The news just came in to me from my sources…. “They’re fighting for a back 13 at mid-season, but Moonlight is definitely not on the fall schedule. But it’s not dead, either. Insiders tell me the sticking point is money: that CBS wants Warner Bros to “step up” more financially. But WBTV is saying back to CBS that the network has to step up as well, even though CBS doesn’t own the show. Here’s what I can tell you about the behind-the-scenes:
Moonlight has been fraught with problems (see below). But CBS’ Nina Tassler told the producers that she was “very happy” with the direction of the series. The show pitched her the stories for all next season, “and Nina loved them”. And then CBS gave the show its list of what the network wanted. But CBS made clear that the renewal of the show was “all going to be dependent on making the last four shows of this season ratings-wise. Well, those ratings were only fair. They didn’t win the night, but they won their demos. On the other hand, Friday’s ratings are always low. But the real story is, as usualy in Hollywood, all about the money. Even though comparatively Moonlight is being done on the cheap (especially when put up against another WBTV show, Pushing Daisies on ABC, which is a notoriously expensive production), and was picked up in the beginning by CBS for a relatively low licensing fee, CBS now wants Warner Bros to pick up more of the tab. There was a specific conversation between the two Big Media outfits about this on Wednesday of last week. “We need you to step up,” CBS reportedly told WB. To which WB responded to CBS, “You step up, and we’ll step up.” Interestingly, I hear that CBS just ordered to series the pilots The Mentalist and 11th hour which both have higher licensing fees than Moonlight. But the producers knew all along that their series was “on the bubble,” so to speak. And in response to communication pushing the network to pick up Moonlight, I understand that CBS responded to the effect, “Where’s WB? Why won’t they step up?”
Meanwhile, there have been other problems. Coming back from the writers strike, the executive producer and showrunner Chip Johanssen was cut loose, despite being a close friend of Tassler’s. Also, series creator Ron Koslow was shown the door after the picket signs went down. That left no official showrunners in place to guide the episodes produced after the strike ended. Husband and wife writers / producers Harry Werksman and Gabrielle Stanton were informally given the reins, and they supervised the most recent four shows ending the season. The question is whether they are up to the task. I hear the Moonlight producers offered to change showrnners to get a CBS renewal. Already, the fallout has led one of the few surviving players, staff writer and producer Jill Blotevogel, to be unceremoniously dumped before any renewal is announced. There’s a rumor which I haven’t confirmed that, if CBS does renew, it may bring the showrunners from the expected-to-be-cancelled Shark to come in and retool Moonlight.