TCA: CBS’ Nina Tassler Pressed On Diversity Of Network’s Fall Schedule, Supports Reexamining Emmy Rules

ABC is a tough act to follow at TCA this summer when it comes to diversity. ABC has new comedies about a Mexican family, an Asian family and a Black family and a new drama starring Viola Davis. Next at TCA is CBS, which has a new comedy series about an Irish American clan and dramas starring Tea Leoni, Josh Duhamel and Scott Bakula. Its only minority lead is Maggie Q, who plays the co-lead to Dylan McDermott on drama Stalker. CBS Chairman Nina Tassler faced multiple questions about the lack of diversity on the network’s new series.”We don’t look at fall as the defining mark of giving us our diversity quota,” Tassler said, noting the cast of daytime talk show The Talk, Lucy Liu on Elementary and summer series Extant, headlined by Halle Berry. (She faced criticism even on Extant, with a critic arguing that the entire supporting cast of the sci-fi drama is White, down to Berry’s artificial son.) Tassler also pointed at different elements of diversity, like a gay main character on The McCarthys. Additionally, on the final season of Two And A Half Men, Walden and Alan are going to get married as a gay couple in order to adopt a child because Walden finds it difficult to adopt as a straight single man. Tassler called it a “positive statement”about the fact that gay couples can adopt children.

CBS was a victim in the heated broadcast vs. cable drama debate this summer as its series The Good Wife failed to land a best series Emmy nomination, with all nominated dramas delivering 13 episodes a season or less vs. 22 for broadcast series like The Good Wife. “They are so much more demanding and difficult to produce,” Tassler said of broadcast dramas, noting that she would be open to rule changes that some have been called for. “Right now everybody’s playing in the same sandbox,” she said, adding jokingly, “I’d be the first person at the head of the line to bring CableACE Awards back.”

Tassler also was asked about the decision to renew The Millers, which has had very poor retention behind The Big Bang Theory but which the network owns. “We will never ever ever discriminate solely based on ownership,” she said. “You have to make your decision based on the content, and we feel that The Millers still has a lot of great story material embedded in the show.”

Tassler said she “feels good” about a third season of Under The Dome and defended Extant, saying it is more of a novel compared to Under The Dome, which is more of a comic book.

Asked about CBS’ 15% drop among adults 18-49 this past season, Tassler chalked it up to being in a “transitional phase”. “If we are only going to talk 18-49, I might as well get up and turn off my television manually. There are many more metrics, the definition of success is changing, and 18-49 is not the only demographic of success.” One example —  CBS’ flagship drama NCIS. Our competitors may call it old skewing, we we call it a billion dollar franchise,” she said.

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