Exec wins big with 'Mentalist,' 'Big Bang Theory'
If being juicy blog fodder or greenlighting shows sure to set off media firestorms are au courant criteria for successful TV execs, cross Nina Tassler off the list.
As president of CBS Entertainment, Tassler — very much like the network she’s worked at since 1997 — is a monument of understated consistency. By quietly giving audiences what they desire in all genres of programming, Tassler has delivered a cascade of ratings champs.
“Our goal is to produce hit television,” Tassler says. “The infrastructure and relationships within the company help us achieve those goals.”
Last season, Tassler and her Eye team made freshman series “The Mentalist” the most-watched new show of the year with 17.5 million viewers.
Yet while launching a new show in a competitive environment is impressive, just as difficult — possibly even more so — is increasing viewership for an existing program and creating buzz that didn’t exist initially. She pulled off that feat for “The Big Bang Theory,” which gained more than a million viewers per episode for the second season.
“The success of ‘Big Bang’ goes to our relationships with showrunners, and (co-creator) Chuck (Lorre) is as straightforward as they come,” says Tassler of the exec producer of both “Big Bang” and sitcom ratings champ “Two and a Half Men.”
Tassler realizes that CBS has made its mark with crime procedurals — including “CSI,” “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds” — and has achieved mixed results going outside its comfort zone. So while “Swingtown” received critical acclaim but suffered from viewer apathy, Tassler isn’t afraid to bring more personal stories to the forefront, specifically with this season’s “The Good Wife.”
Observes Tassler: “You have to swing for the fences, and this has elements of a show that’s traditional for us. To me, however, this is an evolution.”
IN A NUTSHELL
Job title: CBS Entertainment prexy
Mentor: Leslie Moonves
Career mantra: “Just sell your fish. … At the end of the day it’s all about hard work and family.”
Leisure pursuits: “Spending time at the beach and doing jigsaw puzzles. We also watch a lot of movies.”
Philanthropic passions: “Working with the Jewish Foundation and food banks, which are tapped out right now and we’re trying to raise to proper levels.”