Viacom co-prexy Leslie Moonves has all but ruled out a single-anchor format when Dan Rather ankles “The CBS Evening News” in March, arguing the single-anchor “voice of God” approach doesn’t work anymore.
Speaking to reporters at CBS’ portion of the January TV Critics Assn. press tour, Moonves said the Eye’s news division is looking at ways to revamp the newscast in order to speak to younger people, who tend to get their news from the Internet and cable TV.
Moonves said an ensemble approach, perhaps with anchors in different cities, is among the options being discussed for the remake of “Evening News.”
“Right now the average age of the news watcher is way over 45,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to make it younger — something that young people can relate to, as opposed to that guy preaching from the mountaintop about what we should and should not watch.”
Moonves said several permutations are being considered; he even refused to rule out a role for “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart, whose Comedy Central skein lampoons TV news.
Asked twice about Stewart, Moonves said, “Jon Stewart is part of our company. We speak to him regularly about all sorts of different things.”
Beyond questions of Rather’s successor, issues related to the net’s handling of a story on President Bush’s National Guard service dominated the Eye’s presentation. A 224-page report on the debacle, released last week, led Moonves to fire “60 Minutes Wednesday” producer Mary Mapes and ask for the resignations of three other news execs.
Moonves said future of the “60 Minutes” spinoff, created in 1999, is far from certain. It has languished in the ratings and will have to “earn its place” in the web’s lineup.
The three executives have yet to tender their resignations, but “60 Minutes” exec producer Jeff Fager has elevated two producers to fill vacated senior-level positions on both editions.
Fager was given oversight of both “60 Minutes” editions, while Leslie Stahl producer Rome Hartman will become Fager’s No. 2 on the Wednesday edition; Ed Bradley producer Michael Radutzky will oversee the Bradley documentary unit.
The Memogate controversy overshadowed what otherwise would have been a victory lap for Moonves and new CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler, who are coming off the net’s best November sweeps perf in years.
Eye sheds wrinkles
“We are in first place at midpoint in the season in 18-49 for the first time in 17 years,” Moonves said. “This is extraordinary. They can’t come up here and make the old geezer jokes about CBS anymore. They may try, but frankly, (NBC’s) Jeff Zucker is looking a little older these days, and I’m feeling a lot younger.”
Moonves admitted there is still a long way to go in the season, noting Fox, ABC and NBC might all have stronger second halves as well.
“But clearly the fact that in the middle of January I’m standing here saying, ‘We’re first in 18-to-49’ makes me very proud,” he said. “This is going to translate in May to hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to come over to the CBS side.”
In other news:
- Moonves and Tassler said the net is still in talks with “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Brad Garrett about possibly starring in a spinoff series.
“Raymond” will end its run May 16 in its normal 9 p.m. timeslot, preceded by an hourlong tribute. With a shorter order of “Raymond” episodes this season, CBS will fill the gap this spring by airing the show’s five best episodes, as chosen by CBS.com visitors.
- “The Amazing Race 6” will end its run Feb. 8 with a two-hour finale; the show’s seventh edition will bow just three weeks later, March 1, with a two-hour premiere.
As for concerns over abusive behavior between married contestants Jonathan Baker and Victoria Fuller, Tassler said the show’s producers made a judgment call that Fuller wasn’t in any physical danger. “And if she had been, their judgment would have been to intervene.”
- Moonves said he decided to cancel reality entry “The Will” after just one episode because, he candidly admitted, it “was not very good.”
“I don’t think anybody at our network felt it was very good,” he said. “We threw it on a Saturday night to see if there was lightning in a bottle. It wasn’t our finest moment. … Maybe ‘The Will’ belonged on another network.”
- CBS has picked up special “Elvis by the Presleys” to air the same week as its “Elvis” miniseries.
“Elvis by the Presleys,” featuring interviews with ex-wife Priscilla Presley and their daughter, Lisa Marie, will air May 13 at 8 p.m. As previously announced, the “Elvis” longform will run earlier in the week, May 8-11.
- Eye will reunite the cast of its ’70s hit sitcom “One Day at a Time” for a February sweeps special.
Original cast members Bonnie Franklin, Valerie Bertinelli, Mackenzie Phillips and Pat Harrington will appear in the “One Day at a Time Reunion Special” Feb. 22 at 9 p.m.