CBS at TCA press tour: ‘We’re No. 1!’

Jonny Lee Miller stars as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson on the new CBS series "Elementary."

As head of the top-rated broadcast network, Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, didn’t have many announcements to make when addressing journalists at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, other than one clear message: The network is on top, and plans to stay there.

“We’re No. 1 in viewers.  We’re No. 1 in upfront revenue.  We’re No. 1 in Emmy nominations,” Tassler said. “Good performance, good business, and outstanding quality on the screen. I’m really proud of the environment we’ve created for launching and sustaining hit shows, from development, to scheduling, to marketing, to current programming,” she added.

In a “not broke, not gonna fix it” move, the CBS slate this fall includes just four new series: “Elementary,” a modern take on Sherlock Holmes; “Vegas,” about the politics and crime that shaped the Strip in the 1960s; “Made in Jersey,” a crime procedural following a Jersey girl working her way up at a high-end Manhattan law firm; and the buddy comedy “Partners.”

Regarding the pickup of “Elementary” at a time when there are many other versions of Sherlock Holmes on the pop culture scene (the BBC series “Sherlock” and the “Sherlock Holmes” movie franchise included), Tassler said, “when you have an opportunity to build a show around one of the greatest detectives in all of literature, you’re going to jump at that opportunity.” She called the BBC series, which airs on PBS in the States, “extraordinary,” and is confident “there’s plenty of room for another Holmes in our world.”

When questioned about “Vegas” and the recent failure of other period dramas on broadcast networks (“The Playboy Club,” “Pan Am”) Tassler insisted her ’60s-set series goes beyond a nostalgia factor. It is foremost about the fascinating character of real-life Sheriff Ralph Lamb, who fought to bring order to the mob-run casino scene, she said.

“The fact that it was set in the ’60s certainly informed the show, but it’s not about the ’60s, per se,” Tassler said. “It’s about these two forces that were battling for the heart and soul of Las Vegas at a very key moment in the history of the city.”

Most questions posed to the CBS exec, however, involved returning series.

On renewing “How I Met Your Mother” and allowing the creators to tell the entire story:

“Well, they had an incredible year last year. We’ve got a great relationship with [creators] Craig [Thomas] and Carter [Bays], and certainly they have a very strategic wrap up to the show. They know we want the show to come back next year. We are having conversations right now about extending it. We want the show to come back next year.”

On football games running late and pushing back the start time of scripted series such as “The Good Wife”:
“One of the things we’ve done going into this season, we’re developing new SMS texting technology to make sure our audience knows that the show is going to be delayed. Between texting, between online notification, between Facebook technology, I mean, literally, we do everything possible, and will continue to do everything, to make sure that the audience knows that the show will be on later as a result of [football].”

On cancelling “CSI: Miami” …

“Saying goodbye to a ‘CSI’ this year was — it was a very big deal. That show has been extraordinarily successful for us. So it was a difficult decision. What we looked at — it was a jump ball. What we looked at was Friday night versus Sunday night. We looked at the flow on Friday night for ‘New York’ versus ‘Miami.’ So it was a very tough choice. But as I said, it was really a jump ball and just had to do with the schedule.”

… And changes to “CSI: New York”:

“We’ve added Natalie Martinez to the cast. The show has, as I said, a lot more humor and a lot more New York, fun, event type stories.”


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