Nina Tassler has seen the future of CBS — and it includes zombies, swingers and singing detectives.
After wrapping up another winning year with a sked built on procedural crime dramas, the Eye’s entertainment prexy is taking the network down a decidedly different development path this year. While there’s still plenty of meat and potatoes on the menu of 2007-08 pilots, Tassler is spicing things up by greenlighting more than a few curveballs.
There’s “Babylon Fields,” the Michael Cuesta-helmed hour with the aforementioned undead. “Viva Laughlin!” is a remake of the Blighty dramatic musical hit TV series “Viva Blackpool.” And “Swingtown” is a 1970s period piece about open marriages.
“Our procedurals perform well for us, but as we continue to grow and evolve, we want to add news styles, new sensibilities,” she says. “It’s key to develop a diverse schedule in order to stay No. 1.”
But rolling the dice on riskier fare is tough, especially given CBS’ continued success with down-the-middle programs. It’s hard to give a slow-starter like “Love Monkey” time to find an aud when a repeat of “CSI” will attract twice as many eyeballs.
But in the same way her predecessor (and current boss) Leslie Moonves slowly transformed CBS into a credible player in the demo derby, Tassler has already made subtle tweaks to the Eye’s programming formula.
“How I Met Your Mother,” for example, would seem to be a conventional sitcom, but its loopy plots and innovative filming style have allowed it to register on TV’s buzz-o-meter. And last fall, CBS found modest success in the world of serialized skeins with the apocalyptic themed “Jericho.”
“Without the nontraditional methods we used to promote ‘Jericho’ … we wouldn’t have been able to get the traction we did,” says Tassler, who says the promo push will continue.
“We’re trying to make a lot of noise this season and be successful in doing so,” Tassler says. “These are shows that we believe are going to get talked about … I think it’s our time.”