×

’60 Minutes’ Must Tick Forward, Even Without New Chief

They’re getting ready to start the stopwatch again at CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Over the course of its more than half-century of life, the venerable CBS newsmagazine has had only two chiefs, Jeff Fager and Don Hewitt.  Now it has none. That won’t keep the show off the air. “60 Minutes” will kick off its 51st season on Sunday, even though CBS News has yet to name a new executive producer for the program.

Viewers can expect to see a profile of Paul McCartney in which the former Beatle offers intimate anecdotes about his relationship with John Lennon to correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi (pictured, above). The producer of the segment is Bill Owens, who also happens to be the show’s executive editor and is viewed as an internal candidate for the executive producer slot. And correspondent Bill Whitaker will offer the sixth in his series of examinations of the nation’s opioid epidemic, this time interviewing a doctor who has been sentenced to 157 years in prison for drug trafficking.

The launch should be a time of renewal at the show, a return to established routines. But “60 Minutes” continues to operate in an atmosphere that is decidedly different than the norm. A spokesman for the program said producers were not available to discuss the show.

The show’s previous chief, Fager, was ousted earlier this month for what CBS said was a violation of company policy. Fager had been under scrutiny for weeks after The New Yorker printed allegations by CBS News staffers that he had tolerated a tough workplace culture and possibly touched some employees inappropriately. Fager has denied the allegations and both he and CBS agree that his dismissal came after a threatening tweet he made to a CBS News reporter who was investigating the claims.

Two people familiar with the show say a portion of the staff would like to see Owens take the reins. They feel he’s earned a crack at the title after serving as Fager’s deputy for many years, these people say. These people also note that “60” has an insular culture that would be difficult for anyone who has not worked there to navigate.

But others within CBS and at other network newsrooms think the role is a natural for Susan Zirinsky, the veteran CBS News producer who currently oversees “48 Hours.” If named chief, she would be the first female producer to run the show – and only the third person in its history to do so. Placing Zirinsky at “60 Minutes” could also help break down barriers between the tony newsmagazine and the rest of the news division, which tend to have separate production processes.

There might be an interesting way for CBS News to thread this needle. In the past, CBS News had an executive producer at “60 Minutes” and an executive who supervised all its newsmagazines. Betsy West had oversight of both “48 Hours” and “60 Minutes” between 1998 and 2005 and served as a senior vice president at CBS News. It’s not clear that anyone involved is seeking this sort of arrangement.

CBS News President David Rhodes has during his tenure at the head of the news division shaken up many of its best-known programs. Both “Face the Nation” and “CBS Evening News” have had new anchors arrive in recent months – Margaret Brennan and Jeff Glor – while John Dickerson took the seat inhabited by the ousted Charlie Rose earlier this year at “CBS This Morning.” Rhodes has also worked to integrate CBS’ news programs with digital processes, so that staffers and anchors are also contributing to CBSN, the company’s streaming-video hub.

Having Zirinsky named to the job would continue his efforts by putting a CBS News producer, not a “60 Minutes” veteran, at the helm. But Owens’ tenure on the show is not to be dismissed.  Early speculation about tapping an executive from outside CBS News to run the program seems to have tamped down, but CBS News could certainly choose from a range of options when it comes to keeping “60 Minutes” on the clock.

More TV

  • Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor

    Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor Arrested for Plotting Sex With Minor

    Disney Channel has severed ties with “Andi Mack” actor Stoney Westmoreland following his arrest for allegedly trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old. “Stoney Westmoreland, an actor working on the series ‘Andi Mack,’ was arrested in Salt Lake City today,” a Disney Channel spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “Given the nature of [...]

  • Russian Doll

    TV News Roundup: Natasha Lyonne's 'Russian Doll' Sets Netflix Premiere Date

    On Friday’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for “Russian Doll” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Brexit” film has a premiere date on HBO FIRST LOOKS Showtime has released a new teaser for the upcoming comedy series, “Black Monday,” which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series stars and is executive produced by Don [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

  • FILE - In this April 5,

    CBS Claims Commitment to Ending Harassment. Its Actions Say Otherwise (Column)

    At this point, a new breaking sexual harassment case at CBS isn’t exactly a surprise. Over and over again, powerful CBS company men from producers to executives to the ex-CEO himself have made headlines for propagating decades of harassment and abuse, with dozens of witnesses affirming that the pattern was business as usual. But as [...]

  • Willow ShieldsVariety Portrait Studio, Beautycon Festival

    'Hunger Games' Alum Willow Shields Joins Netflix Drama Series 'Spinning Out'

    Willow Shields has been cast in a series regular role in “Spinning Out,” the upcoming ice skating drama series at Netflix. She joins a cast that also includes Kaya Scodelario, who was announced as the series lead on Thursday, taking over the role originally held by Emma Roberts. Shields will star as Serena, Kat Baker’s (Scodelario) [...]

  • Adam Levine Cardi B

    Maroon 5 and How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Became Music's Least Wanted Gig

    Who would have thought that the Super Bowl Halftime show, an American institution watched by more than 100 million people, would become the least wanted gig in music? But thanks to the ongoing controversy concerning the NFL’s stance on a player’s right to protest, brought to the forefront by football’s top conscientious objector Colin Kaepernick, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content