“I find some of the behavior absolutely appalling,” CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said this morning of this season’s competition series Big Brother, which has been in the news over the racial slurs some of the competitors have been spewing at housemates. The season is reflective “of how many people feel in the country,” he suggested, noting, “I’ve watched every episode — obviously, my wife would kill me if I didn’t — we discuss it quite a bit (Moonves’ wife, Julie Chen hosts).” He insists the network has handled the season “appropriately.” Asked what he and Chen say about this season on the show, Moonves shot back, “I’m not going to tell you what goes on in my home.”
Moonves, who was filling in for CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler at the network’s TCA press tour executive session today, acknowledged he is still hands-on with the network’s reality competition series casting, and utterly dismissed a critics’ suggestion the Big Brother edition is evidence that “casting tries too hard.” “You don’t want wallflowers on reality show,” he said. “They are social experiments — trying too hard? I don’t think there’s any such thing.”
At the top of his Press Tour appearance, Moonves announced CBS had picked up another season of Stephen King’s summer miniseries Under The Dome and that King would write the first episode. When one critic noted people can’t survive under a dome indefinitely, Moonves wondered why not. “This is television! It’s a soap…In a lot of ways it’s Dallas in the future,” he said. The Amazon deal makes that show possible, Moonves said. “The whole model of putting on a big summer show has changed. We had to figure out financially how to put on a show of that size and scale. It came down to, the network license fee had to be small. There was a huge international sale and the participation of Amazon. We had to make a deal like never before.” The international market has become increasingly important, particularly for drama financing, Moonves explained, claiming it has, at CBS, jumped from “about $400 million” to “$1.2 billion” in six years.
Another critic took issue with the heavy product placement in the pilot episode of David E. Kelley’s new Robin Williams comedy The Crazy Ones, which is set at an ad agency. The opening episode is all about making a McDonalds ad. Moonves said that storyline was brought to the network and that “McDonalds didn’t receive any money “ for it. He said the series will also include “fictional product.”
CBS has no plans to replace David Letterman in late-night, though he’s now getting beat in demos by ABC’s new time-slot competitor Jimmy Kimmel. “We love having David Letterman — he’s the dean, the best there is,” Moonves said, adding, “We like the stability – despite what people think, we don’t like drama at 11:30.” One critic noted that even good shows with low ratings get cancelled on CBS in primetime, “I don’t consider David Letterman [show] a failure in any way, shape or form,” Moonves responded, insisting the show continues to make money for CBS.
Asked in the scrum after his Q&A about finishing first in the demo, Moonves acknowledged “it helped that American Idol crashed. We always thought it wasn’t a fair fight with Fox. We had 22 hours, they had 15. It’s a big difference. When three of those hours were a monster like American Idol, we never were gonna win…Still think 18-49 is vastly overrated and exaggerated. Fox News’s average viewer is 65-plus and making a ton of money. So 18-49 wasn’t the be-all and end-all.”
As he walked down the ramp off stage, someone asked Moonves how he felt about this being the final season for CBS’s Monday comedy How I Met Your Mother. “I’m heartbroken” he tossed over his shoulder.