Eye prexy holds sked steady despite cast changes
High-profile cast changes to “Two and a Half Men” and “CSI” won’t destabilize CBS’ schedule, entertainment president Nina Tassler assured the TCA press tour on Wednesday.Risky as the respective hires of Ashton Kutcher and Ted Danson might seem, she said there are positives to shaking up a show. “The addition of a new cast member can bring about new opportunity to reveal to a whole new audience elements about the existing cast,” said Tassler, who also noted that media attention can bring fresh eyes to overlooked veteran series. She was effusive in her praise of Kutcher, who she revealed will play a broken-hearted Internet billionaire named Walden Schmidt. “He is a professional, funny, gifted actor who comes with a tremendous amount of commitment and enthusiasm,” she said. Tassler didn’t elaborate much on the disruption caused by the departure of “Men” star Charlie Sheen. The sitcom’s cast is not going to be featured in a TCA panel, which Tassler explained was a consequence of the “tremendous amount of weight and pressure” being put on the series as it produces its first episode. Last season, “Men” producer Chuck Lorre did appear at TCA with the “Men” cast, as well as his other programs, “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike and Molly.” Tassler declined to confirm or deny rumors that Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper, will be killed off in the season premiere, which is scheduled for Sept. 19. Kutcher’s character will bow in a two-part episode that will play over successive weeks. The CBS topper explained in conversations with reporters after the press conference that the network doesn’t want to reveal too much about “Men” prior to its premiere to keep viewer curiosity piqued. As for Danson, all Tassler revealed about his “CSI” character was his name, D.B. Russell. But she acknowledged that CBS has to tread carefully in its transition of the lead actors, as she learned once Laurence Fishburne, who exited the series earlier this summer, replaced original lead William Petersen. On the unscripted side of the business, Tassler disclosed that CBS was looking to experiment with formats that could have the kind of ratings impact that “American Idol” has had on Fox. “In order for a schedule to continue to grow and be balanced, we have to have that piece of the puzzle,” she said, noting that there were a number of unspecified projects in development that could join the schedule during the summer or to spell original series while in reruns. Tassler also hit back at comedians like Jimmy Kimmel and Joel McHale mocking CBS for having older demographics, a joke she deemed obsolete given CBS now has more viewers in the 18-49 demo than ABC or NBC. “Maybe they should stay with comedy and not worry about demos and ratings so much,” she said.