When you’re the number one network on TV, you can afford to be brutally honest and today CBS topper Les Moonves held nothing back during the first session of CBS’s turn at the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour.
Filling in for network head Nina Tassler, Moonves took center stage fielding questions from the media in attendance at the Beverly Hilton and touched on all topics including Cote de Pablo’s “NCIS” exit and the renewal of summer hit “Under The Dome.”
With almost 18 million people tuning into the first episode of the drama based on Stephen King’s best-selling book, “Dome” defied the usual approach taken by the Tiffany network in recent years. No longer content to coast on reruns and “Big Brother,” CBS took a risk by green-lighting the series and was rewarded in kind. King, who has been a huge supporter of the project, will also pen the show’s second season premiere.
The network will also (wisely) resist the temptation to pull the series out of the summer and keep “Dome” in it’s out-of-season timeframe in 2014, which has so far been a successful strategy for rival networks including ABC with their summer staple “Rookie Blue.”
Although it wasn’t all about receiving kudos for “Dome’s” success as Moonves was also peppered with questions about ratings juggernaut “NCIS,” which recently stunned critics and viewers with the revelation fan favorite Cote de Pablo would NOT be coming back for the show’s eleventh season. Moonves quickly tried to dispel any rumors that de Pablo’s exit was based on network frugality by telling reporters they did everything they could to keep her on TV’s number one show.
“We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money — and then we offered even more money. We didn’t want to lose her.”
Still de Pablo is a class act and will return to the show for one episode to wrap up her character’s story and knowing the talented creative minds behind the hit show, they will no doubt craft an equally classy exit for the actress who many hope decides to return in the future.
Speaking of “Big Brother,” Moonves also touched on this season’s controversial cast who has made some very inappropriate and racist comments over the show’s first half. Moonves said he found the many of the remarks “absolutely appalling” and he believes the network has handled things “appropriately” thus far. Of course he has a firsthand knowledge of all things “Big Brother” given that aside from being the head of the company, his wife (the equally charming Julie Chen) hosts the competition.
Other highlights from today’s panels include:
-In order to give Robin Williams’ “The Crazy Ones” even more of a jump start and a leg up over NBC’s debut of “The Michael J. Fox Show,” CBS will air back-to-back episodes of comedy sensation “The Big Bang Theory” prior to it premiere and bump the debut of Will Arnett’s “The Millers” to the following week.
-While it make seem like McDonald’s paid a lot of money to get their brand into “The Crazy One’s” pilot, no dollars actually exchanged hands and producers will employ a similar approach all season long with other companies before trying to monetize a potential sophomore run.
-“Hostages” is not a mini-series, despite what looks like a hard to sustain plot. The Jerry Bruckheimer backed drama that many are calling a “NBC show in a CBS clothing,” is hoping to be around past its first 15 episodes and executives believe it could go for two or more seasons. Producers also revealed Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio will join the show, replacing Kate Burton, as First Lady to the show’s fictional President played by James Naughton.
-CBS’ guest star pool will swell even more during the 2013-2014 season as the network confirmed a number of big names will drop by including Tim Daly (“Hawaii Five-0”), Justin Long (“Mom”), Octavia Spencer (“Mom”) and Carrie Preston (“The Good Wife”) who was just nominated for a Emmy for role on the legal drama.
-Network numbers guru David Poltrack made the surprising remark that the coveted 18-49 demographic (which decides the fate of a number of shows) may actually be declining in value. “I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of big advertisers care about far more than that audience and are in fact no longer looking at age and gender alone,” said the respected ratings executive. Poltrack cited part of the decline coming from the younger audiences ending up back under the roof of the parents making them of “limited interest” to advertisers.