & CBS's new line up is a huge yawn.

Outst Nina, get a steady, nurturing hand at the CBS helm & RE-SIGN MOONLIGHT!

August 01 2008 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What emails and comments was Nina reading? If she was really listening to what everyone was saying she would see that people liked the show, the chemistry between Mick and Beth and the different story lines. Oh Nina, the public is not stupid. Maybe the fans targeted the wrong audience when they cried for more Moonlight, maybe the fans should have contacted the advertisers who sponsored the show and show them that money talks and the fans will put their money else where if they don't want to sponsor Moonlight. Yes Nina this is a tough business and it's a mistake to underestimate your opponent.

July 24 2008 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

***OH SORRY****

You will need Ms. Tassler's address! Here it is, let's get it going. Remember civil and intelligent.



July 24 2008 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nina says she never got any letters..???!!!! I sent many to her and different networks on behalf of "THE SHOW MOONLIGHT" And the WHOLE concept and cast and crew.
LET'S ALL WRITE HER ANOTHER LETTER, (NICELY, BECAUSE WE HAVE CLASS PLEASE) About how our enthusiasm about the SHOW, the excellent acting by all cast members, how we love the twists and turns, the cliffhangers that make you run to the tv on Friday to see what happens next and all the potential directions and plots that come out of this.
They got a raw deal from the writier's strike to spring vacation when they came back on. Yes, she is probably stubborn and will reject us because she wants to save face BUT....Maybe if we write enough intelligent and civil letters it will show "Someone" what a great target audience we are. Good luck to all and ....I'M NOT GIVING UP YET!!

July 24 2008 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dennis S.

To its producers and directors, etc. Moonlight is just business. Fortunately, for us they created a clever show. Perhaps, in the fall when other shows begin to tank, it will look like a viable business option, again. It could have been more successful if it had been well promoted and the length of time extended. There aren't too many choices, now on CBS unless you still like the CSI clones or reality shows.

July 22 2008 at 11:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

MrRoarke, I am bashing Ms Tassler based on all the lies she is spouting based on her answers covering several shows. Joel Keller has a great interview with Drew Carey where he gets a quote from Drew that proves she is lying about TPIR. You can tell by her other answers that she is lying about almost everything else she is saying. I just think that the head of a major network should be an honest person and not lying all the time about everything.

July 21 2008 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You Tassler bashers really need to take the blue pill and wake up to the real world. Network programming is a business, not a charity. Moonlight was indeed a great show but even including DVR viewership and iTunes downloads, it was LOW-RATED. It found its audience but then didn't build on it. That's dangerous ground for any show.
If your flailing around for someone to blame, then I suggest you direct your ire more towards your fellow TV watchers who, it seems, are quite content to watch crime procedurals and reality shows en masse but not something a little edgier.

As to abandoning an entire network's scheduling over the cancellation of one show: please. If your really considering that then you deserve everything you get.

July 20 2008 at 11:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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