July 19, 2008

CBS Wins Fall Season Race With Four Shows Debuting

By Tom Maurstad, The Dallas Morning News

Jul. 19--BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- In a case where quantity trumps quality, CBS has, at least in one way, already won the fall season race before it has even started by managing to muster one. At a press tour where the standard post-strike approach taken by most of its competitors has been to introduce a couple of new shows and talk about what an exciting opportunity it is to reintroduce last fall's shows again, CBS is debuting four shows -- two comedies, Worst Week and The Ex List, and two dramas, Eleventh Hour and The Mentalist.

What fate awaits them or whether any of them will actually be any good is another matter, but there's something to be said just for getting them on the air this fall rather than delaying their debuts to what has now become the default, post-strike pilot season, which is January or the even more vaguely delayed release of "sometime this spring."

How did CBS do it?

"The strike was a tough time for everybody," said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment. "But we felt it was really important to get viewers back, win back their hearts and trust, and we approached that challenge in a very strategic, methodical way.

"That meant we had to have a pilot season and develop new content that viewers could look forward to. To build viewers' anticipation of your new fall season, you have to first have a new fall season."

Looking ahead

Nothing to report: At a panel of CBS News personalities -- Bob Schieffer, Jeff Greenfield, Katie Couric -- and Sean McManus, president of news and sports, the question of Ms. Couric's future as anchor of the network's evening news was asked, repeatedly. And again and again, both Ms. Couric and Mr. McManus reported that there was no news to report. "All the speculation is befuddling to me," Ms. Couric said. "At least it's died down considerably."

Calling Nurse Jackie: Showtime has signed Edie Falco to star in a new 30-minute comedy series, Nurse Jackie. On the surface, it looks to be a female version of House -- she's smart, dark and drug-addicted. But this being Showtime and premium cable, count on more "edgy" content (that is, R-rated), and executives involved promised that the show would be more about her personal life than a week-to-week medical procedural.

Swinging away: Ms. Tassler said she is "very proud" of Swingtown, which is centered on wife-swapping couples in the '70s, and loves the show. As to whether it will be back, "We wish the rating were better but right now we're behind it."

Very special guests: Jason Alexander and Luke Perry will make guest appearances on the upcoming season of Criminal Minds. LOG ON for more.

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