CBS Boss Downplays Controversies on 2 Broke Girls, Talk and Person of Interest
"We had an amazing year, a phenomenal year," CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter TV previews Wednesday.
But despite the network's success — it is No. 1 in both total viewers and in the adults 18-49 demographic through the first half of the season and successfully relaunched Two and a Half Men — CBS has created a bit of controversy with shows including 2 Broke Girls and The Talk.
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The biggest critical complaint about breakout hit comedy 2 Broke Girls is the show's sometimes offensive humor and its broad racial stereotyping of the characters Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) work with at the diner. Tassler chalked up the outcry to the newness of the show.
"Like any of our new shows, you do take a step back and you let them find their way," Tassler said. "All of our big hits... when they first started, you have multiple characters to service. You want to make sure the audience has time to get the concept, get the emotional arc and really engage with the relationships. And then over time you build out and dimensionalize the other supporting characters. "
Tassler added that no one demographic is being picked on. "[The show] is an equal-opportunity offender. Everybody gets digs," Tassler said. "Our comments and dialogue with [creator Michael Patrick King], is, yes, continue to dimensionalize, continue to get more specific, continue to build [the characters] out. Our track record shows we know how to build comedy hits... and we'll continue to do that with 2 Broke Girls."
Tassler was also asked about the changed lineup on the panel of The Talk, which did not bring original co-hosts Holly Robinson Peete and Leah Remini back for a second season. Tassler did not address specifics of the decision, but compared it to changing the cast on any scripted show. "Any show in its first season goes through multiple changes," Tassler said. "Ultimately, we were looking at a dynamic, for a quality in the relationship and a quality in the commentary. The content of the show has changed and the audience is responding to that," Tassler continued. "The most important thing is the content. It's important that your topics are relevant and that the discussion stays spirited and that there is great chemistry between your hosts."
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Finally, Tassler addressed Taraji P. Henson's role on Person of Interest, which Tassler said the network felt was originally too peripheral in the overall story of the show. "We asked if [the producers] were open to bringing Carter into the superhero cave, if you will," Tassler said. "It was a plan they had in place, but more toward the end of the season. We asked them if they were open to moving that up. We felt that was really a key ingredient to letting the show build and expand. Between the brains of Finch and the brawn of Reese, we feel the Carter character adds the heart element. Creatively, they've got the right dynamic in place and we have high hopes for the show."
A few other highlights from Tassler's executive session:
The Good Wife is in a good place on Sundays. "The show feels like a better fit on Sunday night," Tassler said. "We're thrilled with the critical response and the awards and the attention the show gets. More importantly, the audience that does watch the show is very upscale, very female and they're very engaged. We feel it was a very good move."
How does NCIS, now in its ninth season, remain such a ratings powerhouse? "It continues to evolve," Tassler said. "I don't think a show ever takes itself for granted. These are people who come to work extremely committed. I feel like they have really achieved a great balance in tone [and] style. Having a show that is mature and continues to build audience even in its later years is a testament to the writing of the show. They give the fans what they want."
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What was that we heard about a new cop drama called NYC 22? Never fear, Tassler said the show is still coming, but not until late spring. "Part of the reason it's later in the season is we had a very successful fall," Tassler said. "As audiences continue to grow for the shows we launched this fall, we want to make sure we fortify the audience. [We want] to make sure we continue to support the new shows and then give its own very special launch later in the spring, using basketball as a platform to launch it."
Can any show find success in the post-Big Bang Theory timeslot? Despite the problems both $#*! My Dad Says and How to Be a Gentleman have had in that slot, Tassler remains committed to finding a compatible show. "Big Bang is a monster hit," she said. "When you're following a show that has that loyal a following and ratings as large as Big Bang has, it may take time to find its right companion. We're dedicated to doing it and we'll get there eventually."
Would CBS dip its toes into the musical waters? Based on the success of Glee and NBC's launching of Smash, is CBS interesting in bringing some singing and dancing to its air? "Looking into development for us into the fall, we've got some really unique, clever ideas — some with music, some not," Tassler said, noting her love of musical theater. "But what's most important is ... as networks we continue to explore, expand and try new things but always be very respectful of audience and keep our focus on making sure we fortify the existing hits and create new hits each season."