It’s CBS’ day Wednesday at the Television Critics Association semi-annual press tour in Beverly Hills, but the specter of Steve McPherson’s departure from ABC looms large.
Summing up her reaction to her rival colleague's departure, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler quipped, “Damn, Steve got out of press tour.”
Alas, addressing critics in the morning executive session, Tassler could not avoid this task, covering a range of programming topics including everything from contract negotiations on “The Big Bang Theory” to the dark dramatic tones of the network’s new “Hawaii Five-O” reboot to the advertiser acceptance of Twitter-inspired comedy “$#*! My Dad Says.”
Among critics questions lobbed at Tassler was why the new “Five-O” is so, well, dark, and not more lightly themed like, say, “Magnum, P.I.”
“Yes, it is a crime drama set in Hawaii,” she conceded. “But I beg to differ with the assessment that it’s dark. It’s got great action, and great characters that pop."
Besides, she added, the new “Hawaii Five-O” will be running Mondays at 10 p.m. starting in the fall, which is traditionally a slot for CBS’ serious-as-murder procedurals.
What about “The Big Bang Theory”? Has the network got a handle on talent negotiations for its hottest comedy?
“We’re feeling good about that -- things will work out,” Tassler said, while reiterating that the network continues to enjoy a “great partnership” with “Big Bang” producer Warner Bros. Television.
Asked by a blunt TV journo about the network's upcoming Twitter-feed-based comedy starring William Shatner, which he termed “Feces My Dad Said,” Tassler said that despite the potty talk in the title, the network is receiving little blowback from advertisers.
“We haven’t really gotten a lot of push-back yet,” she noted. "There's just been a lot of buzz for this show."
How about the late recasting following "Dad's" pilot pick-up?
“We have to remember that ‘Big Bang’ was recast and ‘Numbers’ was recast,” she responded.
Of course, as has become ritual of late, Tassler fielded questions about longtime lynchpin comedy “Two and a Half Men,” and its viability given star Charlie Sheen’s personal drama.
“We’ve been given no indication from Warner Bros. that there will be any interruption to the delivery of production,” Tassler said.
As for the network’s new daytime ensemble talkshow from executive producer/co-host Sara Gilbert, Tassler remarked on the timing of launching such a show into a daypart that soon will lack Oprah Winfrey.
“We have an opportunity to launch a new talk show right now that’s topical and relevant,” she said. “And it’s a good opportunity.”
Of course, she had to address the elephant in the room: "The View"-style gab show, which will slot into canceled soap "One Life to Live's" "As the World Turns'" old time period, features as co-host Julie Chen, wife of Tassler's boss, CBS Corp. chief Les Moonves.
"I made the decision, and I don’t think Leslie is unhappy with the decision," she said.
Tassler also said the network iss responding to its recent "failing" rating from GLAAD for its inclusion of gay characters. There were gay characters "in a pilot that we shot this season, and a couple of shows that we had in development that didn't get picked up," she said.
Overall, she added, "We're very disappointed with our track record on this so far. We're not happy with ourselves."
Tassler said there will be gay characters added to the CBS schedule this fall. For example, viewers will be introduced to the gay brother of Julianna Margulies' character on "The Good Wife," and there will be a recurring gay character on "$#*! My Dad Says."
(GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios issued the following statement Wednesday: “It is encouraging that CBS shares our disappointment in the network’s lack of gay and transgender representation and we are hopeful that the new characters will help build awareness and understanding of our community among viewers. After two years of receiving a ‘failing’ grade and a commitment last year to be more inclusive, we hope that CBS President Nina Tassler makes true on this promise to bring the network more in line with the industry standard.")