TCA CBS Executive Session: Nina Tassler

CBS has what looks to be the strongest prime-time line-up with a deft combination of solid dramas, laugh-out loud sitcoms (including two-year-old The Big Bang Theory), quality non-scripted programming and, of course, granddaddy 60 Minutes. 

CBS has, in fact, led the season in total viewers for six out of the last seven seasons.  But the network could have architected a stronger fall 2009 line-up. Relocated How I Met Your Mother is not necessarily capable of anchoring Monday. Two back-to-back hours of NCIS might be one too many (NCIS: Los Angeles would have been a better option to solidify Thursday or Sunday).  And Three Rivers is my personal pick for the first cancellation of the season (a serious medical drama out of The Amazing Race on Sunday…not!).
In an opening session with Nina Tassler, the network president began by citing a rejuvenated David Letterman.  
“We feel that we are poised, ready to grow,” said Tassler.  “We’ve got the new shows coming in at 10 p.m., between Good Wife and The Mentalist moving to the hour on Thursday. It’s going to do well. It generates billions of dollars for us in revenue between foreign sales, syndication. The 10 p.m. hour is a great business, and it’s only going to boost Dave as well.”
Shifting to Friday at 9 p.m., current Canadian occupant Flashpoint will be back for at least nine more episodes, while NBC’s former Medium steps in.
“On behalf of the studio, I don’t think NBC really treated the show the way it should have been treated, where it was put on the schedule and how it was supported,” noted Tassler. “To get Emmy-winner Patricia Arquette on Friday night for us was a home run.”
CSI, the backbone of CBS’ Thursday line-up, meanwhile, has some plans to regain the lost audience.  
“We listened to viewers, we listened to research, we talked to producers, and what they wanted was to see the group back together,” said Tassler.  “The challenge was introducing Lawrence Fishburne in a way that, as an outsider coming in, he didn’t just sort of insert himself right from the start in an authoritative position; that he earns his way into a place of authority amongst the team. So there was a gradual introduction to the character. He was an outsider, but fans wanted to see him in a more take-charge capacity. You’re going to see all of that this season.”
To the masses wondering why still potent Without a Trace was canceled, according to Tassler:
“Every show has its own life cycle, and the decision to cancel it weighed against the new shows that we had out of development coming to the fall schedule this year.  We had a very strong development season. We have a very strong schedule. So it allowed us to make those tough decisions. But, obviously, we feel it was better to go out for the show — it was at a creative high point in its career versus then having any kind of downturn.  Regardless, it was a very tough decision.”
What Tassler failed to mention, of course, is that Without a Trace skews older, which is never a positive in this youth-driven business.  As to the question regarding Ben Silverman’s departure at NBC:
“Well, you know, I’m really just a “D girl.” So I won’t comment.” 
Nice comeback.