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Press Tour: CBS highlights -- 'Three Rivers,' Sheldon's sexuality and more
CBS TCA panels also include NBC slamming and news on the fate of 'Numb3rs'
One of these days, CBS is going to cease to be TV's most watched network. One of these press tours, it will be CBS that's battling disaster, scandal, embarrassment and upheaval. When that day comes, CBS can look forward to its Television Critics press tour panels being the ones reporters eagerly awaits. Until then, CBS continues to mostly cruise along and reporters mostly prefer to sharpen their claws for NBC or occasionally FOX.
This January's press tour had its first full day on Saturday (Jan. 9) with CBS leading things off by celebrating another strong fall, segueing into a panel for "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory," TV's two most popular comedies. Even if "Undercover Boss" and "Miami Trauma" stirred either minor ethical questions or polite disinterest, there was little anger or buzz. Probably' that's exactly the way CBS wants it.
So what were the highlights of CBS' morning? After the break!
Jay Leno/ NBC slamming.
CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler knew the questions about NBC's Jay Leno failures were inevitable. So she had a good answer.
"You know, I think ultimately, there is no substitute for developing great shows, working with great talent, and getting your program on the air," Tassler said. "As I said, 10 o'clock is a great business for us, and the unfortunate thing is that our creative community was to some degree somewhat bruised by this. I think that the talent as this was taking place, a lot of people were put out of work. A lot of people really saw this as having a pretty negative impact on our business. But I think right now for us, it just allowed us to get a bigger piece of the ad revenue pie at 10 o'clock, and again, what I have the most trouble with is for their company, their decision to do what they did, to sort of turn that and say that this is a reflection on the whole network business, I think is misguided. Our business is thriving right now. We are enjoying success with new hit shows, as is ABC, as is FOX. So I think at the end of the day, it was an experiment that obviously did not work, but for us, like I said, there's no substitute for just developing and producing and launching great shows."
The fate of "Three Rivers."
The Alex O'Loughlin transplant drama was obviously cancelled. We all knew it, but the last CBS had said, it had merely been pulled from the schedule and put on hiatus. In this instance, Tassler left little doubt.
"We've all known each other long enough to say when something's on hiatus, it's code for something else," she said.
But Tassler added, "The reality is we are very proud of that show, and it's not too often that you get mail that lets you know as a network that eight lives were saved as a result of the organ donation that people became aware of because of that show. Every show takes its time in finding its legs. Some shows take longer than others. But I think that at the end of the day, knowing the fact that that show was on the air and had that kind of impact is pretty extraordinary."
The fate of "Numb3rs" and "Medium"
The long-running mathematical procedural "Numb3rs" had its episode order cut and had its finale pushed up for the premiere of "Miami Medical," prompting articles about its demise. Not so fast.
"'Numb3rs' is considered for next year. We just had to cut back on the number of episodes because we had to make way to get 'Miami Medical' on the air. If you look across the board, we are changing things up a little bit. The conventional 22-episode order, I'm not saying we don't have that on most of the shows, but as I said, we have a high-class problem. We had to get 'Rules' on the air. We had to get 'Miami Medical' on the air, so we're able to juggle some of the order numbers. But 'Numb3rs' is absolutely in consideration for next year."
Tassler later said that the same is true of "Medium," which hasn't set Friday nights on fire since moving over from NBC.
"Undercover Boss" has changed nothing.
One of the things that annoyed this writer about CBS' post-Super Bowl series "Undercover Boss" is that the show appeared to only benefit the five people the eponymous undercover boss met in his experiences going undercover with the plebes. So I started the session by putting Waste Management COO Larry O'Donnell III what tangible corporate policies he'd put into effect since this experience, what actual changes he'd made that he could point to.
"Sure. I'd be happy to," he said. "One of the main reasons I did this was it gave me an opportunity to get out and learn exactly what some of the issues were out in the field. I spend close to 200 days a year out visiting our field operations, but it's a different engagement level — when I go out as president, that's a different engagement than when I can go out as a brand-new employee in our company, and I learned an awful lot. I went out there to learn. I went out there to engage our game employees, and I also went out there so that our customers could really see what our company was all about, what tough jobs our employees do. Some of the things that I took back, some of the learnings — there were a number..."
He talked for another five minutes then and many minutes later, but failed to say a single company-wide change that he'd made after being enlightened on a CBS reality show. But he *did* have his heart warmed by five employees. So there's there.
Fans love Jim Parsons' Sheldon on CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" and they love the dynamic between Sheldon and Kaley Cuoco's Penny. Some fans, in fact, have decided that Sheldon and Penny are a love match. I asked Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre if this kind of 'shipping concerned them at all.
"No, but part of his character, which I think is wonderful and unique, is he has chosen not to play in the relationship game either way, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, any sexuality," Lorre said. "He has said, 'This is not for me. I'm a scientist. All I'm interested in is science and what George Lucas does.' And that's — I think it's terrific that we've stumbled into creating a character who has chosen a lifestyle for himself that's unique. And I don't see any reason to modify it."
As frequently happens, the question came up about whether or not Sheldon has Aspergers, an autism spectrum disorder.
Lorre's answer, as ever, was "Ee chose not to diagnose Sheldon."
Anyway, stay tuned for tomorrow when NBC is sure to offer more fireworks. It's what the Peacock does instead of winning primetime.