LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- "We're coming off a great year," CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told critics during the network's executive session at the TCA.
"And everybody knows the stats: we grew our audience in every key ratings category, the only network to do so." She went on to tout the freshman success of "The Mentalist" as well as the continued emergence of "The Big Bang Theory" and "NCIS" as heavy hitters in their time periods.
Tassler also took the time to address various issues in primetime during the half hour, highlights of which follow:
-- On NBC moving Jay Leno to primetime: "First of all, whatever numbers, whatever ratings they get they're going to declare victory anyway so it really doesn't matter."
-- On why they're stacking "NCIS" with its spin-off: "Because they do fall under one banner, you're going to see characters cross over for the first few episodes. Pauley Perrette is going to cross over, Rocky Carroll is going to cross over, because they fall under the same jurisdiction we figured it was, it made more sense to have a block of the shows."
-- On if they'll do something like "Harper's Island" again: "Online it had some traction, I think it really did appeal to a very niche audience. I think the challenge is finding something that can be specific and appeal to niche, but also has a sort of broad appeal. I think that was part of the challenge behind 'Harper's.' It was very specific, very niche but it just didn't grab onto the bigger audience."
-- On NBC declaring Conan the new king of late night: "We said really? Really? It seemed a little premature but as [I said] whatever numbers come in, whatever the ratings are I think they'll be happy with... We're not really looking to what NBC is doing. For us we see [Leno moving as] a great opportunity, it's a sea change in our business."
-- On if she'll lay odds on Leno's chances: "I have no desire to do that."
-- On the network's lack of gay and lesbian characters: "First of all, it is a sort of concern for me personally and us at the network. We have a fundamental commitment to the philosophy of diversity across the schedule and representation of gay, lesbian [characters] falls into that division as well. The interesting thing is I think we do have good representation in our non-scripted programming but we certainly have to make room in our scripted content. And much of what I'm hearing... going into development have gay and lesbian characters already hitched into the shows themselves. So it's an area we need to work on and hopefully we do improve there next year."
-- On the changes to the Emmy broadcast this year: "I don't think we're being unfair to the creative community. I think coming out of the telecast last year everybody knew we had to make a change. Change is not easy. The bottom line is the Emmys are about the celebration of the television business. We're all in this business together... This is about creating and producing an exciting and entertaining program."
-- On the status of "Flashpoint": "We have nine more original episodes that we are going to air in season. It just does better for us [than the summer]. It was a great experience [working with CTV] so we're looking forward to doing more, have more arrangements like that." As for "Flashpoint" specifically: "There are no plans right now but we certainly can if we want to."
-- On why they picked up "Medium": "When we did know that we had an opportunity we jumped at it. We're thrilled with the show. I think that NBC really [didn't treat] the show the way it should be treated... to get Emmy winner Patricia Arquette on Friday night for us is a home run." Tassler also confirms that the "Medium" pickup was made after the decision to keep "Flashpoint."
-- On "CSI's" stumbles last season: "It wasn't just about Grissom, it wasn't just about losing Billy. That show had some monumental changes last year. We lost Warrick, Sara and we're introducing a new character to the show. For those of you that know, George Eads was having back issues at the end of last season so he wasn't as present in the show... I think fans were a little unsure as to where the show was going."
-- On what's ahead for "CSI" this year: "Nick is going to get promoted, Catherine Willows promotes him. Sara is coming back for the first five episodes of the show. You're going to see Fishbourne basically have, he's much more settled in his role, he's in a more leadership capacity. He's well versed or more versed in the language of CSI. He's had a little bit of a wardrobe makeover."
-- On if there will be a "Ghost Whisperer"/"Medium" crossover: "Once we get the show launched and comfortable in its time period we can certainly talk about it."
-- On the departure of Ben Silverman from NBC: "I'm really just a D-girl so I wouldn't comment."
-- On the cancellation of "Without a Trace": "It was a really tough choice. I personally love the show... The truth is every show has its own life cycle and when we decided to cancel it, it was a very tough decision but it was that decision weighed against the new shows that we had out of development coming into the fall schedule this year. We had a very strong development season, we have a very strong schedule so it allowed us to make those tough decisions. Obviously we feel it was better to go out with the show at its creative high point in its career versus then having any kind of downturn. It was a very tough decision."
-- On if they have plans to order more "Million Dollar Password": "Right now we don't have any."