TV-Movie Madness CBS will battle Desperate Housewives with edgier fare
Spring Break Shark Attack
How do you take on a hot show like Desperate Housewives
? With some vampire bats, a time bomb and a serial killer, of course. And if those don’t do the job, there’s always a "superstorm" to destroy the world.
Welcome to the new CBS Sunday Movie, long the network-TV home for the tearjerker or spiritually uplifting Hallmark Hall of Fame film. A steady diet of those movies simply isn’t doing the job to attract younger viewers away from ABC’s Sunday lineup. CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday that it’s time to change course with more B-movie-esque thrillers.
"We know we’re up against a juggernaut on Sunday nights," she said. "As a result, we’re trying some high-concept and popcorn movies to go along with our traditional female films and star-driven vehicles. You’ll also see a somewhat different scheduling strategy."
In other words, Tassler will put those movies on in the fall, when CBS can promote them to male viewers who watch football on Sunday afternoons. The films include Mayday, about an airliner that gets hit by a Navy test missile; and Time Bomb, which spins the tale of a homeland-security threat during a football game (the officials at the NFL should love the promos for that one). You loved Lucy Lawless in last season’s Locusts. This fall she’s back in Vampire Bats. Category 7: The End of the World, from the makers of last year’s Category 6: Day of Destruction — which leaves only Categories 1 through 5 for prequels. And let’s not forget The Hunt for the BTK Strangler, about serial killer Dennis Rader, who had a 31-year run in Wichita, Kans. If you listened to his recent courtroom confessions, you know this is a script that writes itself. The role of Rader hasn’t been cast yet.
CBS started the B-movie strategy last season with Locusts, Category 6 and Spring Break Shark Attack. They all did much better with younger viewers than that movie about Morton Kondracke’s dying wife. Tassler said CBS won’t be abandoning the softer movies and promised a mix: "It’s a little something for everybody," she said.
Critics, of course, hate these movies. But Tassler doesn’t care, because viewers like ’em.
"These movies are fun," she said. "They do very well for us in the (younger) demo."
Meanwhile, the TV critics who met with Tassler couldn’t seem to comprehend how Everybody Hates Chris, widely considered the best of the new comedies coming up this fall, ended up on CBS’ corporate cousin UPN. In fact, they seemed obsessed with the idea that if it becomes a big hit, it will end up on the bigger network.
"I wish we did have it," Tassler said.
After Tassler’s session, the Biz asked around to see if we were missing something. Could Chris ever move to CBS? No, we were told. If Chris is a hit, it could make a lot more money on CBS. But then what would be the point of having UPN?
"If you did that, you might as well shut down UPN," one insider told us.