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CBS’s Nina Tassler Promises Late Night Surprises, Defends Pilot Season’s ‘Creative Adrenaline’

TCA 2014: Defense comes after Fox bails on pilot season

CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler promised late-night surprises to counter NBC’s “Tonight Show” changeover, and said CBS believes in pilot season because of the “creative adrenaline” it inspires.

She spoke two days after Fox announced that it was abandoning pilot season because it is antiquated and hurts the quality of shows.

Also read: Fox Bypassing Pilot Season, Says It’s a Relic

Tassler also said CBS is renewing its entire daytime lineup, and that “Dovekeepers,” a four-hour miniseries from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey based on Alice Hoffman’s historical novel, will air in 2015. She spoke at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Tassler was asked how CBS plans to hold viewers’ attention while NBC is on display because of Jimmy Fallon‘s assumption of “Tonight” from Jay Leno. She said the network has big plans involving promotions and special guests.

Also read: ‘Under the Dome,’ ‘Extant’ Get Premiere Dates From CBS

“There are a lot of surprises in store,” she said.

Tassler said she understood Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly’s decision to abandon pilot season. But she said CBS would stick with it because it inspires “creative adrenaline” and has yielded hits like “C.S.I.” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

“Pilot season isn’t perfect,” she said. “But it’s also exciting.”

Also read: Kathy Bates to Guest Star on CBS’ ‘Mike & Molly’

The traditional pilot season requires Hollywood’s TV writers to pitch their scripts at the same time of year. Networks order scripts in the winter, shows quickly cast actors, and then networks decide in a crunch in May what shows will air the following season. Tassler said that process, stressful as it is, also creates a helpful “sense of urgency.”