As part of the CBS portion of the TCA Press Tour, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler took some time to talk about both new and returning comedies and dramas from their line-up of shows. During the interview, she spoke about the likelihood of a ninth season for How I Met Your Mother, why CSI: Miami was cancelled, the appeal of Elementary and the decision to have a female Watson, why they chose to bring Unforgettable back after canceling it, and what drew them to Vegas. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: There’s already been talk about How I Met Your Mother being extended for a ninth season. What discussions have you had with them about what an extra season would do for the show, creatively?
NINA TASSLER: Well, they had an incredible year, last year. We’ve got a great relationship with (show 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. So, we’re not planning it right now, but we want the show to come back next year. We’re not there yet, in terms of resolving the season. We’re in early conversations, and we’re pretty optimistic.
When the decision was being made about which parts of the CSI franchise to keep, how did you ultimately decide to cancel CSI: Miami?
TASSLER: Well, first of all, saying goodbye to a CSI this year was a very big deal. That show has been extraordinarily successful for us. I personally have a great deal of affection and connection to the show, having bought the first CSI, so it was a difficult decision. We looked at the flow on Friday night for CSI: New York versus CSI: Miami, and it was a very tough choice. But, it really just had to do with the schedule.
TASSLER: Well, first of all, we had very strong comedy development, so we had some very difficult choices to make. The idea of moving Two and a Half Men to Thursday was a strategic move. When you’ve got the hottest comedy on the air at 8 o’clock, it’s smart to put a very top-rated comedy behind it. It gives Thursday night a whole new boost. So, for us, it was strategic, and it was a smart move. We’re excited by the performance of Two and a Half Men last year, and we’re looking forward to a good, strong year, going into the season.
How did Elementary come to you, and why set it in present-day New York with a female Watson?
TASSLER: Well, 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. We’re big fans of the show on BBC, and some of the greatest actors in film and television have done this character, from Basil Rathbone to Nicol Williamson to Michael Caine. (Executive producer) Rob Doherty came in with the pitch last season, it was immediately a show that we gravitated towards. So many of the great detectives that we see on television now owe their origins to Sherlock Holmes. What was very exciting about Rob’s pitch and script was that he is a real Holmes-ian expert. He knew all of the mythology. He was very well-versed in the genesis of Holmes and the stories. And the twist with Watson is something we jumped at immediately. It’s a very forward-thinking way of doing the show. Rob Doherty has been a real superstar for us The Mentalist for years. He is an extremely talented writer, and he just tapped into the DNA of this character in a way that we’d not heard before. So, from the moment it walked in the door, and then we read the script, it was a definite player for us.
TASSLER: Well, we didn’t come up with it. Rob Doherty came in and pitched it. He came in from the studio, and we’re the network. I had no conversations with the studio about it, until they walked in with the pitch. The show was out there. People were watching it. People were going to the movies. People are reading the books. People have watched so many great actors, over the course of film and television history, play that role. He’s iconic.
Do you think that the way that Steven Moffat does it in the UK would work on your network?
TASSLER: Maybe. I think their version is extraordinary. It’s a wonderful show, and we’ve seen all of them. Theirs is very different from ours. But, I think there’s plenty of room for another Holmes in our world.
Why did you have second thoughts and decide to bring Unforgettable back?
TASSLER: You know what, it was a really tough decision. There was only one other show more highly rated that Unforgettable, at the time, which was Castle. We had a very strong schedule. We had very strong pilots, going in. We had very strong research on the show, so we did not want to let it go. We saw this as a window of opportunity to put the show on for next season, and we jumped at it.
What made you decide to go with Vegas?
TASSLER: Well, didn’t actually hear a regular pitch. We were given what Nick Pileggi called a script-ment, which was a script with a lot of the narrative and snippets of dialogue. So, you really got a sense and had a chance to see how the mechanics of the show worked. For us, the fact that it was set in the ‘60s was secondary to the extraordinary character of Ralph Lamb. There’s a franchise built into the show. We also actually approached Nick Pileggi, Greg Walker and Jim Mangold, and the rest of the producers about bumping up the Vinnie Savino mob character, played by Michael Chiklis. When we saw the script, it was really solely Ralph Lamb, and we if it could be this iconic story of Ralph Lamb, but introducing his battles, and his relationship with the encroaching mob presence in Las Vegas. So, the fact that it was set in the ‘60s certainly informed the show, but it’s not about the ‘60s, per se. 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.