CBS's very successful block of Monday night comedies includes constant hook-ups ("How I Met Your Mother"), blurred male nudity ("Two and a Half Men,") and vagina jokes and ethnic caricatures ("2 Broke Girls") -- but none of them go too far, says CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler.
Still, she said, the network has talked to "2 Broke Girls" show runner Michael Patrick King about continuing to "dimensionalize" characters during diner scenes that sometimes play on ethnic stereotypes.
Tassler said at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Wednesday that the network doesn't worry that the shows -- which share Mondays with the double entendre-filled "Mike & Molly" -- may go too far.
"We don't bring people in for a mass meeting about that quality of the shows," she said. "Each show is separate unto itself. ... They're a little risqué, but the characters are, we like to think, they're living truthfully in their relative situations."
The Monday night block has been a runaway success this fall: "Two and a Half Men," already TV's biggest sitcom, has only gained in the ratings since replacing Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher, and "2 Broke Girls" is the biggest new show of the fall. The shows routinely beat those on other networks, and even their reruns have topped new episodes on other networks.
But critics sometimes complain about the lowbrow elements of CBS's Monday hits. Even Charlie Sheen, fired from "Men" last year, told reporters Sunday night that his new show, "Anger Management," won't feature the "dick jokes," "fart jokes" or "poo poo jokes" that pop up on "Men."
But Tassler said the shows are funny.
"Their dialogue is really landing with audiences," she said. "The shows are laugh-out-loud funny. ... I laugh out loud. It's not a snicker, it's not a chuckle. They're belly laughs."
"They push the envelope," she added, "but we're a broadcaster. Everything is still within the restraints of our standards and practices."
The "2 Broke Girls" leads, Kat Dennings and Beth Behr, play waitresses who interact with a multi-ethnic group of co-workers and customers at their Brooklyn diner, and the show sometimes tries to draw laughs from broad caricatures.
Tassler defended the diner scenes as an "equal opportunity offender," but said the show has asked King to add more dimension to the characters.
"Our dialogue with Michael is yes, continue to dimensionalize, continue to get more specific, continue to build them out," she said.
In a panel for "2 Broke Girls," however, King initially denied that Tassler had asked him to make characters more dimensional, before acknowledging that she had.
"You're asking me if I was asked by Nina to change the show to make the characters more dimensional? No. The characters are dimensional, and they're seen in segments of 21 minutes, which limits the amount of dimension you can see."
Questioned further, he later clarified: "Nina has always said dimensionalize the characters."
Demonstrating his fondness for ethnic stereotypes, he asked if your humble correspondent was Irish (Editor's note: Mostly, yes) -- and joked, "So we've identified your sexual problem." (Editor's note: No comment.)
He said his show was "a big, ballsy comedy, but it has a bigger heart than it has balls."
He defended the Asian character Han Lee, saying "I like Han, I like his character, I like that fact that he's an immigrant." He said the last three episodes of the show haven't made any Asian jokes, only short jokes.
"I'm gay. I'm putting in gay stereotypes every week. I find it comic to take everybody down."