EXCLUSIVE: This is why so many Hollywood creatives don’t understand the decisions of the networks and the Big Media corporations who run them. Because here’s a show that’s doing well in its primetime slot. And just a few days ago, freshman drama Blue Bloods was praised by Armando Nunez, president of CBS Studios International. “It’s perhaps not as sexy to talk about, but it has proven a success both on the network and in terms of global distribution,” he said. It tops the charts of how this season’s freshman shows have performed, with Blue Bloods sold around the world not just to tiny channels but to big ones like Sky Atlantic in the UK, Australia’s Network Ten, and Discovery Latin America. So what do CBS and CBS Studios and its executive producer Leonard Goldberg, who also happens to be a CBS Corporation board member, do? They exit the show’s creators Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green (formerly of The Sopranos). Because I’m told Goldberg and the network think the show needs be “more procedural.” As if CBS doesn’t already have procedural shows coming out of its wazoo. And this latest firing comes nine months ago after then-showrunner Ken Sanzel exited the CBS series because of creative tensions with Tom Selleck over scripts that the actor felt were too procedural.
Of course, it’s a ridiculous conflict of interest for Goldberg to both be on the CBS Corp board and to be running one of its shows. (His official CBS bio doesn’t mention that, of course.) Not to say that Leonard isn’t a TV legend. But at first considered a long shot (“pilot #10 of 10”), Blue Bloods (then titled Reagan’s Law) made it onto the schedule in the first place because of Selleck’s stardom and Goldberg’s juice. CBS traditionally teams the limited-experience creators of its newly picked-up series with seasoned showrunners after the pilot, which is why former cop Sanzel was brought in as exec producer and showrunner. He ran Numb3rs for most of the procedural’s six-season run on CBS, and Blue Bloods even inherited the Numb3rs’ 10 PM Friday time slot. Blue Bloods is the first hour-long drama Selleck has headlined since Magnum, P.I., and the star wanted an emphasis on the characters, not the crimes. I scooped that Selleck wasn’t accepting the scripts that Sanzel had been giving him. So a standoff developed over personal vs procedural. And from the latest firings, those creative differences are still going on.
CBS, CBS Studios, Goldberg, and Selleck are all looking for a new showrunner now. “How do you keep the network happy and Tom Selleck happy and Len Goldberg happy?” an insider today asked about the current situation. Another insider tried to make the Burgess-Green exit more palatable by claiming, “We’re thrilled with the template they set as the creators of the show, but we weren’t satisfied with the creative growth of the stories and the characters. No animosity, just our desire to get more wins on the board.” But there were enough wins that CBS moved the show from Friday, where it was averaging a healthy 12.3 million viewers, to Wednesdays at 10 PM for a four-week trial run beginning Jan. 19. It was moved back to Fridays on Feb. 11.