CBS President Nina Tassler said she is definitely worried about Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen.
The personal life of Sheen, currently television's highest-paid actor, has long been a source of controversy, and in recent months he's appeared in the tabloid headlines almost non-stop. Police officers were called to Sheen's allegedly destroyed New York hotel room last October, he's filed for divorce with his wife Brooke Mueller, and last weekend he reportedly went on a bender with multiple escorts.
Poll: How long should CBS continue to stand behind Charlie Sheen?
"Well, I really didn't expect that question this morning. I'm really taken by surprise," Tassler deadpanned at the Television Critics Associaton winter previews Friday. But Tassler then turned sincere.
"I personally have thought a lot about this. And we have a high level of concern. How could we not?" she said. "I am, on a very basic human level, concerned. This man is a father. He's got children; he has a family.
"He certainly knows how we feel," she added. "He knows the level of concern we have."
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Tassler said the situation is much trickier when viewed from a business perspective. "You can't look at it simplistically," she said. "Charlie is a professional. He comes to work; he does his job extremely well. It's very complicated."
"We have a very good relationship with Warner Bros. [the studio that produces Two and a Half Men] and have tremendous trust and respect with the way they're managing the situation," she continued. "The show's a hit. ... Right now, the show is successful as it always is. People are doing their jobs, and things are continuing as planned."
Other topics Tassler addressed during the session:
On Big Bang Theory going head-to-head with American Idol: Idol is a "force of nature," Tassler said, adding she is optimistic about Big Bang's chances. "We're not worried," she said. "Big Bang is a superstar. It has a very loyal audience. We know we have the audience there. ... There are enough eyeballs to go around."
On Criminal Minds' cast shake-up: A.J. Cook's departure from the show wasn't' strictly a budgetary issue. "It is the nature of the ... creative evolution of any show," Tassler said, also noting that launching the spin-off gave the network cause to reexamine the dynamics of the original show's team. As for Paget Brewster, who has the option to leave the series at the end of this season, Tassler said CBS hopes Brewster remains with the cast.
On Mark Harmon's future on NCIS: The veteran procedural's record ratings earlier this week are a double-edged sword when the time comes to negotiate with talent, Tassler said. "It's kind of the nature of the business. You become a victim of your own success," she said. But Tassler believes Harmon will be back. "Contracts will come up, they get renegotiated, and those deals get closed," she said. "We are very confident that Mark will continue on with the show. He's very happy and we are thrilled to have him."
On $#*! My Dad Says' creative growth: CBS is pleased with how the show has developed in its freshman season. "It's growing. They're making creative changes," Tassler said. "I think we still have a ways to go, but [with] any show in its first year, you're always making creative adjustments." The executive did not elaborate on any plans for the show to continue beyond this season. "We are excited by some of the stuff they have done," she said. "Everything is up for grabs in May."
On the network's reliance on procedural series: Tassler said cop and legal dramas have always been a part of network television's DNA, but that audiences look deeper than the basic premises. "Those are really just kicking off points to your storytelling. After people watch an episode... they're not necessarily talking about, 'Wow, that was a great legal case.' Ultimately, they are coming back for the characters," she said.
Addressing comments that non-procedural dramas shows don't work on CBS, Tassler said that the network is continuously looking to experiment. "We happen to do [procedurals] very well, and they happen to be very successful," she said. "But I think we continue to try new things. ... We always do. Some work, some don't. But it doesn't mean we will only limit ourselves to crime and punishment. ... I wouldn't say that shows didn't work because it was not a crime show."
On Blue Bloods' Wednesday-night tryout: Tassler said CBS is thrilled with the freshman drama's performance on Friday nights thus far, and they simply are using Wednesdays as a temporary testing ground. "We wanted to take a look at it on Wednesday. That's one of the opportunities we have available to us coming out of an extremely successful fall," she said. "You can move some pieces around and see how things work. It gives us a chance to take a look at something in ... a low-risk situation and explore the upside."
On the aging CSI franchise: Don't send CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY to the TV graveyard just yet. Tassler heaped praise on the two spin-offs. "Both shows are doing incredibly well in their new time periods," she said. "The audience loves watching how a case is solved. As long as those shows continue to be competitive, and as long as fans continue to watch the shows, they're going to stay on the air."
On more Flashpoint: "That show has done very well for us It's a real utility player," Tassler said of the Canadian import. She said the network is likely to air six more episodes this summer and has the option to order more.