Winter TCA: CBS’ Nina Tassler on violence, ‘Two and a Half Men’

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With its top-rated slate of gritty law enforcement dramas, CBS entertainment President Nina Tassler took her turn defending the network’s schedule against rising concerns about the entertainment industry’s role in societal violence.

Like her network counterparts — Fox’s Kevin Reilly, NBC’s Bob Greenblatt and ABC’s Paul Lee — Tassler stood behind her programming even as greater scrutiny is aimed at television content in wake of the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut.

“I’m a parent, I’m a mother,” Tassler said Saturday at the winter TV press tour in Pasadena. “What happened has shaken me and all of us to our core.”


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The network, home to “CSI” and “Criminal Minds,” stands out in particular when compared with the other major networks as half its prime-time schedule are crime procedurals. (One of them is television’s top-ranked scripted drama, “NCIS.”)

Last week NBC’s Greenblatt took a swipe at “Criminal Minds,” arguing it contained more disturbing graphic violence than Showtime’s “Dexter,” a program about a serial killer of serial killers. (“Dexter” was one of Showtime’s most successful shows when Greenblatt previously headed the premium channel.) .

As pilot season gets underway, Tassler said there’s a new level of “awareness and sensitivity” in the selection process — but the main focus is on picking “the best material.”

“Ultimately, that’s still our decision [as parents]: what my child does or doesn’t watch,” Tassler said, adding that the network’s shows are appropriately graded.

Though it maintains its edge over the other networks in total viewers, CBS is down about 12% in the 18-49 demographic from a year ago — a double-digit dip seen across broadcast (except for “The Voice”; -fortunate NBC).


“We’re not a niche broadcaster,” said Tassler. “For us, it’s still about getting everybody. Our advertisers are very pleased with our 25-54 numbers.”

Tassler also said she was pleased to bestow the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot to its new drama “Elementary.” Tassler said she also strongly considered another freshman drama, “Vegas,” for the position, which traditionally provides a big ratings boost for the lucky program.

“Elementary” hasn’t exactly been a breakout — of the 14 million viewers it averages, only 59% are viewing live — but it’s still a strong performer for the network, and the heavily-watched lead-in could help it grow.

And despite Angus T. Jones’ recent rant urging viewers to stop watching his sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” Tassler said she’s optimistic about an 11th season of the multicam comedy. She expected Jones, the fractional character mentioned in the show’s title, to return.

“We’d like him to be a part of it,” Tassler said. “I think he would like to come back, too. He’s made a public apology. We’ve moved on.”

Tassler noted Ashton Kutcher has not been signed yet for another season.

A “Two and a Half Men” renewal would hardly be surprising given how it’s fared with its companion, “The Big Bang Theory,” in its new Thursday slot. “Big Bang” landed its biggest audience ever last week, bringing in nearly 20 million viewers.


Tassler credits syndication as a factor in the show’s strong performance.

“Obviously the success its having in syndication cycles back and gives us that bump,” Tassler said. “But it’s also a great show. “

As for the future of its other long-in-the-tooth sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” Tassler seems confident an official announcement of a Season 9 renewal is imminent.

“I will be very happy to report in a few days that things will be resolved,” she said. “We are very confident and excited that things will all work out. Almost everything is completed.”


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